As an avid video game player, I’m a sucker for a good horror tale involving video games. The problem is that most of them feel just so inauthentic. Take the virtual-reality-gone-bad film The Lawnmower Man. It might have been scary to explore the idea of people getting lost within virtual reality but making a mentally disabled man super smart using VR just came off as goofy.
So, I was hesitant going into this Black Mirror episode knowing that it involved video games and, more specifically, something to do with VR or augmented reality. It’s the story of Cooper, an American travelling the globe when he suddenly finds himself low on funds. What to do? He just so happens to find a gig playtesting the hottest new video game. This is a classic horror trope, usually typified by a sexy woman luring them to their fate. Regardless, soon he’s strapped into the headset and thins, as you can imagine, go terribly awry.
While there are a couple of genuinely good jump scares here, what really makes it stand out is the bigger fear haunting Cooper. That’s part of the genius of Black Mirror in general—it tackles bigger issues by starting with smaller fears. It works as horror, but it also works as a respectable character study. Well worth the watch.