Today marks the release of Hinterland Studios’ The Long Dark. Set in post apocalyptic Canada, it’s a survival-based experience that, in its near-literal interpretation of the genre’s defining features, takes it to its natural, and challenging, conclusion. Yesterday, they announced an upcoming film based on The Long Dark, set to be directed by the producer of the Resident Evil films, Jeremy Bolt, and produced through his studio, Bolt Productions, with the game’s creator, Raphael Van Lierop, set to write the script.
To showcase the talent behind this unique collaboration, they have released a short film called Elegy, a five minute vignette narrated by Christopher Plummer. With it, Van Lierop’s vision for a cross media experience is realized. The Long Dark, he tells me by email, was always planned to be on as many storytelling platforms as possible, “to as many people as are interested in having it.” Film, however, was not his first choice. “I’d been thinking of television, actually, as I’ve been finding TV way more interesting than film lately. But after discussing it at length with Jeremy [Bolt]...we decided that a film was the best first step, because we believe it’s the best place to set the tone and aesthetic direction for The Long Dark in live-action.”
Elegy mirrors The Long Dark perfectly: the solitude, the twilight and somehow even the game’s frigid temperatures come through in the short film. Plummer’s performance as the narrator, with its gravelly drawl, reinforces many feelings the game evokes but that otherwise may be difficult to translate to a static entertainment experience.
“We knew we needed a strong voice to carry the story of Elegy, and I wanted it to be an iconic Canadian actor,” Van Lierop says. “The voice needed to communicate gravitas, and the sense that the words were a reflection on a dying world. Plummer was my first choice, because not only is he Canadian, an Oscar-winner, and deeply respected, but I knew his background in theatre meant he would be able to carry the piece with his performance. We reached out to him, [Elegy director] Jared Pelletier shared the [Long Dark launch date] teaser as well as his own portfolio, and Plummer was immediately on board. He felt this was a ‘voice’ he could really connect with.”
The official film based on The Long Dark will be feature length, and Van Lierop is currently in the outline stage as he navigates the game’s launch. “I’ve written several game scripts but this will be my first movie,” he says. “I’m fascinated by the form so I’m looking forward to really immersing myself in the medium. Writing for a game like The Long Dark is a lot like writing a film, as it’s all about visual storytelling and motivating characters believably.”
The story’s events will be based around the same apocalyptic event at the center of The Long Dark, but with different characters; Van Lierop says that the film will not feature William Mackenzie or Dr. Astrid Greenwood, but their stories “may intersect” with that of the new protagonists. “I think the key to a good film adaptation of a game is not trying to retell the same story,” he says, “but pulling the right elements in to immerse the viewer in a story that feels familiar based on their experience of the game. I think with Elegy, we’ve shown that we have some good ideas for how to realize the world of The Long Dark in live-action, without losing the game’s spirit along the way.”
While this is Van Lierop’s first film script, he seems unintimidated. “I’m sure there will be many challenges and I’m looking forward to them,” he says. “Writing the script is only the first step. After that, there will be finding the right director, and I think that’s when the real work will begin.”
As for what other creative mediums Van Lierop may pursue for future adaptations, he already has some ideas, but stresses that above all, the game and Hinterland Studios are still his number one priority. “Besides the film, I’ve also been having discussion about graphic novels but nothing firm yet. I’ve been mostly focused on the game until now, so these projects have all been happening in spare minutes stolen here and there.
“But in all of this, the game and the studio always comes first, and that will always be my primary focus. And besides, there are other games I’d like to make as well.”
The Long Dark releases today, August 1st, 2017, on Steam and Xbox One.
Holly Green is the assistant editor of Paste Games and a reporter and semiprofessional photographer. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gamasutra, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.