Dutch horror film App is released in the Netherlands this weekend and aims to enhance fear in viewers by using a second screen concept in the cinema experience.

The film, directed by Bobby Boermans, is about malicious software that mysteriously downloads onto a phone and sends vicious texts. It also links to a real-life mobile application, APP de Film, which sends viewers messages at the same time as the characters on screen receive them.

Developed by app building company Service2Media, the programme is built around audio watermark technology. The film releases a sound signal that cannot be picked up by the human ear but will trigger content from the app to be sent to mobile phones.

Neither 3G or Wi-Fi is necessary after the initial download, which is available to Android and Apple smartphone users.

Enhancing the experience

“When we knew we could get the technique, we started to look at the script differently,” said Robin de Levita, the producer of App, a co-founder of 2CFIlm and chief creative officer of Imagine Nation.

“We started to insert logical moments where the technique could enhance the experience of the drama.”

For example, there is a loud party scene in the film during which dialogue cannot be heard between the main characters, but those using APP de film will receive the messages they are sending to each other.

There are 32 moments during the film when viewers using the app will receive some sort of content. However, if one chooses not to use the second screen, the movie will still make sense.

Speaking of those who are irritated when cinemagoers use their phones during a film, de Levita said: “There will be people who use it and love it and people who find it annoying and we really feel that even if it is annoying, that is the whole point of the movie - how our mobile phones and our smartphones have taken over all forms of communication so it completely makes sense with telling this story.”

The ‘Jaws’ effect

A focus group of teenagers enjoyed the experience of the second screen, and to the surprise of the producers, found the messages uncomfortable.

“What was really remarkable and what we didn’t see coming at all is they felt awkward and suspicious of their phones, it was like a ‘Jaws’ effect that we didn’t really anticipate,” said de Levita.

Just Bridge released App on April 4 to 110 screens in Holland. Both the movie and APP de Film will be available in more territories as it is distributed around the world.