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For found footage horror fans, Zachary Donohue’s feature film debut in 2013 The cave is often considered one of the subgenre’s scariest films and a pioneer of the screen-life storytelling format. Using various computer and app-based interactions to follow a graduate student who is attacked by a vicious killer after witnessing a murder online, the film masterfully explores paranoia, surveillance and the darkest sides of the internet. For genre fans who want to delve deeper into these still relevant topics, Donohue has now returned with Pocket FM’s “Unpleasantly deaf,a serialized audio thriller that’s sure to tickle the itch for fans wanting more The– like chills.

Narrated by Robert Fleet (“I think he did an impeccable job!” enthuses Donohue). Uncomfortably Numb is an audio series designed to deliver a compelling cinematic experience for the ears with its blend of compelling narrative, thoughtful sound design, and chilling score. With six episodes currently available, the story follows Cody, an internet content presenter who believes he witnessed a crime committed against someone he knows at work.

This time, Donohue has a particularly authentic perspective to tell his protagonist’s story. “Since [making The Den], I have worked for various social media companies. Actually, I was a content moderator for Snapchat […] and another app,” says Donohue. “It’s very strange to be able to look into the different lives of all these people at once. And I think that’s where we’re at now with this kind of… mass grouping of content out there. I think that’s more what ‘Uncomfortably Numb’ is trying to deepen – this network of all this connectedness.”

As the web continues to impact the speed at which we communicate, build communities, and share content with others, Donohue also recognizes how the dark sides of the internet have evolved similarly over the past few years. “The internet has kind of changed where it’s like, yes there’s still the fear of the anonymous person, but I think it’s like… it’s morphed into something even bigger and more insidious. It used to be like talking to a creep, right? And now there’s these places where we’re like…all these creeps. And they don’t even try to hide, you know?! [laughs] So I think that network, this dark network, is more what I wanted to explore.”

Despite the exclusive nature of the new Pocket FM platform and the unique format of the story itself, Donohue is excited to explore a different way of telling a genre story. “Lots of people drawn to it [Pocket FM] app may notice that there isn’t a lot of genre stuff right now, but this is the first. And you know, being first of everything usually comes with a lot of risks because right now it’s a test show. If I can continue to build the story, I’m hoping to take something that’s like a traditional Hitchcockian sort of setup of ‘person sees a terrible thing happening on the internet’ and just get weirder and wilder from there.”

Given the experimental nature of the series so far, Donohue hopes that where the story currently leaves off, listeners will want more, allowing him to fully explore the characters and deeper mysteries of the story. “At the moment I gave the setup. Those are the first six chapters. […] From here I just want to get darker, with more character intrigue, more paranoia, and more conspiracy. Just really build the world out.”

“I love audiobooks and I love podcasts, and I love that it’s kind of a hybrid experience,” adds Donohue. “I like the idea that what we’re doing here has a more cinematic listening experience, so it really feels like you’re in the world while listening to it.” Given the series’ limited budget, Donohue was able to contribute in other creative ways. “The music is actually a lot of me. […] I just thought, you know what, I’m just going to come over to GarageBand and make the music because I wanted to give it that David Fincher-y vibe, like… Atticus Ross/Trent Reznor-y vibe. But, you know…the poor man’s lo-fi version of it [laughs].”

It didn’t take long for us to get back on topic The cave, especially given the threads that continue tonally and narratively in “Uncomfortably Numb”. Donohue still fondly remembers the making of the film (“It was one of the best experiences because I did it with all my friends.”) and acknowledges his fans’ whispers about possible directions for a sequel. “For the years since I made The cave, I wanted to make a sequel to it. I had a lot of different ideas, and I only really wanted to do a sequel if it felt super fresh enough and not just be the exact same movie,” he explains. “Basically, I wanted to take a lot of the different ideas that I had with me The sequels and go through a kind of merger [‘Uncomfortably Numb’]. It’s not necessarily, you know cave 2. It’s more of a spiritual sequel.”

Though Donohue’s statement might suggest it’s a proper sequel The cave is now off the table, fans needn’t worry. “I do to have a The I want to continue,” he confirms exclusively. “What I’ve been thinking about lately is a The […] Requel where I think it would follow a bit more of what the screen life movies do where we all use apps because now we know you can do that! And put a lot of Easter eggs in it The cave for the people who are fans of it but follow a similar story structure and update it for modern times.

While acknowledging that the film is still relatively unknown, Donohue offered ideas on how it would serve both fans of the original and potential new fans. He says: “The joke title is Den 2: In the Den verse. [laughs] But also just call, like, Dens… I think the people who know might be like, ‘Oh shit, that’s a The Consequence!’ And for those who don’t know, it’s just a creepy, enigmatic title that might still be interesting.”

Still from Zachary Donohue's 2013 film The Den

When asked if the sequel would keep the found footage/screen life approach, Donohue pointed to franchises that have changed the sound or style with their sequels (see: extraterrestrial/Foreigner or recently Happy death anniversary/Happy Death Anniversary 2U). While Donohue views The cave as a more straightforward horror film with elements from the woman in danger subgenre, he says, “I think [with the sequel] I would like to do a paranoid thriller – a real conspiracy thriller with horror elements. It can’t just be a simple horror movie.”

Fans will have to be patient for that though The cave‘s sequel, Donohue has enjoyed fully immersing himself in his creative process across a number of outlets. “I dig really deep to like when you’re in college and you have these wild, experimental ideas, but I’m trying to merge that with everything I’ve learned, so I’m hoping there’s a polish.” ,” Donohue notes excitedly. “If I can’t get another film done at that point, I’ll just do something in another medium and try to get people excited about it.”

Donohue has been working hard across media lately writing screenplays for “some very cool horror producers” and exploring the world of scary pastaand is preparing his next project, a 10-part YouTube series entitled “The unknown” that he wrote and directed for Jackalope Productions. “It’s basically like La Jetee (1962) meets Stranger Things via David Lynch. It’s going to be really weird and scary and I can’t wait for people to see it. […] I think ‘The Unknowable’ has a lot of my weirder instincts that I haven’t been able to bring to bear in the scripts I’ve done.”

While you await his upcoming projects, you can watch the first six chapters of Zachary Donohue’s Uncomfortably Numb for free by downloading the Pocket FM app here and look for the series in the Trial Audio Stories section. You can also check out a short clip of a chapter below!

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