If you’ve been on YouTube in the past decade, then there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Markiplier. We even covered him in our previous article talking about Unus Annus. He can’t stay out of the spotlight, as he recently released a teaser trailer for his horror film Iron Lung.
Now If you don’t know what Iron Lung is, that’s fair because it’s relatively obscure. It’s an indie horror game that Markiplier played twice to audience that now tallies to 11 million people. That’s a lot, but it still makes it a relatively niche horror game to the mainstream.
But like with all things, it only takes one spark to start a franchise.
First Off, Let’s Talk About Iron Lung
David Szymanski created Iron Lung, and it struck a chord with Markiplier and many fans of indie horror games. The game invokes a creepy, claustrophobic atmosphere as you are locked inside a midget submarine that goes underwater into a horrific blood ocean to explore the depths to find what lies below.
That’s the general premise, but what makes the game so intriguing is the creative but limited amount of lore surrounding the who’s, what’s, and why’s of this submarine and the world it navigates. And as a result, it’s caused the creation of fan theories because it’s just so tantalizing.
Why? Well, it’s because the game is based in the future where a “Quiet Rapture” happened, causing all stars and habitable planets in the universe to disappear. And for some reason, the last known remnants of known life on these starships think these blood oceans have the resources desperately needed to sustain human life.
I could continue and spoil the story’s twist but trust me and instead watch either Markipler’s playthrough or play it yourself as you’re in for a treat, and you’ll see why it’s so intriguing.
It’s also worth mentioning that Iron Lung is a successful game within the ecosystem of “horror games” on YouTube, as the search term has always been on the rise and remained high. This is due to many high-profile YouTubers covering these games, as they’re so fun to watch.
So all of this combined creates the foundations of a “would be” successful horror movie, as it has expansive (and expansible) lore, a unique horror theme, and a passionate community already chomping at the bit to get more information. That sounds like movie ticket sales waiting to happen.
But obviously, that’s not enough to change the movie-making landscape, as there are thousands of horror films out today. The catalyst to the change will be that Markipler is at the helm alongside the game developer, which means more than you think.
Because YouTubers Have a Mixed History With Movie-Making
YouTube is a platform where many content creators spread their wings and create what they want. It’s also a place where you’re constantly having to negotiate with the algorithm. For this reason, as well as the prestige of getting into film, there have been quite a few YouTubers who have branched out into filmmaking.
These people include Shane Dawson with Not Cool, which is exactly what the film is, not cool to the point that Shane even apologized for the harmful jokes. And Fred the Movie was beyond not cool in a different way; in fact, It was an abomination, with the only good thing coming out of it being the John Cena scenes.
However, it’s not all bad, as other YouTubers have directed critically acclaimed films; these people include Dan Trachtenberg, David F. Sandberg, Bo Burnham, and Dave McCar, who have made films you may have seen, such as:
- 10 Cloverfield Lane – 90% Tomatometer
- Shazam – 90% Tomatometer
- Eighth Grade – 99% Tomatometer
- Brigsby Bear – 82% Tomatometer
These films from those directors are watchable proof that YouTubers can create content that goes onto the big screen successfully. And there weren’t just one-hit wonders – Dan went on to direct Prey, David went on to direct Shazam, and Bo Burnham produced the art pieces of the pandemic era with Inside.
But there’s one super duper important thing to mention that all those directors have in common: none of them are currently YouTubers first and foremost. They just have a presence there.
Markiplier is different. YouTube is the platform that made him and it’s also where his current audience still resides. And now he is starring in, directing, and editing the film himself. That’s almost, if not wholly, unheard of from YouTubers as they have always had difficulty getting movies made.
Take Corridor Digital, for example. They are a YouTube Channel with 6.1 million subscribers, specializing in making short films, animations, and VFX videos. They have the skills and a sufficiently large audience to make a feature film that would get watched.
Which is exactly what they tried to do. They first made Rush, written as a licensed feature film of Battlefield, the video game. It sadly got turned into a web series due to executive decisions, and then they lost the license. The series wound up getting put on go90, the now-defunct video platform by Verizon.
Then they tried to make LifeLine, which was a YouTube series, but their casting choices were wholly taken away from them. It ended up being a Union shoot, marred in red tape that ended up being – according to them – a pain in the ass to navigate, so they just sat in directors’ chairs and produced a half-ass series.
And when they attempted to create a horror film with some high-level producers, they got so far until they were hit with the largest BUT: the producers wanted to rewrite the entire script and give them half the budget.
These guys can’t catch a break.
So they’ve given up on making films within the current system. Instead, they have dedicated their time and effort to their subscription-based website that fans of Corridor Digital can sign up to support and get more content than on YouTube.
The troubles Corridor Crew faced trying to make films show why it is such a big freaking deal that Markiplier, who has 34 million subscribers, a top 10 gaming channel, and a top 100 channel on all of YouTube, is making a film that is coming to the big screen. If Markiplier is successful in his endeavor, it could start opening the doors for a bunch of other content creators wanting to do the same.
Creating Content Is Difficult in Both Film and YouTube
We all know that films go through many changes from a film’s director, producers, editors, and investors before it comes to the big screens. You can see executive meddling in everything from the mustache cut of Justice League, bizarre trivia on Drive, to the Disney cut of Alien.
But video game movies? They tend to have it even worse. Take the popular video game horror series, Five Nights At Freddy’s – the film adaptation has been sitting in development hell since 2015. It’s had a director change, multiple delays, and screenwriter issues. Plus, they don’t even have MatPat on the team. That last part might seem facetious, but it’s no joke – he’s made a career out analyzing that game series and has a huge following online. Not including him in the process is a mistake.
Video editing is hard, but problems with management are what really ruin a project. After all, a team of only five people to come together to do the VFXs of Everything Everywhere All Once, and they ended up making one of the most visually appealing movies of 2022. A small but dedicated team like the Everything Everywhere team is proof that you don’t need a huge team to make movie magic.
So what does this have to do with YouTubers? Consider this – it’s a platform with 2.81 billion monthly active users with 500 hours of content uploaded every minute. That makes it a very competitive space that can be very lucrative if you market yourself correctly with the content you create.
And the first thing you need to know is that YouTubers create content with a 1- or 2-person team tailored to their subscribers. They need to be consistent with their uploads and deliver good enough quality to attract and maintain subscribers, which is even more challenging.
A YouTuber’s life is in the hands of their fans, and if they don’t commit to quality and consistency, then the channel starts to die, the income drops, and that’s good night. But that’s the grind of YouTube – it’s hard, but if you stick it out, it can ultimately be rewarding.
Cut to Markiplier, and you can see the success of this 10-year YouTube veteran who’s made over 5,000 videos playing horror games and casually breaking the internet with Unus Annus and Markiplier in Space.
Circling back around to Iron Lung in his most recent update, he says he’s incredibly proud of it. He’s already worked on two major series, so Iron Lung could very well end up being a phenomenal movie. He has the experience to pull it off.
Then there’s the fact that Markiplier can use his massive YouTube channel as a platform for marketing Iron Lung through teasers, updates, and so on is a potent tool to market the movie. And within the circle of YouTubers he’s in, not the least of which is the previously mentioned Corridor Crew, there’s a damn good chance it could rack in huge numbers of ticket sales.
The Impact Iron Lung Could Have On The Horror Industry
The horror movie industry has pulled in $13 billion since 1995, making it the sixth-most popular film genre. That’s an impressive amount of money, but it should be noted that 99.9% of them are not video game adaptations. That makes sense because most directors want to work on their own horror films.
And when people have tried to create horror game film adaptations such as Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and Alone in the Dark have done terribly, all of which are sitting less than 30% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Times have changed with video game movies such as Super Mario Bros. Movie and Sonic the Hedgehog (1 & 2) which all are sitting above the 60% mark on Tomatometer. Audience sentiment has been even better than critical sentiment. But despite this, horror films have been Left 4 Dead.
That means Iron Lung has the chance to be a part of the growing surge of video game film adaptations. It might also be the first genuinely good horror game adaptation, and if it is, it could absolutely blow the doors down on how horror game adaptations should be made. Low bar to clear? Sure. But when expectations are low, the chance to exceed them by a lot is high.
People love horror games. People love watching horror games on YouTube. One good movie could put horror game movie adaptations on the map.
YouTube has already been used by music labels for many years to recruit mega-stars such as Justin Beiber. There’s no reason the film industry couldn’t take a note out of that playbook. A couple of high-profile film successes could turn YouTube into a starting ground for aspiring filmmakers.
Movie-making isn’t an easy job. Breaking into film means understanding systems, rules, and regulations, all of which put content creators off. But the film industry hasn’t gone out of its way to welcome the generation of aspiring story-tellers, editors, and entertainers either. Things are going to change with Iron Lung.
I feel confident that Markiplier will create a great horror film based on a video game and, in the process, put horror game video game adaptations back on the map as things worth making.
His success will also show content creators, movie directors, and cinema fans that your content can be made outside of the realm of Hollywood and major film studios. It will show that you don’t need to make a cash grab and that you don’t need top-tier celebrities to sell tickets.
Or at least, that’s my hope. I want to see so many more movies made outside the standard film studio system because, boy, there’s a lot of talent out there. It deserves to be seen.