*** Given that the event has the word ‘secret’ in the name, I’ll preface this by saying that there will be spoilers below ***
The adventure started about a week before the event when we were instructed via email to log into the NSH (guess what that’s supposed to be!) website and fill in a patient card which we were to print and bring to the event along with other items that the website advised. It also required that we arrive in hospital scrubs.
All that done, we turned up at the (secret) location a week later which was nicely themed to a hospital, complete with entrance sign and security dressed as doctors and military personnel.
Once we got through that part, we were split into smaller groups of about 25/30 people and briefed on the vaccination process that we were all about to go through. After taking the vaccine, we ‘fell asleep’ to awaken in the situation that Jim finds himself in in the opening of the movie. The way we transitioned to the future date was extremely well thought out and handled. From there, we basically spent the next 30 mins or so living (and running) through the first two-thirds of the movie, stopping off at all the key scenes – even the car-strewn motorway tunnel.
Upon arriving at the military blockade from the last third of the film, we were given a breather in a large area with a bar, food service and other activities. Actors were present throughout this area, involving guests in tasks and tours but if you just wanted to sit down somewhere and enjoy a drink and a bite, you could.
We were in this area for a long time, presumably because we were waiting for the entire audience, in their smaller groups, to pass through the earlier sections of the event.
Eventually, we were moved into the screening room. The screening itself was probably the best experience of this type that I’ve had, watching the film from hospital beds in a fashion not too dissimilar to the way the apes are subjected to scenes of violence in the opening moments of the movie. Events onscreen were occasionally accompanied by live-action elements, adding to the experience.
The attention to detail was fantastic. From the second we entered until we left the venue, there was just one moment where the illusion was broken (which we’ll cover in the ‘dislike’ section). The cast were completely dedicated, with one person, who was a plant within our group, suddenly turning on me and telling everyone that I was infected. She kept this up right until the screening started, getting me in trouble with the military and even remembering me two or so hours since our last encounter.
The sets were brilliant, extremely accurate to the film (Frank and Hannah’s flat comes to mind) and the scale of the entire thing was mind-boggling – I lost count of how many flights of stairs we had to run up!
And, the screening itself… It’s become the done thing to criticise Secret Cinema for the cost of entry but, honestly, seeing the film the way that we did justified a decent part of the ticket price on its own. I think it’ll be a long time before I see a film in a better environment than this. And the Audio/Visual presentation was up to scratch, every element of the screening had been treated with care in case you were worried that it was all about the novelty.
I guess it’s worth addressing the elephant in the room, the price. Now, for £65, I think the experience was worth it. When you consider that theatre tickets float at around £40 give or take for two or so hours, you get that experience and then some, plus a film screening. The staffing, location hire, set dressing et al would all amount to a costly production so I’m not sure how much lower the ticket prices could go before it becomes unsustainable. Also, we paid £50 for 90 mins of Goosebumps Alive compared to the £65 for four/five hours of 28 Days Later.
That said, the addition of the costume at £20 was not telegraphed when buying the ticket. Whilst you could source some of the costume yourself, you were asked to bring specific things (like a blood sample that was included in the kit) that I’m not sure you’d be able to easily find elsewhere. It felt a bit sneaky and I would have preferred that the ticket price was £20 higher than having this lumped on us a week before attending.
What annoyed even more was that in the case of the blood sample, we were all asked to get them ready for testing but never did anything with them. This was true of a number of items we were told to bring which made buying the kit even more pointless.
Complaints about the cost of food/drink are tired – these prices are no different to anywhere else, including Goosebumps Alive that we attended the night before.
And then, the one thing that I would have dropped from the event due to it completely killing the feeling of being in the film’s world – the closing ten/ fifteen-minute techno rave complete with dancing infected. That includes the infected getting down to ‘Thriller’! Given that it was a tiny part of the whole evening and took place right at the end of proceedings, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been but it was definitely illusion shattering!
The best way to see this film. You spend two or so hours in the world of the movie before then seeing an incredibly well-staged presentation of the film itself. It’s definitely worth the price of entry and I left feeling satisfied unlike with recent events attended.
Secret Cinema: 28 Days Later (2016)
Ticket Price: £65
Address: Secret location, London