Secret Cinema is one of the top movie-pop up events in London. Not only do you get to view films in an extraordinarily interactive way, but you also get to relive key moments, if not the whole film in an immersive walk-through.
The call for evacuees could be heard on the tannoy meters away as people culminated towards the barriers of the decrepit industrial wonderland. Couples and groups staggered clad in scrubs, goggles and masks, some clutching yellow plastic bags full of their belongings.
“I want scrubs!” my dad exclaimed as we entered the facility. It was the perfect day for father-daughter bonding: a zombie apocalypse experience via Secret Cinema.
“Did you purchase that nice coat before the apocalypse sir?” a paramedic asked one of the evacuees whilst we bought our scrubs. It was a precursor to what was ahead, that through the fun-nature of the experience, official protocol would follow. This post apocalyptic world was becoming more convincing by the second.
Medical staff signed us in and our belongings were sealed in plastic bags, although we were still allowed to take them in with us. Then we were led past cadres of soldiers and police into the facility. Along the way an abandoned blood splattered car welcomed us with its unsettling carnage, teamed with other terrible sights.
Once inside, we were taken to a temporary installation and put into groups. The story really began when a doctor addressed us informing us of the rage virus and vaccinations were administered. Based on the film directed by Danny Boyle and screenplay by Alex Garland, we were the embodiment of character Jim (played by Cillian Murphy) in the film.
For those who have seen the movie, the walk-through is a trivia-fest and a step by step immersive experience of the film. Characters, locations and sets were all replicated and it was as if we were reliving the film. At each action cue, we ran for our lives around the steely industrious facility. My dad grabbed my hand at one point pushing me to safety so that that I didn’t get infected by one of the runners. Sometimes an infected carrier would launch themselves through the piping and grapple at you. The character actors also included us in the narrative whilst leading us onto the next scenes/locations.
It was much like being on an abandoned alien ship in a sci-fi movie, with the constant sirens, soundscape and running for cover. All we needed were guns…but then again where there are weapons, there maybe soldiers, and women should stay very clear of Major Henry’s mansion base.
The 28 Days Later experience is worth visiting with lavish and intricate film production sets which reflect the movie beautifully. Technically it’s nearing the standards of attractions you’d see at Universal Studios in the US. But where it’s aesthetically pleasing, the interaction is where it falters. Sometimes it wasn’t clear who or what we were running from. The scares felt minimal as if there was a zombie drought. With more zombies-walkers, biters, carriers, runners and additional jump scares, the experience might have been on par with the action seen in the movie.
A really good example of terrifying interaction in a walk-through experience is Dan Brownlie’s The Tombs: Rise of the Damned film event I covered for Horror Talk. There were scares aplenty and although the venue was smaller, it was padded with the scenes of horror from his film.
Horror fans like to be pushed to their limits and scared, especially when all suited and booted for an event. We shouldn’t laugh at scuttling zombies we should be screaming. Laugh once for the charm and scream second for the terrors.
Even if light on the horror, this Secret Cinema experience is still not one to be missed, especially as some of the hidden attractions (not mentioned in this article) are quite awesome. Even my dad enjoyed himself.
You can find out more about the Secret Cinema 28 Days Later event here.