I went to Secret Cinema presents: 28 Days later. Whilst I intend avoid going into too much detail the following article may contain minor spoilers, so if you plan on attending the event then read at you own risk.
Secret cinema has been around since 2007 and its popularity has grown with each production. For those of you unaware of what secret cinema does, they take a movie and build an interactive experience around it. In the last few years they have tackled Back to the future, in which they built a 50’s inspired town, Empire strikes back in which they built the Hoth base and the Shawshank redemption in which they built a prison. It was something I’ve heard a lot about and always said I would get around to one day, but that day didn’t come. Until this week. Secret cinema announced they would be taking on the world of ‘28 days later’ one of the first horror films they have done and coincidentally one of my favourite films of all time. Without hesitation I Bought 4 tickets, got some friends on board, took some time off work and convinced my fiancé we needed a romantic trip to London.
Secret cinema doesn’t just begin when you arrive at the secret location, in the weeks leading up to the event I received emails from a doctor warning me of the rage virus, another directing me to the realistic looks NSH.COM website and Facebook posts with faked news reports and footage of an outbreak. The production values were fantastic and it really sold the story to me.
On arrival at the Venue, a large abandoned warehouse, I was immediately impressed by the scale of it all. Out front was a guard-house complete with a barrier and large men in military outfits. A loud-speaker was repeating an ominous warning to all refugees and a helicopter was flying above, several passer-by’s were attempting to get a peek inside but were soon moved on. I don’t blame them, the large metal fence with serious looking barbed wire was an intimidating site, only made more interesting by the many people attending the event, clad in scrubs and face masks. If you wasn’t aware what was happening it would leave you pretty perplexed. The attention to detail was astounding, it felt like an actual refugee center, it felt like we were lining up for vaccinations and when we were taken into the hospital it felt like a legitimate medical center. The world the secret cinema group had built was not only atmospheric but incredible immersive. As you queue to enter the facility you are berated by soldiers and hospital staff alike. Clearly my accomplice Bambi was an easy target as he was singled out multiple times to be ‘checked’ for signs of infection. The acting was mostly on point, let down only by some of the female characters midway through the experience. When the guards were shouting at you it was with a sharp tone that made you stand to attention, you didn’t want to get on the wrong side of these men. Something Bambi managed to do time and again. It didn’t help that I told one of them I heard him growling earlier or the fact that when asked to sign a disclaimer he drew a penis. Pharmacies on site sold various potions and medicine, which tasted suspiciously like vodka, rum and gin. After a few of these my group were ready.
My group was definitely not ready. Something that took me by surprise during this event was the fear it made me feel. The dread I felt as I stared down a hallway to see a silhouette of, what I hoped was a man, was real. A feeling that tripled when, whatever it was, moved and let out an ear chilling scream. We were told to wear suitable clothing under our hospital scrubs and to be prepared to run. And run we did! The claustrophobic corridors brimmed with more of those unmatched details which you could almost consider pointless, as I ran so fast I missed most of it. I’m not ashamed to say I even threw my fellow survivors aside as I scrambled for an exit. The stand out performances came from the soldiers, if you are familiar with the movie you can understand why there was an uneasiness about them and the way they barked at you was authentic. A highlight of mine was probably seeing Bambi receiving yet another verbal tongue bashing after dropping a mug. “Look at this piece of shit, I’m surprised he survived this long,” one shouted at him, but she was cut short when his trousers fell down. The sight of him standing there, kegs around his ankles whilst the soldiers and patients laughed at him will remain with me for a long time.
In the make shift barracks we were put through our paces with various exercises. I’ve never managed 1 push up so it’s a testament to the team that they got me to do 25. I guess adrenaline and an angry drill Sargent can get you to achieve anything. Yet this is where the experience almost lost me, once the initial training was done there was a lot of down time. There was a few recreational things to do such as play ping-pong or watch recess, neither of which really appealed to me. So we got a bit drunk. That’s when the secret missions started but it would be impossible to talk about them without giving them away so I shall leave that for now.
I must admit when I saw the people I was with, the idea of sitting down to watch a movie did not entice. As I said ’28 Days later’ is one of my all-time favorite movies and I just couldn’t imagine a scenario in which the hundreds of sweaty, bloody and adrenaline filled people could sit and enjoy this cinematic masterpiece. Yet Secret Cinema triumphed here too. Rows of camp beds filled a hall and every 8 or so people had a screen above them. This allowed you to lay back and let the film do its job.
The movie itself is artistic and atmospheric with impeccable music and sound design. The movie sees a group animal rights activists freeing a chimp infected with the “Rage” virus from a medical research lab. It then cuts to 28 days later to when Jim wakes up from a coma and finds his city empty. Empty except from the zombie-like victims of the Rage virus. Jim and a group of survivors, go on a perilous journey to what they hope will be salvation. While the story sounds a little clichéd the excellent direction and pace of the movie really makes it something special. Whilst most horror films these days offer little more than ridiculous gore or jump scares, Danny Boyle’s movie gets into your head as it takes a dramatic look at the survival instinct of Man. The clever and chilling shots of a London devoid of life hits hard, especially when seeing streets I had been down that very day. The climax of the film is gut wrenching and Cillian Murphy’s performance is nothing short of mesmerizing as he does what is necessary to save his friends. Whilst you sit watching the film various scenes are acted out around you. For example when on-screen they are searching in the dark with flashlights, around you will be people doing the same. During the intense chases in the movie, the infected will run between the crowd. This added to the immersion and made it so much more than just watching a movie.
Secret cinema presents 28 days Later was a fast paced, action packed, pants-filler of a night. The admission price may seem steep at first but for the experience you receive is well worth it. As I sit here and write this 3 days later I can still feel the aches in my arms and legs from the training but I would do it again in a heartbeat. The achievement they have made in bringing this movie to life should be commended as it is nothing short of genius. They have made a regular customer of me and I can’t wait to attend my next event… though I may pick something less nerve-racking.
Secret cinema Presents: 28 days Later is in its final two weeks, I highly recommend it so if you would like to book tickets visit: http://secretcinema.org/tickets/28dayslater