Secret Cinema’s 28 Days Later Lacks Bite

28 Days Later, Secret Cinema ★★★☆☆

By Londonist Last edited 22 months ago
Secret Cinema’s 28 Days Later Lacks Bite 28 Days Later, Secret Cinema 3
Photo Secret Cinema

Secret Cinema’s legendary immersive experiences are all about anticipation: the dressing up, the coded emails, the unknown elements (whether it’s the film or the location). But for that anticipation to turn into satisfaction, these nights really need to deliver on what they promise.

In the case of their latest presentation — Danny Boyle’s 2002 shocker 28 Days Later — that means delivering genuine scares. And unfortunately, the immersive build-up to the screening here just isn’t scary enough.

More like a Halloween party than a blood-curdling trip to the dark side, it feels like health and safety has stepped in to keep everything in check. We really wanted to get a bit roughed up by the infected, but for the most part were kept apart by fences and various characters in riot gear, scrubs and other apocalyptic outfits.

Instead of fear, we get adrenaline. There’s a lot of shouting and screaming and more running than many people will feel comfortable with. We were hyper-ventilating from exhaustion after about 20 minutes of non-stop sprinting (imagine watching a horror film at the gym). And rushing through the detailed sets is also frustrating as you really want to explore things at a more normal speed.

As you’d expect from this team, the experience does look great: a mix of abandoned hospital stylings and cinematically-lit industrial settings with several scenes from the film impressively brought to life. There’s also a slightly surreal disco where off-duty doctors are thrashing away to tracks by the likes of Zombie Nation.

We veer from believing in the experience to feeling weirdly self-conscious, depending on how hammy the actors are. We had one guy yelling “Isn’t this scary?” as we ran through the corridors, which naturally makes you think: not really.

The best part of the night is the actual screening itself, which you watch lying down on hospital beds. The R&R is a welcome relief after all that running, though the temptation is quite strong to just slip into a light snooze. Alongside the film, actors on stage mimic what’s happening on screen. Sometimes this enhances the effect but more often it’s a bit of a distraction — when one guy cracks open a Pepsi in perfect sync with Cillian Murphy, it simply adds a note of comedy.

The zombie elephant in the room here is whether the experience justifies the steep price tag of £64.50, or £129 if you want to go VIP (plus all the merch, costumes and food and drink you are encouraged to buy). Compared to its previous nights — especially the glorious Empire Strikes Back screening — this one falls short by about 28 points on the scare-o-meter.

Secret Cinema’s screening of 28 Days Later runs until 29 May.

By Nadia Slicenut

Last Updated 20 April 2016