Review: 28 Days Later (360 Screenings)

360 Screenings in Toronto fuses theatre, film and interactivity together with a fascinatingly fearful event just in time for Halloween

It must be a strange feeling to purchase tickets for an event without knowing where you’re going or what you’re seeing. But you do so anyway because the word of mouth has been extremely favorable. If you’re one of the privileged few who were in attendance at one of these secretive events in the past, then you grin with anticipation at what’s to come. Whatever it is, you know it’ll be something you won’t soon forget.

What you do know is that 360 Screenings is the latest in innovative and interactive audience involved experiences to hit Toronto that allows the audience to “step into the film”. A Toronto heritage building is selected for the backdrop for this special evening setting the ambiance for the night. The space within is transformed to reflect a movie, the title of which has yet to be revealed, where you as the audience are free to explore, listen, and interact with the scenes playing out with live actors before you. Hints are revealed throughout. At the apex of the guessing game, the chaos stops, a scene is expertly performed before the audience is led to the movie’s screening.

The day before, the instructional email comes in – the location has finally been revealed, the Berkeley Street Church at Queen and Parliament, show up promptly at 7 pm. Instructions (in order to secure your survival) include dressing in army fatigues or in solid dark green or brown, bring eye protection and/or mouth protection, rain gear, and canned food as “you’ll be hungry where you’re going”.

As everyone spends their travel and waiting time guessing the movie, actors dressed in army fatigues set up barricades outside of the church. Inside, the crowd is led through a dining room where a conversation is happening between a soldier and an African woman, a discussion of a life being sacrificed.

In a different room, a soldier preps eggs for a meal – eggs of questionable quality. Outside, in a maze of bloody sheets hides one of the “infected” who lunges at the crowd in a rage. In a separate room is a mirror, it’s scrawled with the words “The end is nigh. Really f*cking nigh.” There’s a man on a gurney, there are people protesting the unethical treatment of chimps, a bulletin packed with notices searching for the missing. The highlight – makeup artists painting away on an eager crowd, covering the newly “infected” with bullet wounds, blood and gashes, and the gray-white pallor of the walking deceased.

The movie… Have you guessed? Zombies are the prevalent theme. Dawn of the Dead? Resident Evil 3? Those were some of the ideas passing through my mind. 28 Days Later? Yes, yes indeed.

It didn’t take long before the majority clued in to what they were walking through. Though while everyone mingled away, I couldn’t help but indulge myself by getting covered in copious amounts of fake blood and brain matter. Being the last to be painted before the start of the movie, the artist took her time working on my face.

At the height of the audience’s enthusiasm, a cry is heard out and everyone stops as a scene plays out. A tragic accident involving a dead boy being fed on by a crow leads to the unfortunate infection of one of the healthy humans.

And thus the crowd is led to the screening area where artistic producer Ned Loach and artistic director Robert Gontier announce the movie – 28 Days Later. For those who hadn’t seen the movie – admittedly, such as myself – but have found themselves drawn to the show The Walking Dead – such as myself – will find many similarities with the stages met in the show versus what happens in the movie. As the movie plays out, your mind flashes back to the bits and pieces you saw throughout the exploration process and it all falls into place.

The experience is highly memorable and is sure to generate much talk and discussion afterward, especially for all those painted up as zombies facing the trek home and the bizarre looks along the way. The scenes are exquisitely acted. The interactive scenes and setting are spectacular. Questions will be asked and answers will be given. Learning about a truly unique experience involving a piece of beloved pop culture is hard to resist and thus the grassroots word of mouth grows. The encouragement to film, photograph, tweet and update to Facebook add to the hoopla, spiraling the experience to something viral. With the number of “infected” rapidly increasing, I’m happy to say that I’m one among many and more will come. Many more.

Details

For more information about the next 360 Screenings coming in February 2013, visit their website.

Photo by Paul McNulty.