360 Screenings takes audiences to the edge of fear with The Exorcist at the Ontario Heritage Centre
It was a dark and rain-filled pre-Halloween evening, the perfect atmosphere to step into the latest event from the 360 Screenings team. Having been building up the hype for the event, and with a top mention in Buzzfeed’s list of hottest Halloween tickets, it’s not surprising that the limited number of screenings should be sold out. I’d been anticipating attending the event since I’d heard about its Amélie screening earlier in the year, and was especially pleased to be waiting outside the Ontario Heritage Centre to experience the latest incarnation of its Halloween edition.
My companion for the evening had already experienced the previous 360 Screenings event, having participated in the cast, so it was nice to have a bit of a guide to how things worked. The evening began even as we were waiting in line, with picketers protesting the military on Washington State’s campus and trying to get those of us waiting to sign a petition. From Washington, we travelled briefly to Iraq as we were welcomed into the Ontario Heritage Centre to begin the event. We were led up the stairs to the second floor and into the world of the film.
The film in question was The Exorcist, something that probably would’ve taken me until the final scene to guess as I’d never seen the movie before. My friend took much less time to guess. The pre-screening action took place in a few different rooms, each containing an atmosphere from particular scenes in the film. The largest of the rooms was used for the final scene as well as the bar, concessions table, and where the bulk of us spectators loitered after exploring the rest of the rooms.
360 Screenings is the type of event that really depends on how you want to engage with the interactive element. As much as I engaged with the actors — one in particular who played a priest and had set up a room with Ouija boards and chuckled as my friend and I tried to get him to aid us in our quest for paranormal communication — I actually found it more fun to watch the other audience members interacting with the cast. Another room, oblong in shape and set up as an intimate conference space, had two doctors arguing over the proper treatment for their perplexing patient. While my friend and I sat, trying to think of ways to get involved in the conversation, another group of people arrived and launched into a heated intellectual debate with them.
In the main room, along with the food and drinks, also had a station set up for audience members to get some pretty gruesome temporary tattoos. Scrapes, gashes, slashes and other festering bloody things were seen all over the space on spectators’ necks, faces, arms; my friend got a nasty one on her hand that both delighted us and made us queasy.
When we were all gathered in the main room, surrounding the bed that is so iconic of that pivotal scene in The Exorcist, the final scene began. It was a little frightening and almost thrilling to see it enacted live before our eyes, with the audience erupting in our own chant of “The power of Christ compels you!” along with the priest.
I’m not sure if The Exorcist was really the best film for this type of event, despite it being a horror classic, I feel like there wasn’t enough in the film as a whole to make for enough interesting interactive elements. My friend and I cycled through all the rooms in no time at all. I think 360 Screenings does something highly original and incredibly entertaining and while, in the end, I’m not sure I found the interactivity of this particular event as impressive as I’d heard, I would certainly go again.
360 Screenings: The Exorcist played on October 25th 26th, 2013. Keep tabs on the 360 Screenings website to find out when the next event is taking place.