While cinema chains and directors queued up to publicly quarrel and question Netflix’s cinematic merits, Secret Cinema proved that they were all mouth and trousers by announcing that their next 360 degree, immersive experience would be based on a TV series for the very first time in their 12 year history. Not just a TV series, but a web TV series: Netflix’s throwback sci-fi horror, Stranger Things.
Succeeding 80’s sci-fi classics such as Back to the Future and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Secret Cinema’s reveal seemed like an obvious choice on one hand, yet straight out of left-field on the other. Questions: what would serve as the climactic screening element of the show? The pilot episode perhaps? The Season 3 finale? Could a relatively new TV show invite as much interest as some of the most cherished films of our childhood?
Having said all that, this is Secret Cinema we’re talking about. And stranger things have happened. Minor spoilers to follow…
Much more friendly and welcoming than previous Secret Cinema incarnations, the 4th of July celebratory atmos and the camp-as-Christmas nostalgia make a night of Stranger Things way more fun than the 80s could ever claim to be. And boy, is it fun.
In your role as a former student of Hawkins High School, you’re more or less free to explore all areas of the TV town, from Ice Cream emporium Scoops Ahoy to the Palace Arcade (complete with playable Dragon’s Lair) and every nook and cranny in between. The only exception to the rule is Murray Bauman’s secret bunker. But you know how conspiracy theorists be. A little puzzle solving as part of your character mission will get you through the door and, let’s hope, a glass of the finest Communist vodka available.
Whether you’re a punk, hip hop-per or new romantic, you can easily cross over into other character’s narrative arcs, whereas previous Dystopian Secret Cinema environs (we’re looking at you, Blade Runner) came with the sense of segregation which it shared with the source material. And this is both a plus and a minus for Stranger Things. Be it rebels vs The Empire or replicants vs private dicks, there was a sense of danger in previous Secret Cinemas which made the experience all the more thrilling and sadly, this is somewhat lacking from Hawkins.
We’ve all fallen in love with the show’s cast of characters and to spend the evening in their company is a pleasure indeed. But let’s not forget how much we enjoy it when things get more than a little strange, and unfortunately, this just doesn’t happen anywhere near enough. Whether that’s down to budgetary or logistical reasons, or we were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, who knows. But after all of the neon, glitter and shine came off, there was still a craving left for something a little bit more unsettling.
Speaking of the love for the characters though, this experience leans a lot more heavily on the cast of actors, who run themselves ragged for the full three hours, re-enacting scenes from the series in every corner of Hawkins. Most worthy of a shout out is the actor portraying Lucas, who absolutely nails the character’s mannerisms and dialogue delivery throughout and, whats more, knows his way around a dance off.
“… the 4th of July celebratory atmos and the camp-as-Christmas nostalgia make a night of Stranger Things way more fun than the 80s could ever claim to be.”
To round off the experience, rather than a cinematic screening with actors recreating key scenes, here, you’re thrown into the centre of something far more all-encompassing and, at times terrifying. Specifically to a select few. If you want some advice? Get near the middle.
Once you’ve composed yourself, The Fourth of July celebrations run on after the performance’s finishing time which allows you the opportunity to show off your dance moves on the pyramid podium, get your grub on (Mexy Mac and Cheese FTW) or sup a Camden Hells or three. Brace yourself, these aren’t available at 80’s prices.
With Secret Cinema, you can’t possibly experience it all and there will always be things that you miss, but it never feels like you’ve actually missed out. The attention and affection within the whole experience is astounding, making you want to binge-watch the show all over again, complete with your own “I’ve been there” commentary.
Now we’re back in 2019, there is no other way to put it: we have to go back to Hawkins.
Have you been to Secret Cinema presents Stranger Things yet? What did you think? Be sure to let us know in the comments below.