i-D’s Film Editor Jonathan Crocker discovers the most incredible way to watch a movie.
Tell no one. That’s the motto of Secret Cinema, the most exciting way to watch a movie you ever heard about. But word is finally getting out – and rightly so. The idea is genius: a secret film held in a secret location that recreates the world of the movie being shown each month. Now in its fourth year, this fantastic event peppers you with tantalising, infuriating clues from the off. The invite handed to i-D promised to take us on a trip to the Off-World Colonies and advised us to dress in “Cyberpunk, Future Neon, Oriental, Electric, PVC, Bleach, Dark Reds, Overcoats and Vagabond Hats”.
When we arrived at Canary Wharf tube station, air hostesses from ‘Utopia Airways’ presented us with a flight pass (a Secret Cinema oyster travel-card holder) and we climbed onto a bus. No sooner had we set off, the bus came to a sudden halt. A man dressed in a trenchcoat boarded the bus and informed us that our trip had been cancelled – “replicants” had been detected on board. We were being taken to a secure location. Curtains were drawn. “Don’t talk to the locals, make sure your goggles are on and run – you don’t want to get soaked in acid rain,” yells the cop, as we’re sent hurrying down the path littered with smashed up cars, storage containers and miscreant street-people. We’re not in London anymore. We’re in the dark, bustling Chinatown of Los Angeles 2019. An abandoned warehouse has been transformed into an incredible living reconstruction — as any real film fan would have guessed by now — Ridley Scott’s sci-fi thriller Blade Runner.
It’s all here. Futuristic police patrolling noodle bars restaurants. Walls flashing with neon. A seedy strip bar with a giant video wall and masked erotic dancers. Live music pumping out and a bar serving beer, wine and cocktails. Street vendors offering giant live snakes and reptiles. What’s more, as well as around 7,000 people dressed in Blade Runner-style costumes, this world is populated by actors playing characters from the film. It’s a totally immersive experience: at one point, Blade Runner’s white-haired villain pins a police officer to the ground before approaching i-D menacingly, staring us dead in the eyes, then melting away into the crowds. You can even undergo the famous ‘voight kamppf’ test that can identify if you are a human or an android. “You’re in a desert. You see a turtle laying on its back, beating its legs in the hot sun. But you’re not helping it. Why aren’t you helping it?” Happily, i-D passes the test. Others aren’t so lucky: plain-clothed Blade Runner detectives barge past us – one of them pulls a gun and fires several shots after a fleeing suspect. Brilliantly detailed with meticulous sets and performances, it’s a wonderful experience that blasts through the fourth wall to bring the film to life and allows the audience to become a living part of it.
At 9pm, we are all ushered to a giant screening room to watch the film itself. But Secret Cinema isn’t done yet. For the famous finale in which Harrison Ford’s anti-hero cop goes head-to-head with Rutger Hauer’s tragic villain on a rain-slashed rooftop, two actors dangle from the warehouse ceiling to recreate the scene as it plays out on the big screen. After this, going to the local Odeon is never going to feel quite the same.
The next Secret Cinema takes place tonight and 4th-5th September at a Secrret Venue in London. Click here for ticket information.