My Gay Toronto - MGT Hot Topic

Beyond sensurround and terror

by Drew Rowsome

"This is a particularly unsettling film so we've only been able to watch it three or four times," says Ned Loach of the film that will form the centrepiece of 360 Screenings' Halloween offering. "Usually with each film we watch it over and over to get ourselves deeply into it. I'm a huge film buff but not particularly a horror film fan. I don't enjoy the act of being scared and this one really scares."

360 Screenings is a mashup of a group movie-going experience and an immersive theatre event where the audience enters the film's world. For a screening of One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, the audience became asylum inmates; for Amelie, they entered a romantic and idealized Paris; and during last Halloween's screening of 28 Days Later they fled zombies and becoming infected. Definitely a step beyond popcorn, Imax and even 3D glasses.

Because it is just before Halloween there is an expectation, aided and abetted by the press releases and advertising, that this event will 'terrify.' "We're trying to disassociate ourselves as much as possible from a haunted house," says Loach. "It's not in your face screams. We're creating a scene, an environment from the film we've chosen. The eerieness of the setting will speak for itself."

The venue is not announced until 24 hours before the event commences and the film is kept under wraps until the audience is already in the environment. "It's part of the intrigue," says Loach. "Everyone wants an insider tidbit but only five or six people actually know what the film is. My husband Robert Gontier and I work on all of the planning, and head designer Andy Miller conceptualizes. There is a crew of 20 that comes on board and 18 actors . . . It's a lot of people to keep quiet."

Efforts to pry the film title out of Loach result only in a clue. "The film deals with the idea of transformation," he teases. "How much a person can undergo. We're creating a specific time and a complete narrative. What the characters are at the beginning are not what you will meet at the end." That is if the audience is brave enough to make it to the end. 

The 360 Screening Halloween screenings are at and undisclosed location at 7 and 11pm on Thurs Oct 24, and 2 and 7pm on Fri, Oct 25.