The Underground Picturehouse Presents 28 Weeks Later and The Virus Reborn
Written by Daniel Benson
Event organised by The Underground Picturehouse
It’s November the 1st, a chilly, damp and dark evening since the clocks went back. Halloween is behind us, but the scares aren’t as my eldest son and I are on our way to an off-grid location for The Underground Picture House’s presentation of 28 Weeks Later and The Virus Reborn.
Most horror fans will be aware of 28 Weeks Later, the sequel to Danny Boyle’s rage virus outbreak horror (call it a zombie movie if you must, but prepare for debate). The Virus Reborn part is all new, though, and the brainchild of a small but dedicated group of film fanatics aiming to bring a Secret Cinema-style experience to moviegoers without the massive price tag.
The pre-show emails notified me that there would be no phone signal at the venue, and we’d lose contact with the outside world. I started to wonder about the validity of this claim when I still had full 4G within a mile of my destination, but as we pulled up in the car park, I got the dreaded ‘No Signal’ notification. Like the horror movie trope, we were literally cut off from all communication. The facility for tonight’s events is the Drakelow Tunnels, a vast WWII underground bunker complex that has some 3½ miles of tunnels.
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Our group is kitted out in protective coveralls and told to wear our face masks (received by mail in advance of the event) as we are briefed before the entry to the tunnels and the experience that awaits. Once inside, we’re under military control. This is The Sanctuary, a community of survivors who have escaped the infection we’ve just left behind. In charge of this disjointed dystopia is a crazed religious figure known as The Chancellor. Before we are allowed entry to The Sanctuary, we are urged by the tunnel guards not to swear allegiance to The Chancellor, otherwise... well, bad things will happen.
That’s not to say bad things don’t happen; this is an outbreak horror scenario, which wouldn’t be up to much if there wasn’t, you know, an outbreak. The rules and guidelines for the experience say there’s no obligation to run, but when you’re being chased by the infected in an extremely creepy setting, it is human nature to leg it.
Through the tunnels we meet various guides and characters; The Chancellor himself; a doctor researching the virus and those who are naturally immune; survivors who guide us to the next stage; soldiers drunk on power with a dangerous bloodlust and, probably the creepiest character of all, a clown-mask-wearing psychopath who lines us up against the wall and bags our heads while choosing which one to kill.
Finally, we end up at the experience’s terminus, where the screening room and a bar awaits. It’s been a fraught 30 minutes and one that makes the respite after the finale more than welcome. Now we wait for the other groups of survivors to reach us before the movie...
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The Underground Picturehouse has to be commended for its work on this experience. It must be a huge gamble to put on an event like this and hope that the word of mouth and publicity is strong enough to generate ticket sales. No need for hope, though, as this event sold out every slot on its three-night run, even though two of them were after Halloween itself.
There were a couple of minor niggles with the night; the tunnels are very cold all year round (something we were advised about in advance and told to dress accordingly), so waiting from the end of our experience until the rest of the groups made it through resulted in being quite chilled by the time the film started - even though I was dressed warm with plenty of layers, the 10°C temperature took its toll by the end. Also, the acoustics in the tunnels don’t really lend themselves to great audio, but both of these issues are the nature of the beast. I doubt the creators of this complex had immersive cinema in mind when they built it.
The quality of the actors was superb, with every person carrying off their role completely convincingly, without a hint of amateur dramatics. We even had one guide who managed to reassure and console one poor lady who was having an asthma attack, without impacting on the group and taking them out of the experience (you’ll be happy to know said lady was fine afterwards). The Drakelow Tunnels provides the perfect location for an event like this - even given the minor grievances above - to simply walk around the place would give you the creeps, every unlit tunnel disappearing into impenetrable gloom that could harbour anything. To have a venue that starts with that level of creepiness and then add hordes of the infected is a recipe for a fantastic horror movie experience and I can’t wait to see what The Underground Picturehouse will serve up next.
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