I would like to start this review with a confession: Prior to Wednesday, October 25th, 2017, I have never seen a zombie film or TV show in my life! Shocking, isn’t it? Zombie-related shows or movies just never appealed to me, but I wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to watch one. Imagine my surprise to receive the invitation to the Shaun of the Dead: The Movie Experience. Initially, my response was a mixture of intrigue and skepticism. Hosted by The Secret Sessions, The Movie Experience series is a fusion of live theatre and cinema where guests enter a participatory and immersive world based on their chosen cult films. Given that Halloween was right around the corner at the time of the event, the cult classic zombie comedy, Shaun of the Dead, was an appropriate choice of film.
(photos by Devon Lowry)
What intrigued me about this affair was how unique and fun it all appeared in the press release. I was curious to see if this event would be as fun as it sounds, so I confirmed my RSVP.
The Monarch Tavern was the perfect venue for the event as it looked eerily similar to The Winchester Tavern, one of the locations for the film. Upon entry, my guest and I received a quick lesson in taking out zombies with ‘lead pipes,’ just in case we come across one during the evening. At first, it felt like a regular night at a bar. Many people were talking and drinking amongst themselves. The back corner of the room was sectioned off and made into a zombie makeup room of sorts, which was a nice touch but barely used. At this point, I was having a hard time settling in as I was anxiously expecting for a zombie or two to come out from the dark corners. Part of me was also waiting for the right opportunity to beat a zombie to death. To take my mind off possible zombie attacks, I helped myself to the food that was served that night. The food, prepared by Jubert Gutierrez (The Monarch Tavern’s Executive Chef), was a great hit as it was an elevated version of the typical pub grub. The jackfruit tacos, pulled pork bao sliders, and fresh cut fries were crowd favourites and quickly devoured within minutes. What I enjoyed most about the food was that the dishes didn’t have cheesy zombie or Halloween-themed names (not every themed event needs to have a themed menu.) Cast members even interacted with the crowd during the first hour of the night. They were such a treat to talk to, in and out of character, and they all had very convincing cockney accents.
After an hour of eating and mingling, four of the actors acted out a scene in the middle of the room. In this impromptu scene, the actors playing Shaun and Liz were on a double date and started having an argument about the state of their relationship and how tired she was of going to ‘The Winchester’ for every date night. This scene provided the perfect sedge way for the second portion of the evening, which was the film screening. Soon everybody joined the actors in the lower level of the tavern.
The actual movie experience consisted of a film screening with parts of the film being performed live in front of the audience. Without giving too much away, it was hilarious, interactive, and at times suspenseful. Just as I expected, zombies did pop out of a dark corner. But they got their hands on one of the actors, so it was okay. The event concluded with more drinking and mingling in the upper-level bar.
My guest and I really enjoyed ourselves that night! Although I don’t see myself watching another zombie flick anytime soon, I definitely see myself attending a future installment of The Movie Experience. If you’re looking for a fun night that is a harmonious union of film screening, party, and theatre, The Movie Experience hosted by The Secret Sessions is worth checking out.
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