Review: Reel Unknown cinema

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Rioters outside Philharmonic Dining Rooms © Reel Unknown

Rioters outside Philharmonic Dining Rooms © Reel Unknown

The secrets behind Liverpool’s third Reel Unknown event slowly unravelled last week, in an extremely visual way, and they outdid themselves with their best efforts yet.

Inspired by London’s Secret Cinema, Reel Unknown is cinema with a difference, as the audience buy tickets for the event without knowing what film they are going to be watching on the night. Running since March 2012, previous films have been ‘The Goonies’ and ‘Con-Air’.

About a week before the event, ticket holders were sent a cryptic e-mail, set out like an invitation to join Herrn and Frau Falkstein for dinner and telling us to meet in the centre of St James Mount and Gardens where we would be led to the secret venue.

As JMU Journalism followed a Transylvanian man through the graveyard towards the secret location, we stopped at various points where other people, including an old man asking for help crossing the road, talked to us. We also witnessed a riot outside the Philharmonic Dining Rooms, as people shouted: “Kill the monster!”

Once we arrived at our destination, the Liverpool Medical Institution, we were handed white lab coats and hustled into a lecture theatre, where a lecturer spoke about nerve reactions and demonstrated how he had created something that could stop someone from reacting when he kneed them in the crotch. During the talk, a man, who had seemed to be just like one of the audience, stood up and started questioning the lecturer on the fact that he was related to Dr Frankenstein, which started an argument. Thus, it became clear that there were actors among us too.

Once the lecture was over, we were led upstairs to a dining area and library, where we had to have a picture taken for a medical card we were handed earlier in the night, and we were then allowed to explore the rest of the venue. This included taking part in a science experiment, which involved massaging each other’s shoulders, while the scientists asked us quick-fire questions such as, “What is behind the bookshelf?” and “What is your biggest fear?”

Audience members could also take part in a life drawing class – the subject of which was a man lying dead on a table. This part of the venue was also where we saw Dr Frankenstein bring the man to life, only for him to try and strangle the doctor and then chase him out the room.

The Monster lying dead on the surgeons table © Reel Unknown

The Monster lying dead on the surgeon’s table © Reel Unknown

Going back into the lecture theatre to watch the film, we sat down to see Dr Frankenstein and the man he had just woken from the dead perform ‘Putting On The Ritz’, before finding out that the film was ‘Young Frankenstein’.

The 1974 film has starring roles from the likes of Gene Wilder as Dr Frankenstein, who has just inherited his grandfather’s castle in Transylvania, and Peter Boyle, playing a brilliant version of The Monster. It also includes a hilarious performance by Marty Feldman as Igor, the doctor’s assistant.

Once we saw the film, it was clear how well chosen the venue was and the creators, Ruth Meekings and Jasmine Doughty, would have been hard pushed to find somewhere more appropriate. Everything about the run-up to the film seemed to fit perfectly with the film, including the characters spattered around the library.

It’s easy to see why Reel Unknown continues to do so well and keeps growing, as the organisers always seem to bring something new to each event they put on.  With the ability to create an environment in which the audience is so relaxed and prepared to laugh, you would be crazy to not go to their next screening.

About Hayley Minn, JMU Journalism