360 Screenings creator talks horror, new Halloween event

This weekend, 360 Screenings is holding its latest set of events, four Halloween-themed mini parties that will allow Toronto film fans to live out one of the scariest horror movies of all-time at a secret location (setting will be revealed on Friday, with the movie not announced until the first event on Friday night).

By going to the Halloween 2013 360 screening, we’ll be marking an anniversary, as the first time we interacted with the company was this time last year, when we went to their tribute to 28 Days Later. 360 has expanded greatly since then, morphing from a one-night-only mini-machine to a multi-day must-see. We decided to celebrate the local business’s (trans)formative year by catching up with one of its co-creators, our old pal Ned Loach, getting him to reflect on his and partner Robert Gontier’s success, the spooky screening ahead and the five horror movies we’d like to see 360 take a stab at.

How will this differ from last year’s 360 Halloween event?

Ned Loach: This time we’re playing with the idea of transformation. I know that for 28 Days Later there was an element of transformation with the make-up element, but this time we’re actually going to be playing with a through narrative. So, everything that happens in the first half of the interactive part of the night will be very different from what happens in the second part of the interactive part of the night. A lot of characters will be changing … I don’t want to give away too much, but “transformation” is the buzz word we’re playing around with.

It’s kind of something we played around with at One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, where we had a story that played out through the night. We had the party room where a lot of the actors were dancing and creating a Christmas party. And by the end of the night the room was just totally torn apart and broken down. We’re playing with that again this time around where there will be a narrative to the characters and where will be a development with the room and with the group of characters themselves.

I’ve noticed that you’ve started giving less and less clues in the weeks leading up to the screenings. Now your clues are very vague and sporadic. Is that strategic?  

We learned very quickly that our audiences are very adept at putting together the clues on Google. [Laughs] The clues that we gave out that we thought were very cryptic and nondescript, people could figure out very quickly. So, we changed the way that we send out the clues and the photos and hope that we’re able to narrow it down a little bit, but not give it a way and still have a number of different options that people are guessing.

Do you worry that having multiple screenings has taken away some of the magic of the surprise for the people attending the later screenings?

That’s always a question that we ask ourselves – how we can insure that the mystery element is maintained. We worked around that at our One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest screening, where we asked our audience to keep it secret and not reveal what it is to our social media outlets. Because what we’ve heard from people is that mystery element – not knowing what the film is – is one of the most attractive parts of the nights. The mystery of the unknown is really fun for our guests.

At our Cuckoo’s nest event, no one gave it away. It not talked about it at all on Twitter or Facebook. We were really, really pleasantly surprised that people were respectful of it and keeping the secret alive. It was fantastic .

Now, for the final part of my interview, I’d like to offer up the names of some horror movies that we’d like to see you guys take on, and get your take on whether they’d actually work …

Is this a way to test how well I keep a secret? [Laughs]

[Also laughs] No, no. But if you feel uncomfortable at any point, you can just say “no comment” and I will read into that what I will …

[Laughs] OK!

CARRIE

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I think it would be really cool to take on the original 1970s film, because you could do it in a gymnasium and hold a prom-like event.

NL: You know what? That was actually one of the ones we wanted to do this year! But we decided not to do it after all.  This other movie was a lot more intriguing to us, and more of a challenged artistically.

But, Carrie, we had some really great plans for it.

DONNIE DARKO

Donnie-Darko1

It’s not necessarily a “horror,” but it’s certainly got some genre elements to it. And I can just see the Fear/Love board now and Sparkle Motion dancing in a corner.

NL: [Laughs] You were the one that did the Twitter countdown weren’t you? With the date?  That was very clever! That’s one that we’d like to explore definitely.

SLEEPY HOLLOW

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This one is a suggestion from Michelle. I think it might be a bit too elaborate because how do you do a headless horseman? And that’s a big outdoor movie, and I don’t know if you guys have considered any outdoor venues.

NL: It’s hard to do things outdoors in Toronto. The City of Toronto has very, very strict rules on public spaces. So, it would be very difficult for us to do one outdoors. But that’s not to say that’s not something we wouldn’t consider in the future …

Maybe that opens things up for a little Sleepy Hollow. I love Tim Burton! Just love him!

THE SHINING

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That seems like it could be a perfect pick. A very atmospheric film with some recognizable characters.

NL: Totally. I think it would be a great one.

The only thing is, there are very limited characters. But we could recreate a full ballroom!

Have you heard about this thing they are doing at The Gladstone Hotel? It’s the Friday after next and they are theming various rooms in the hotel after rooms in the movie – the main bar is the ballroom, the second floor is the hotel, another room is the hedge maze.

NL: Really? That sounds a lot like what we’re doing! Like, not what we’re doing this time, but very similar to our company model.

I’m going to have to look into that …

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET

ARNOLD 6

This could be a tough one, because you would somehow need to include one of the main characters (Freddy Kreuger), but I’m not sure how you would recreate him.

NL: Oh yeah! We could have a hypnotist and have people sleep! [Laughs]

That’s just very creepy movie, but it would be interesting.

You could have a boiler room, and then either a school room or somewhere with lockers, and then different rooms with dream sequences playing out.

NL: I think that would be very cool!

The first 360 Screenings Halloween event is Friday, Oct. 25 at 7 p.m., although it is currently sold out. Tickets are still available for the 11 p.m. production on Friday, as well as the Saturday’s 2 p.m. followup. The final performance/screening, which is currently sold out, is being held Saturday at 7 p.m. Location and dress code to be announced to ticket buyers via e-mail.

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