BY MICHELLE MEDFORD
Is it possible to host a screening about one of the most popular horror movies of all time and keep the film a secret? This year, 360 Screenings proves it is.
Prior the screening, I felt that the clues were so obviously pointing to The Exorcist that I was convinced that it wasn’t The Exorcist. I was sure that it was a red herring. Other possibilities were Emily’s Rosemary’s Baby suggestion and my secret hope that it was the under-appreciated original Amityville Horror. And, although I knew it wouldn’t be such a new film (it was just released on video a few week ago), every single clue was perfect for The Conjuring.
What works for an interactive experience of The Exorcist is that the scenes we remember most about the film (ie. Regan’s spinning head, spewing obscenities, floating above the bed) take place in one room. Many of us (including myself) have forgotten that the film opens at an archaeological site in Iraq, and that many other scenes take place on neighbourhood streets and inside households other than the MacNeils’. It made for a fuller experience of the film than exists in my memory and a deeper appreciation for the film, in the same that a book club makes you enjoy a book more.
I’m not a fan of theatre, but I love 360’s performances. Maybe it’s the level of interactivity that allows me to feel less removed than during a stage performance. In some ways, it’s just hilarious, playing along with it, expressing sympathies to Damian’s ailed mother and feigning shock at the news of a death at the bottom of the stairs. I laughed through it all but in the most appreciative way, that these actors remain so convicted and convincing while I distractingly giggle. Also for these reasons, I was happy to see some of returning actors from the last screening of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest—they’re so brilliant; why not bring them back? Special mentions to Rachel Brittain as Regan, Karen Donalad as Father Karras’ mother, and Christine Horne as Chris, who was both an Ellen Burstyn and Mia Farrow doppelganger at the same time (the only reason I second-guessed that it might be Rosemary’s Baby).
One thing I did miss about 360—I say “miss” although I never attended these earlier screenings—was the themed food. I completely understand the thinking behind having food for purchase, as opposed to free, but I think it would be fun if the food were still themed. The free coffee at this screening was a nice touch though, considering that’s probably the most prominent food or drink in the film, Chris often offering her guests coffee in the film.
My favourite part of the screening, and all 360 screenings, is the amount of detail put into creating the experience, both through actors and design, like Father Merrin asking us our daughter’s middle name or the copy of Photoplay on Regan’s nightstand. We all know that several people sat through this film multiple times taking notes and spending days on end researching, as they do every time, to create a thoroughly engaging experience for casual moviegoers and fanatics alike. Evidently, the people behind 360 genuinely care about film. Its events like these that make Toronto’s film scene so rich.