A Summer of Outdoor Horror

Zombie 2 Enjoys Let the Right One In and The Lost Boys at Film 4 Summer Screen and More

When you think of outdoor film screenings, visions of drive-in’s from the 1950’s full of necking American teens may come to mind. Not the image of a bunch of Brits gathered together in the courtyard of a 16th century house slap bang in the centre of London watching vampire movies.

However that’s where I was lucky enough to be last weekend along with hundreds of other horror fans enjoying a devilish double bill of bloodsuckers with Let the Right One In and The Lost Boys at the Film 4 Summer Screen at Somerset House.

From the popularity of the event and the multitude of others that took place this summer, and continue to, it seems us English are embracing ‘al fresco cinema’ as long as the films are good and you bring a brolly and beer that is.

Film 4 have been running screenings in the amazing Edmond J. Safra courtyard of Somerset House for the last 4 years running. And this year saw a diverse mix of movies from Goldfinger to Cabaret to a kicking kung-fu double bill of Tarantino’s Kill Bill vol. 1 and Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon.

The real blood diamond in the crown of their season was the ‘Vampire Movie Weekend’ screening of Let the Right One In and The Lost Boys – a perfect pairing I couldn’t miss out on.

The tickets for the event sold out in record time, proving the popularity of the pictures. Showing on a state-of-the-art screen with full surround-sound, the mix of the special location and the wonderful atmosphere created by the 2000 people made for an amazing experience and proved why showing movies outside really does work so well.

This concept is not a new one. Film screenings have been done in this style and on this scale for a long time at music festivals and one off events, however they seem to be on the rise. Secret Cinema, which has been running for years, is a club with 60,000 members and more than 30,000 Facebook followers. Each month a film is screened in an undisclosed location which can be anywhere from derelict theatres to rooftops to parks.

The founder Fabien Riggall says he feels it is important that the audience becomes part of the event and the location must evoke the atmosphere of the movie, such as the screening of Alien which took place in a warehouse in Shoreditch which used to be a car show room. The events are stimulating, challenging and attempt to change the way people watch films making them engage on another level as more than just a spectator.

outdoor cinema

Less provocative and more accessible The Screen on the Green aims to show classic cinema under the stars as the perfect summer entertainment. With a whole host of excellent cinema from family films to musicals and more, there is something for everyone showing at a range of locations across London, Surrey, East Kent and North Kent.

With plenty of screenings still to go, London horror highlights include the slime-tastic Ghostbusters in Dulwich Park SE21 on Sunday 5th September and everyone’s favourite killer shark Jaws on Thursday 2nd September at the Horniman Museum SE23.

Perhaps it’s the potential to make profit from punters, perhaps it’s due to the advancements in outdoor projection and large scale sound equipment or perhaps it’s the positive benefits of global warming on our traditional British summer… Whatever the case there is something wonderful about watching a movie on mass in the open air as I found out last weekend.

As my horror lovin’ self and my wonderful girlfriend arrived at the large gates of Somerset House, we could hear that the party had already started. We had decided to come a little later than many others – who had obviously showed up as soon as the doors had opened to get themselves a good spot – and it took us some time to find a perfect plot of paving to plonk ourselves on.

Looking around the sea of people I spotted all sorts. Some simply sat on a old duvet while others had enough camping equipment for a trek to the Antarctic, some had picnics pilled high with fantastic food while others where opting for a largely liquid based meal.

The atmosphere was amiable and excited as DJ’s played a selection of movie music and the audience, like a pack of pumped up vampires, sat waiting for the sun to set so that the fun could begin.

And what a double bill it was. First Let the Right One In the eerie icy art house movie which has quickly gathered a cult status (and unfortunately earned itself an upcoming Hollywood remake). I found myself feeling frozen which was probably less the summer evening and more due to the desolate urban snowy Swedish landscape shown so often in the film.

Working well as both a great take on the vampire genre and a touching coming of age drama the audience hung on every frame watching in almost silence throughout until a ripple of claps rang out as the credits rolled.

One neck biting movie over, and another to go!

There was a brief break mainly used to visit the loos and restock on booze and we flew on bat wings  from ice cold Europe to the sun drenched beeches of Santa Carla for the classic that is The Lost Boys. Starting around 11ish, although some people had called it a night, the crowd remaining was still wide awake and ready for this fun and fantastic slice of 80’s goodness.

Two Corey’s, Keifer with fangs and a brilliant blend of horror and humor is why this film still entertains even though the characters clothes now raise more laughs than they ever did in the past.

The Lost Boys defined vampires for the 80’s as much as Twilight (sadly) has defined them during this new millennium and I can tell you very easily which vision of Dracula’s spawn myself and the entire audience preferred which was clarified by the mass amounts of cheering and clapping throughout the movie.

After the final battle packed with vampires exploding, melted in baths of holly water and impaled by good old Grandpa’s jeep all met with riotous applause it was sadly all over and time to face the true horror of the night bus home.

Whatever the event, whoever is organizing it, I highly recommend the experience of watching films that you love at an outside cinema, with food and drink and a whole load of other people who love it as well.

Fingers crossed for the summer of 2011 to bring clear skies, warm nights and plenty of horror films at open air screenings.


Alex Humphrey

Alex studied film at the University of Kent and went on to work for Universal Pictures in their Post Room gaining an inside look at the movie industry from the very bottom. Constantly writing reviews in everything from local magazines to Hip Hop sites Alex honed his critical skills even spending a brief period as a restaurant critic. Read more

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