“All non-alien lifeforms must keep their protective suits on at all times. Anyone found to be violating this will be severely punished. I repeat, you must keep your protective suits on at all times!”
Standing outside of an anonymous warehouse in East London, on a crisp Halloween evening, a Sigourney Weaver look-a-like shouted these instructions–in a suspiciously inauthentic American accent–to a swarm of ‘new recruits.’
A beat-up army vehicle circled the block, on the hunt for abnormal lifeforms. Men in red overalls checked our documents, supplying us with one-size-fits-most, disposable, white paper painter suits once our status was cleared.
Anxiously, with a buzz of excitement in the air, we awaited to enter the decontamination chamber and begin our mission.
This was to be one of the most unusual and amazing Halloween nights that I would ever experience, and my first Halloween outside of the United States. This was Secret Cinema: an enigmatic event in which you buy a ticket in advance, but the film and location is not revealed until the day of.
The film was 1979’s “Alien”, a cult classic not traditionally viewed of as a Halloween movie, but the interactive experience surrounding the viewing of this film resulted in a uniquely London way of celebrating the holiday.
In the United States, celebrating Halloween is nearly as important as celebrating Christmas. In the weeks leading up to the holiday, shops are awash with tacky decorations–fake cobwebs, skeletons, and pumpkins.
As the leaves start changing from bright green to burnished oranges and fiery yellows, conversations often turn to, “So what are you doing for Halloween? What are you dressing up as?”
Not doing anything special for Halloween is seen as unusual.
Coming to London, I had no idea how widely the holiday would be celebrated, or if it would even be celebrated at all.
Although the traditional elements of Halloween that I grew up with were not present–carving pumpkins, eating frightening amounts of sugar, and going to haunted houses–the Secret Cinema experience turned out to be an exciting alternative; serving both as a reminder of home and as a glimpse into the cultural microcosm of London.
Sigourney Weaver’s doppleganger
Hunting for aliens
Never mess with an alien