We know this year has been difficult, and finding things to occupy yourself while following quarantine guidance can be even more difficult. Add into that the Halloween season, which usually comes with events, parties, and experiences that we can’t safely do in the normal ways- an alternative was welcomed.
Enter Secret Cinema, notable for their incredible immersive experiences across different genres, and their brand-new Netflix-official “Stranger Things” drive into experience, which we were able to attend on preview night.
Do it or Skip It?
Do it. Absolutely do it. My car (three people total) enjoyed this truly immersive experience so damn much- not just because we’ve been starved for entertainment like this, either. My family bubble puts on large-scale events for a living (and a hobby), as well as the occasional acting turn, and this was exactly what we were hoping it would be.
You know how sometimes you can feel the passion someone has for a project, even when it’s got a sizable budget to support it? This is one of those times. There is so much of the core of the Netflix series on display here, from the actors really getting into character to the absolutely stellar lighting, sound, and thematic elements, we can’t recommend it enough for the “Stranger Things” fans.
While we can say the value for your ticket level is excellent, we did not opt for the higher-level VIP experience, so we can’t really say what the difference in price point was. Yes, we purchased our own tickets, and were not treated “as press.”
What to Expect
We have to imagine this was originally designed as an in-person walk through event, much like a haunt. But- the change over to drive thru event was seamless, and showcases how a good art director and lighting team can be all the difference.
You are transported (safely in your car) to Hawkins Indiana, the center of action in Netflix series “Stranger Things.” The Starcourt Mall is front and center when you first arrive, and the local middle school AV Club is on hand to get the event started.
Attendees are encouraged to dress the part, even though yes- you’ll be experiencing the entire thing from your car (and if you have your window down at all, wear a mask). After you’ve booked your tickets, you’ll get the option to build a profile for the Hawkins High School Reunion, which includes choosing a fashion style from an available selection- New Wave, R n B, Punk, Pop Kid, Rocker, and Hip-Hop.
Picking a style would take you to a page where you could purchase costume items you could buy on their website, and pick up once on the premises. There didn’t seem much of a point to all of that on the site, since everyone stays in their cars and no one can really see each other? With all the emphasis on audience costuming, we assumed there would be some kind of safe photo op area at some point, but there wasn’t. Maybe this is something that’ll get fixed going forward.
There is 80s trivia, dance contests, and more to pass the time while the sizable amount of cars gets stacked drive-in style for the first bit of entertainment. You can even order snacks via your phone, which you can only pick up during the first part of the experience. Yes, Scoops Ahoy is represented.
Things to Know
If you haven’t caught up on all three seasons of “Stranger Things,” you’ll definitely want to before attending.
We really don’t want to spoil the experience for you, so we’ll only tell you a couple of things you’ll need to know. (And also, you should read the FAQ on the event’s website.)
There ARE flashing lights, strobes, fog machines, costumed actors, and some moments that may be scary for younger audience members (think the same age group that would enjoy the “Stranger Things” series). Expect the experience to take roughly an hour, and make sure you have the right address in your GPS for the entrance (which is pretty well marked once you’re on the correct street).
Be advised that you will be slowly driving through a parking structure, and if your car has overheating issues, this may not be the event for you. And yes, while it is finally cooling off in LA, your vehicle will get warm inside the cab during this.
No photos or recording are allowed, and we have to agree with this, because you really don’t want to miss anything, distract the performers or fellow attendees, or spoil the suspense for others. Also, don’t be that guy who leaves your headlights on, ok? If you have a touch screen panel in your car (or a similar dash item that stays lit up even if your vehicle is off) bring something to cover it up with, because it’ll be noticeable to everyone around you.
We have to say, the smooth transitions from scene to scene were really well done, and the forethought of design work here cannot be praised enough. The actors also, made it a joy to experience.