'Secret Cinema Presents Stranger Things' review: An all-American Hawkins fix

(©Secret Cinema - Luke Dyson)
(©Secret Cinema - Luke Dyson)

Four months after the third series of Stranger Things dropped onto Netflix, Secret Cinema has teamed up with the streaming juggernaut to take you back to the monster-strewn town of Hawkins.

Secret Cinema presents Stranger Things is the first time the masters of immersion have turned their hands to a TV show. Mirroring the success of its big-screen predecessors, this latest experience is a note-perfect dunk into the 80s dreamworld created by the Duffer Brothers.

Previous incarnations have seen film lovers gamble alongside James Bond in the Casino Royale, hunt down replicants in the cyberpunk universe of Blade Runner and don their loudest Hawaiian shirts to join Baz Lurman’s Romeo + Juliet in fair Verona Beach.

This time around Secret Cinema’s hush-hush London location has had a bright, retro and colourful makeover, morphing into Hawkins’ Starcourt Mall.

(©Secret Cinema - Luke Dyson)
(©Secret Cinema - Luke Dyson)

The first step in the experience is that you’ll be given your character. We’re not giving away any spoilers here, but it’s highly likely to involve a dodgy haircut.

As well as a suitably 80s outfit, your character has a backstory that’s worth familiarising yourself with if you want to get heavily involved in the storylines that crisscross the evening.

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On arrival you’ll be informed that, despite the murky London winter, this is an all-American 4th July extravaganza packed with Hawkins High alumni.

Millie Bobby Brown and co in <i>Stranger Things</i> S3. (Netflix)
Millie Bobby Brown and co in Stranger Things S3. (Netflix)

Stepping inside you’ll find that as well as the mall - complete with jazzercise classes and stores peddling ‘80s garb - the secret venue also houses Hawkins’ arcade, dive bar and fair.

It’s called Secret Cinema for a reason - we’re not sharing the exact details of what goes down. But it’s safe to say you’ll cross paths with plenty of your favourite characters, and that there are a few frights from the not-so-favourites.

It’s up to you how involved to get as things in strange happenings start to bubble up in Hawkins. Low-key fans can watch the drama from a distance, knocking back a couple of beers and sampling the delights of Scoops Ahoy.

(©Secret Cinema - Luke Dyson)
(©Secret Cinema - Luke Dyson)

For keener participants, the hosts of actors - all unbreakingly in character - are there to guide you on quests and help you to dig into Hawkins’ myriad oddities and mysteries. A word of caution: following some of the storylines might lead you into some of Stranger Things’ spookier and more sinister locations.

Seeing as it’s based on a box set, the creators had to get creative for the screening. Again, we’re avoiding spoilers, but it’s a dramatic climax featuring favourite a mash-up of moments from the three series in a thrilling and gripping retelling.

Stranger Things season three trailer drops (credit: Netflix)
Stranger Things season three trailer drops (credit: Netflix)

Netflix announced in September that Stranger Things is returning for a fourth series. But with details scant and a release date not yet announced, this is the perfect way to get your sci-fi fix while you wait until it’s time to binge.

Tickets can be bought at tickets.secretcinema.org. Secret Cinema presents: Stranger Things runs until February 2020.

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