A summers evening in August. A cobbled courtyard in Central London. A large cinema screen. A triple bill of creature features. These elements combined to make an enjoyable Saturday night of open-air film watching at Somerset House in That There London courtesy of The Brother (a birthday prezzie). Sadly, the combination of a slightly chilly night along with direct contact with the cobbled floor meant that we didn't last for the third film but, as the wise philosopher Meat loaf once sang, two out of three ain't bad.
"So what were those films?" I hear you ask through the medium of a rhetorical narrative device. Well, I'm glad that I imagined you asked. They were, in screening order, Gremlins, Trollhunter and Tremors - all monster/creature-based in some way. As I said, Bro and I couldn't last through to Tremors (there were only a few die-hards swaddled in sleeping bags and duvets who were sticking it out to the bitter end) but the experience was none the worse for it.
First, a word about the venue. Somerset House is an odd building on the banks of the Thames with a huge central courtyard. It plays host to exhibitions and fashion shows. In winter, it's converted into a massive ice rink. And in summer, it is transformed into a huge open-air cinema. They've been doing this for some years now but, for one reason or another, I've always managed to miss it. Not this year...
We arrived half an hour before kick-off and the place was rammed. We were left with but two choices - the front or the back (as the actress said to the bishop). At the back, the screen was small enough that you might as well be watching them on TV at home - not the desired effect. The front may well have lead to excessive cricking of the neck but would at least offer a splendid view. As it happened, because there was no one in front of us, we were able to set up our blanket and selection cushionage and stretch out full length. Result.
So, first up was Gremlins. I'm not going to waste your time and mine reviewing the film - we all know the score: cute Mogwai, rules (wet, midnight, sunlight), evil Gremlins, good times had by all. Let's talk about the experience. This is a film that I have loved (as has Mon Frere) since I was 8/9 years old (we watched it on rental video - remember those? - so it must have been a while after the cinema release) but i have never seen on the big screen. The print was scratchy and grainy and the sound occasionally popped, hissed and threatened to drop out... but it looked great. Also, Bro and I, despite knowing the film back to front, noticed a couple of things we'd never actually noticed before.
After Gremlins, a large chunk of the crowd decided to call a night and head for the last trains home but we were ready and waiting for Film Number 2 - the Norwegian mock documentary Trollhunter. It's a fun little oddity of a film - the opening is perhaps a trifle too long before getting to the action (presumably a necessity of its low budget nature) but it doesn't disappoint in showing the creatures (you see them just enough to get a good look at them but not too much so that they become tiresome) and has some nice little humourous touches throughout. Definitely one that's worth a watch. (This was a preview screening ahead of the general release in September.)
By the time the credits rolled on Trollhunter, it was nearly 1:30 and the chill air and cobbledy floor had taken it's toll on us over the previous four hours. We would have loved to see Tremors on the big screen too but it would have been a film too far. Next time, I'll bring bedding...