Life

I went to an immersive cinema to get over my fear of scary movies and this is what happened

In partnership with
Southside Wandsworth

For someone who’s always been terrified of horror movies, could bringing every scream to life actually make things less scary? One writer gave it a go at a 4DX cinema to find out whether immersion can kickstart survival instincts and defeat fear…

I’ve never been a fan of horror movies. For some reason, paying to give myself nightmares has never really appealed, and I’d prefer not to think that every old lady I see is going to curse me for eternity (that one’s on you, Drag Me To Hell).

But, when I let my mind run, I wonder whether I’d actually be able to react to said old lady IRL. Would my survival instinct kick in if she was staring me in the face rather than me staring at her on a screen. Would I suddenly feel brave instead of… squealing?

I figured the best way to test this out was to throw myself in the deep end and take a trip to Cineworld at Southside Wandsworth, where they have a new 4DX screen. 

We’re talking a cinema that targets all five of your senses with high-tech motion seats and special effects including wind, fog, lightning, bubbles, water, rain and scents.

My film of choice? The Nun, with a friend to hold my hand. Yep, that’s the same The Nun whose ads were removed from YouTube for being so terrifying. So far, so ‘what am I doing?!’

The cinema itself was pretty plush, lulling you into a false sense of security with roomy seats and footrests. 

But don’t get too comfortable. Despite the man in the trailer reminding me repeatedly, I was not prepared for the one-woman rollercoaster I found myself on and lost half of my popcorn during the BT advert. 

That’s right – I didn’t even make it to the actual film before I jumped out of my skin. I guess there’s a reason why hot drinks aren’t allowed in the cinema.

Popcorn reclaimed from my lap, our seats tilted again as The Nun panned down a creepy, windy monastery in Romania. 

I know it was windy because I could feel the gusts blasting in the cinema, with mist, lightning and rain later in the film. You don’t need to dig out your poncho, but you will feel the spritz.

The weather effects were perfect to up the creep-factor of the film, but the chairs took things to a whole new level. 

Not only did they thrust me forward with what felt like a double-handed push to my back (creepier than it sounds, trust me). When a flock of ravens flew out from some dark corner in the monastery, the footrests starting flicking at my ankles. 

Even if I closed my eyes to avoid facing the terrifying scenes on screen, I definitely felt every shock, drop and fall. As well as every knock on every dodgy-looking door. 

The surround sound had my head spinning 180°, too (you’ll know the bit when you get to it).

So, after 90 fright-filled minutes, did this immersive cinema cure my fear of horror movies? 

Thoroughly shaken, both mentally and physically, I somehow made it to the end of the film without cutting off my friend’s blood circulation.

Chucking myself right in the middle of the action definitely made the movie more of an experience – almost like the best ride you’d go on at Universal Studios.

I’m not at all convinced my survival instinct was anywhere to be found, but though I left with a higher heart rate, I realised I wasn’t as creeped out as I normally would be by horror films. 

The shadow of my dressing gown on my hook still looks suspiciously like the silhouette of a nun, but I’m not so cautious about every movement seen out of the corner of my eye. Turns out the immersion makes fear a lot more fun.

To take your cinema trips to the next level, visit Southside Wandsworth Cineworld to watch films in 4DX.