While much of the industry views the film festival circuit as starting with Sundance, genre fans see it differently. Annual showcases for the latest horror movie achievements include TIFF’s Midnight Madness, Austin’s Fantastic Fest, and the Sitges Film Festival. Next year, you can add the Overlook Film Festival to that list.
The new horror festival, which begins April 27, will take place Oregon’s Timberline Lodge — the eerie building that provided the exteriors for the haunted Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining.” Guests of the festival will stay in and around the hotel for four days while taking in programming featuring numerous highlights of contemporary horror in addition to classic titles. Programming will include “an immersive game” from the experiential gaming company Bottleneck Immersive and a live performance of the serialized radio play “Tales From Beyond the Pale,” produced by indie horror maestro Larry Fessenden. (The previous season of “Tales From Beyond the Pale” premiered exclusively on IndieWire.)
Savvy readers may realize that some of these ingredients sound familiar. That’s because the bulk of the creative team responsible for the Overlook Film Festival are bringing their talents from the now-defunct Stanley Film Festival, a similar horror-themed gathering based in a hotel in Estes Park, Colorado that inspired Stephen King to write his 1977 “Shining” novel. The Stanley also hosted an interactive gaming experience designed by Bottleneck co-founder Dylan Reiff in addition to a live recording of “Tales From Beyond the Pale.” It was also chiefly programmed by Landon Zakheim (who also programs short films at Sundance and AFI) and Michael Lerman, who will serve as co-directors for the Overlook.
The Stanley ran three years, from 2013 to 2015, before its organizers parted ways with the hotel. The Overlook promises a similar creepy-fun summer camp vibe in which genre fans and insiders gather to a remote setting for a weekend of varied thrills.
“It’s a truly inspiring time for horror cinema,” said Lerman, who also serves as artistic director for the Philadelphia Film Festival and the Palm Springs International Film Festival in addition to programming TIFF’s Primetime lineup. “Our jam-packed program of festival favorites, fresh discoveries and bonafide classics from features to shorts to live events will be presented in the one-of-a-kind atmosphere we’ve built through our various other genre projects. We really can’t wait to announce our lineup next year.”
The festival has already started to assemble its community with an advisory board, many of whom were regulars at the Stanley Film Festival. These include Fessenden, filmmakers Joe Dante (“Gremlins”), Stuart Gordon and Mick Garris, Elijah Wood and his team at the genre production company SpectreVision, Sundance programming director Trevor Groth, Fantastic Fest director Kristen Bell, and former Radios-TWC executive Tom Quinn. Most of them are expected to attend the April gathering in Mt. Hood, Oregon.
The single location for the festival speaks to a broader agenda aside from the high curatorial standards: By the hanging out in the hotel with fellow horror fans, participants will get to immerse themselves in a sensibility. “Horror has always attracted a community of outsiders,” Lakheim told IndieWire during the Stanley Film Festival last year. “Now it’s becoming something people feel more commutable wearing on their sleeves.”
To that end, the new setting has serious potential to fit right into the ever-expanding horror circuit. “I think community is really the key, a hybrid of the horror community at large and the sense of community that a festival brings,” Lerman told IndieWire. “We’re so excited about the space because it is so intimate — a real hidden playground where we get to build a fully encompassing week-long experience.”