No hyperbole, when I attended Stanley Film Festival last year it was literally the best fest experience I had ever been a part of. As a genre nut (I wrote for a horror site for four years before joining the team here) it was thrilling to be able to celebrate the kinds of movies I love in a way that really focussed on the films and the experience. You know that problem when you go to film fest and you’re exhausted and running around trying to get places in time and you’re constantly worried that you’re going to miss a screening? It’s simply not an issue here. You can enjoy every second of it.
Centered around the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado (which served as the real life inspiration for Stephen King‘s novel The Shining), it’s remarkably easy to get to the screenings. For one, the main theater is actually on the hotel site. There are several satellite theaters, but they are easy to get to. The schedule is laid out expertly, with very few conflicts and plenty of screenings. I never once missed a movie I wanted to attend. On top of that, there are plenty of great supplementary events like a live performance of Larry Fessenden‘s radio show Tales From Beyond the Pale, trivia, late night shenanigans and more. If you like horror and have the means, I urge you to attend. You can get tickets and rooms here. We’ll be covering the event this year and I’d love to see some of you there.
It’s one of the only film fest that can double as a vacation, that can leave you feeling energized rather than drained. Here is the 2015 lineup:
Opening Night Film:
Cooties – From the minds of Leigh Whannell (co-creator of Saw and Insidious) and Ian Brennan (co-creator of Glee), COOTIES is a horror comedy with unexpected laughs and unapologetic thrills. When a cafeteria food virus turns elementary school children into little killer savages, a group of misfit teachers must band together to escape the playground carnage. The film stars Elijah Wood (The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings), Rainn Wilson (The Office), and Alison Pill (The Newsroom) as teachers who fight to survive the mayhem while hilariously bickering in an uncomfortable love triangle on the worst Monday of their lives. The Sundance hit COOTIES will be one of the debut releases of the newly-launched Lionsgate Premiere label, which will release the film on September 18th in select theaters and on demand.
• Body - USA/2015 – (Director: Dan Berk, Robert Olsen, Featuring Helen Rogers, Alexandra Turshen, Lauren Molina, Larry Fessenden) – The loyalty between three young, female friends is tested when a debaucherous evening of drinking turns into a nightmare after they accidentally commit murder. Packed with unexpected twists and strong performances, BODY is a nasty little thrillride.
• The Boy - USA/2015 – (Director: Craig McNeill, Featuring David Morse, Rainn Wilson, Jared Breeze, Bill Sage, Mike Vogel) – Produced by 2014 SFF Visionary Award recipients Daniel Noah, Josh Waller and Elijah Wood, Stanley alum Craig McNeill’s chilling feature debut offers an unnerving glimpse at a boy’s growing fascination with death.
• Deathgasm - New Zealand/2015 – (Director: Jason Lei Howden, Featuring Milo Cawthorne, James Blake, Kimberley Crossman, Stephen Ure) – A pair of metalheads start a band, find a piece of music that accidentally unleashes an ancient evil, then have to stop the apocalypse from overtaking everything in this energetic action-comedy from the producers of HOUSEBOUND (SFF 2014).
• Director’s Commentary: The Terror of Frankenstein - USA/2015 – World Premiere (Director: Tim Kirk, Featuring Clu Gulager, Zack Norman, Leon Vitali) – Stanley Film Festival alum Tim Kirk (ROOM 237, THE NIGHTMARE), Rodney Ascher (ROOM 237, THE NIGHTMARE) and Leon Vitali (THE SHINING, EYES WIDE SHUT) team up for this unique cinematic experience, a compelling journey into the past to uncover the dark secrets behind a fateful film shoot, all told through the world’s most unusual director’s commentary track for the 1970s flick, TERROR OF FRANKENSTEIN.
• The Final Girls - USA/2015 – (Director: Todd Strauss-Schulson, Featuring Taissa Farmiga, Nina Dobrev, Alexander Ludwig) – Max (Taissa Farmiga) and her friends find themselves trapped in the famous 80’s slasher flick that made her late mother a scream queen. The millennial gang joins the throwback camp counselors with raging libidos (featuring a standout performance from WORKAHOLICS’s Adam DeVine) to battle the psychotic killer. A hilarious meta horror comedy with heart, THE FINAL GIRLS is a wonderful send-up to the genre and an ideal Closing Night film for the Stanley Film Festival.
• Goodnight Mommy - Austria/2014 – (Director: Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz, Featuring Susanne Wuest, Elias Schwarz, Lukas Schwarz) – Following a complex, facial reconstructive surgery, a young actress returns home to find that her twin sons don’t believe it is her behind the bandages. Determined to exorcise the imposter, the duo rebel against her, but their suspicions may have grave consequences in this deliciously atmospheric, gruesome, Austrian spine-tingler.
• The Hallow - UK/Ireland/2015 – (Director: Corin Hardy, Featuring Bojana Novakovic, Joseph Mawle, Michael McElhatton) – When a British conservationist unwittingly disturbs a horde of demonic forces in a remote wilderness, he must protect his family from their relentless attacks in this gory creature fable.
• Hollow - Vietnam/2014 – (Director: Ham Tran, Featuring NSƯT Ngọc Hiệp, Trần Bảo Sơn, Hồng Ân, Thanh Mỹ, Mai Thế Hiệp) – A little girl drowns in a river, then awakens in the morgue and returns to her family. But whatever has returned possesses secrets to a mystery that once unraveled reveals terrors far more sinister than spirits.
• The Invitation - USA/2015 – (Director: Karyn Kusama, Featuring Logan Marshall-Green, Tammy Blanchard, Michiel Huisman, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Lindsay Burdge, John Carroll Lynch, Mike Doyle, Michelle Krusiec, Marieh Delfino, Jay Larson) – Two years after a tragic loss ended his relationship, Will accepts an invitation from his ex-wife to attend a mysterious dinner party held at his former house. As the evening progresses, the dread bubbling under the surface is slowly revealed in this superbly directed thriller from Karyn Kusama (JENNIFER’S BODY, GIRLFIGHT).
• Let Us Prey - UK/2014 – (Director: Brian O’Malley, Featuring Liam Cunningham, Pollyanna McIntosh, Bryan Larkin, Hanna Stanbridge) – Liam Cunningham (GAME OF THRONES) stars in this tightly wound horror/thriller taking place one fateful night in a remote Irish town. Sinners will repent and blood will be shed as a mysterious stranger with telepathic powers unravels the local police station with blistering results.
• The Nightmare - USA/2015 – (Director: Rodney Ascher) – From the director of ROOM 237 comes the scariest documentary ever made. Rodney Ascher explores the lives of eight poor souls who suffer from extreme sleep paralysis, uncovering and recreating the deepest subconscious creation of terror the mind can offer.
• Over Your Dead Body - Japan/2014 – (Director: Takashi Miike, Featuring Ko Shibasaki, Hitomi Katayama, Ebizô Ichikawa, Hideaki Itô) – Legendary horror maestro Takashi Miike brings his fervent interpretation to a traditional ghost story from his native Japan with this nuanced tale of a theater production that awakens vicious spirits to possess its unsuspecting actors.
• Scherzo Diabolico - Mexico/USA/2015 – (Director: Adrian Garcia Bogliano, Featuring Francisco Barreiro, Daniela Soto Vell, Jorge Molina, Milena Pezzi) – Returning to the festival for the third time in three years, Adrian Garcia Bogliano’s all new tale of dread concerns a seemingly mild-mannered man who enacts a disturbing plan for vengeance.
• Shrew’s Nest - Spain/2014 – (Director: Juanfer Andrés, Esteban Roel, Featuring Silvia Alonso, Carolina Bang, Jesús Ángel Castrodeza, Nadia de Santiago) – In the tradition of MISERY comes this razor-sharp Spanish thriller about an unfortunate man who finds himself trapped in the apartment of his obsessive, shut-in neighbors after taking a debilitating tumble down the steps in their building. As he is nursed back to health, a vicious sibling rivalry ensues around him in this entertaining and brutal look into family madness produced by Stanley Film Festival alum Alex de la Iglesia
• Some Kind of Hate – USA/2015 – World Premiere (Director: Adam Egypt Mortimer, Featuring Ronen Rubinstein, Grace Phipps, Sierra McCormick, Noah Segan, Michael Polish) – When a troubled teen is subjected to severe bullying, he accidentally conjures the vengeful ghost of Moira Karp. Once a teenage girl pushed to suicide, Moira is now an unstoppable force on a mission of gruesome retribution. But when she goes too far, he must prevent her from spiraling out of control in this passionate and vividly violent supernatural thriller.
• Stung - USA, Germany/2015 – (Director: Benni Diez, Featuring Matt O’Leary, Jessica Cook, Lance Henriksen, Eve Slatner, Clifton Collins Jr.) – A swanky dinner party at a secluded villa is cut short when a gardening mishap involving a toxic fertilizer accidentally breeds a pack of oversized, blood-thirsty wasps. Now a underdog carterer must lead a pack of guests and employees in a fight for survival in this gorey, camptastic, giant monster flick.
• Sun Choke - USA/2015 – World Premiere (Director: Ben Cresciman, Featuring Sarah Hagan, Barbara Crampton, Sara Malakul Lane) – Janie’s just trying to get well. As she recovers from a violent psychotic break, she’s subjected each day to a bizarre holistic health and wellness regimen designed, and enforced, by her lifelong nanny and caretaker. But when she develops an obsession with a stranger, Janie’s buried demons begin to surface.
• The Treatment - Belgium/2014 – (Director: Hans Herbots, Featuring Geert Van Rampelberg, Ina Geerts, Johan van Assche, Laura Verlinden) – Echoing tones of great nuevo-European thrillers like THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, this hard-boiled Belgian mystery tells the story of a hot-headed cop who finds himself caught in a web of deceit when a nine-year-old boy goes missing. He uncovers a secret so dark that it makes all other stories of the genre feel like warm and fuzzy child’s play.
• We Are Still Here - USA/2015 – (Director: Ted Geoghegan, Featuring Barbara Crampton, Andrew Sensenig, Larry Fessenden, Lisa Marie, Monte Markham) – A quaint New England town’s dark history returns when a couple trying to start over moves unknowingly into a storied haunted house. Featuring Tales from Beyond the Pale’s Larry Fessenden and produced by Stanley alum Travis Stevens (STARRY EYES) this Fulci-esque fright goes beyond the traditional ghost tale to terrifying extremes.
• When Animals Dream - Denmark/2014 – (Director: Jonas Alexander Arnby, Featuring Sonia Suhl, Lars Mikkelsen, Sonja Richter, Jakob Oftebro) – In a remote seaside town in northern Denmark, a young woman with an independent spirit begins to display troubling signs of her werewolf heritage in this restrained supernatural thriller.
• Diabolique - France/1955 – (Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot, Featuring Simone Signoret, Véra Clouzot, Paul Meurisse, Charles Vanel, Jean Brochard) – The wife of an abusive headmaster teams up with her husband’s mistress to kill him in what they think is the perfect crime. When his body mysteriously disappears, the two find they are in deeper than they bargained for. In honor of the film’s 60th Anniversary, the Stanley Film Festival is proud to present this eeiry, French milestone of the horror canon.
• Re-Animator - USA/1985 – (Director: Stuart Gordon, Featuring Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton) – Join Mick Garris for a conversation with the 2015 Master of Horror Award recpient Stuart Gordon and a special 30th Anniversary screening of his cult classic. In this Lovecraftian tale, medical student Herbet West attempts to unlock the secerts of life with his experimental serum.
• Repulsion - UK/1965 – (Director: Roman Polanski, Featuring Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, John Fraser, Yvonne Furneaux) – The 50th Anniversary of Roman Polanski’s all-time cinema classic of suspense finds demons closing in on a young Catherine Deneuve when left alone in her sister’s apartment.
• The Rocky Horror Picture Show - USA/1975 – (Director: Jim Sharman, Featuring Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Richard O’Brien ) – Let’s do the the Time Warp again! Come celebrate the 40th Anniversay of your favorite horror musical with Colorado’s Elusive Ingredient. Throw Bag’s will be on hand for $5. So dust off those red pumps and fish net stockings and get ready to rock out.
• Shivers - Canada/1975 – (Director: David Cronenberg, Featuring Paul Hampton, Joe Silver, Lynn Lowry) – Newly restored by the TIFF Cinematheque under the supervision of David Cronenberg, this 40th Anniversary screening of the King of Venereal Horror’s classic will crawl under your skin. In a modern high-rise, billed as the ideal place to live, a parasitic infestation turns the residents into sex-crazed maniacs.
There’s also a ton of shorts and surprises I won’t spoil now. See you there!