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Five Must-Sees of The Stanley Film Festival 2014

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This weekend, FANGORIA embarks on a spooky sojourn to the Stanley Hotel, a historic Colorado lodge infamous for hauntings and its tight association with Stephen King’s THE SHINING. There, midst gorgeous landscape, ghost hunts and genuine otherworldly atmosphere, the second edition of the Stanley Film Festival will be underway. A celebration of the macabre in all forms, from film to theatre to how it informs our lives, The Stanley boasts a truly stellar lineup of events. So thrilling is its itinerary, it seems a simple weekend makes for hard choices. Allow me to be so bold then, to make the dilemmas a little less difficult and recommend five aspects of the festival you shouldn’t miss.

• EYES WIDE SHUT

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Of course, a mood-heavy setting demands mood-heavy cinema. The Stanley, being so near and dear to THE SHINING saw Stanley Kubrick honored last year when both his seminal horror film and Rodney Ascher’s doc peering into its layers, ROOM 237, screened. This year, Kubrick’s close collaborator Leon Vitali returns to the festival (he was on hand to discuss the aforementioned films in 2013) to present a 15th anniversary screening of the master filmmaker’s final work: the haunting, overwhelming EYES WIDE SHUT.

The Christmas-set film (possibly perfect for Estes Park’s mountainous, snowy surroundings) should be experienced theatrically as its paranoia, discomfort and peer into all manner of strange goings-on (from marriage to high society) wash over you. This seems like the perfect place to do so.

EYES WIDE SHUT screens Friday, April 25 at 9:30 p.m. in the Historic Park Theater

• TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE LIVE: Stanley Edition

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If again, atmosphere is the name of the game, you couldn’t do better than a live rendering of Glass Eye Pix’s macabre audio dramas, TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE. Overseen by fantastic filmmakers and classic horror aficionados Larry Fessenden and Glenn McQuaid, the dramas consistently feature high-caliber horror work from an ensemble of acclaimed filmmakers and actors. Live, however, the feeling is chimerical. TALES has the energy and power to transport listener to time and place far and away and to extend that feeling and share it with an audience seems tailored for a setting with such history as The Stanley. That’s not to mention this edition is bespoke to the hotel and will star Ana Ansensio, AJ Bowen (THE SACRAMENT), Jocelyn DeBoer , Larry Fessenden and Martin Starr.

TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE will be performed Saturday, April 26 at 4:45 p.m. in the Historic Park Theater.

• HOUSEBOUND & WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS

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Two new horror comedies from New Zealand are ready to blow you away.

Having world premiered at Austin’s SXSW Film Festival this past March, Gerard Johnstone’s New Zealand horror-comedy HOUSEBOUND will be making only its second U.S. appearance at the Stanley. This gives you the opportunity to get on board with this absolutely fantastic, relentlessly fun piece of work early.

The story of a young woman sentenced to house arrest with a chatty mother who thinks the place is haunted, HOUSEBOUND is surprising, energetic and just might have a starmaking turn for lead Morgana O’Reilly. Best of all though, it’s imbued with real ambience, not sacrificing either its comedy or its frights in the process. It comes highly recommended, and it’s likely you’ll be saying the same after it screens.

Meanwhile, WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS left me in such a state of joy I saw the film twice at Sundance. From Taika Waititi and FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS’ Jermaine Clement, SHADOWS is a fearlessly silly mock doc about four archetypal vampires with endearing, hilarious personalities living as roommates in Wellington. The film finds the four contend with each other, a roving gang of werewolves and contemporary society on a broad spectrum of witty to wonderfully goofy. I’m unsure there will be a funnier film this year, and to experience it with an audience who will likely soak up everything about it (including references and a genuine love for horror and its subjects) seems undeniable.

HOUSEBOUND plays Saturday, April 26 at 4:20 p.m. in the Concert Hall and Sunday, April 27 at 5:00 p.m. in the Reel Mountain Theater. For more, see our reviews of HOUSEBOUND and WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS

• THE BABADOOK

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Another stirring feature debut, THE BABADOOK has already become one of the most talked about horror films of the year after an amazing reception at Sundance and New York City’s New Directors/New Films. Jennifer Kent’s Gothic-informed tale of a widowed mother contending with a storybook monster, a wildly misbehaved son and her own frayed nerves and dark thoughts is a sincere creeper, one built in timeless, expressionist tradition and aesthetic. The film’s sense of fright is another that feels complementary to the Stanley Hotel and its aura, and its ultimate end—like the festival—reveals themes celebratory of the role horror plays in our lives.

THE BABADOOK plays Friday, April 25 at 2:00 p.m. in the Reel Mountain Theater and Saturday, April 26 at 2:15 p.m. in the Concert Hall. For more, see our review from Sundance. 

• Dead Right Horror Trivia

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Now in its second year, FANGORIA and Shock Till You Drop’s Dead Right Horror Trivia Night has become something special in Los Angeles where the competition is fierce and the process of even getting your team a solid spot is even fiercer. The special event, in which Fango’s Rebekah McKendry and Shock’s Ryan Turek team to torture players with creative rounds and notoriously difficult questions relocates for what could be the only occasion. Even if you’re not very skilled at retaining such information (like myself), where else might you join with such like-minded goons in a yelling, possibly drunken bout of horror sport?

DEAD RIGHT HORROR TRIVIA happens Friday, April 25 at 6:30 p.m. in The Wheel Bar. To get a team together and register, see the official registration page. Winners at Dead Right will receive a special prize pack from Lionsgate and THE QUIET ONES, the new Hammer Film out in theaters this Friday, April 25. 

Of course, nearly everything at the Stanley Festival is worth catching. For its entire lineup, which also includes the brand new restoration of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE; a Big Wheel Race; THE STRANGE COLOUR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS and more, visit the Stanley Film Festival.

For more on the hotel, see my talk with the Stanley’s Ryan Gaterman on its more spectral inhabitants.

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About the author
Samuel Zimmerman
Fangoria.com Managing Editor Samuel Zimmerman has been at FANGORIA since 2009, where fresh out of the Purchase College Cinema Studies program, he began as an editorial assistant. Since, he’s honed both his writing and karaoke skills and been trusted with the responsibility of jury duty at Austin’s incredible Fantastic Fest. Zimmerman lives in and hails from The Bronx, New York where his pants are too tight and he’ll watch anything with witches.
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