ESTES PARK — In 2013, I was lucky enough to attend the inaugural Stanley Film Festival, held in Estes Park at the allegedly haunted Stanley Hotel.
Given my proximity to the hotel (I live a mere 90 minutes away), the threat of it being a failure was mitigated by the fact that I could easily hop in my car and go home. This, of course, was a foolish thought, and now, a year later, the fest has returned, tempting those poor unfortunate souls who don’t live in Denver to drop everything and spend a magical, haunted weekend there.
Despite only lasting three and a half days (I refuse to consider an 8 p.m. starting time for the first film on a Thursday), the team behind this year’s incarnation has stuffed it to the brim with all manner of amazing films and intriguing events.
The festival opens with the Colorado production “The Doc of the Dead.” An all-encompassing look at the zombie genre and featuring a number of horror heavyweights, the film was helmed by “The People vs. George Lucas” director Alexandre O. Philippe. Rounding out the festival is “What We Do In the Shadows,” a New Zealand vampire comedy from Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi that wowed audiences at SXSW this past March.
Other films you should keep your eyes on include Ti West’s found footage thriller “The Sacrament,” in which a Vice reporter travels with a cameraman to try and find their friend’s sister who fled to a religious commune; Kim Ki-duk’s “Moebius,” which features absolutely no dialogue; and “Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead,” the highly anticipated follow-up to Tommy Wirkola’s cult Norwegian zombie film.
Not content with just making you watch awesome independent horror films for an entire weekend, the fest also promises a number of incredible events. Joining last year’s Stanley Film Horror Brunch and Zombie Crawl is Dead Right Horror Trivia, hosted by Shock Till You Drop’s Ryan Turek and Fangoria Entertainment; a live performance of Larry Fessenden’s Tales from the Pale; a “horror immersion” game; and a freakin’ Big Wheel Death Race. Three and a half days just simply isn’t enough time to take in both everything the fest has to offer and the Colorado mountains in Spring.
Last year Eli Roth was on hand to accept the inaugural Visionary Award. Accepting the baton this year is SpectreVision, a film production and music management company founded by Elijah Wood, Daniel Noah and Josh Waller.
“The Stanley Film Festival is about showcasing horror films that not only scare and entertain, but seek to elevate the genre,” said Denver Film Society Festival Director Britta Erickson. “SpectreVision has broken onto the scene in a fantastic fashion and is leading the industry by producing films that feed the horror audience the type of genre fare they crave. We are thrilled to honor them with our second annual Visionary Award.”
The Stanley Film Festival may be small, and it may be new, but it has quickly made a name for itself as a premiere destination for genre fanatics. It hooks you in with its novel setting and the temptation of a haunted experience, and reels you in with its stellar line-up, events, and guests. If you can find a way to make it out for even just a day, you won’t be disappointed.