By Jack “Rhymes With Torrance” Burton
A few weeks ago, TylerDFC emailed me about the Stanley Film Fest, which was to be held at the iconic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. For those not in the know, this place was the inspiration for Stephen King’s Overlook Hotel in The Shining. The Stanley had a previous reputation for being haunted, and the story is that King saw the ghost of a child in his room, it gave him an idea for a book, and the rest is Jack Nicholson trying to ventilate Shelley Duvall with an axe. This seems like a pretty logical place to hold a horror film festival, and when Tyler heard about it, he emailed me the link, and said – and I quote:
“You have to go to this.”
He was right, of course. But what he couldn’t have known is that I’d already made plans. I live about 90 minutes from Estes Park, and this writing about movies thing has been going pretty well, so yeah…why not? This is America – Rocky didn’t kick Drago’s ass for me to sit at home playing Mass Effect 3 when the first annual Stanley Film Fest was going on, right up the street. So I snagged the Missus and I a couple of passes, and on Saturday off we went. Now if you’re not a local, one thing you need to know about the Stanley Hotel is that it’s not as remote as the one in the movie. In fact, you can stand on the front steps and – assuming you’ve got a pretty good arm – chuck a baseball into the parking lot of the strip mall at the bottom of the hill.
Still, if you are facing with your back to the bustling town, you can totally pretend you’re Jack Nicholson heading back inside to tuck everyone into bed. With an axe. That is, until you see the Nicholson impersonator standing out front. I had to admit he was a dead ringer for the man, circa 1988. There he stood in a pair of jeans, a leather jacket and a pair of Ray Bans, smoking a cigarette like it was no big deal. People would walk out of the building, do a double take and stop for a picture. So stupidly, I did not. Don’t let me find out that was actually Jack Nicholson doing someone a solid, or I’ll hate myself forever.
Since there seemed to be an unfortunate mistake with my All Access Mega-VIP Super Platinum Press Pass, we arrived too late to see the first two films, Black Rock and Berberian Sound Studio. So we took in the rest of the establishment, and I got some photos on my state of the art 5 megapixel Casio from 2004. We picked up lunch at the hotel’s restaurant, where they gave us a private room off the main dining area (no doubt to make up for not recognizing me) where I enjoyed some kind of elderflower drink out of a copper mug. Then I had a very tasty burger and yes – I did the line from Pulp Fiction. In front of the waitress.
Yes. I am extremely cool, now that you mention it. Next up was Big Bad Wolves, an Israeli film described by one of the directors as “Dirty Harry walks into a Korean revenge film written by the Brothers Grimm”. I’d say their lead was closer to Fred Dryer than Clint Eastwood, but I can see where they were going with that. Seriously though, this is a great film. If you get the chance, check it out. I will be reviewing it elsewhere on the site, and I mention it here only because I am an extremely self serving person. I actually got a moment with Aharon Keshales after the film, and either embarrassed – or embarrassed myself in front of – someone I can legitimately see winning an Oscar many years from now.
Yes. I am extremely cool, now that you mention it. Our next contestant was Here Comes the Devil, by Argentine director Adrián García Bogliano. It was described as a “gory erotic horror film” in the literature. I guess I’d agree, although it felt like something directed by Rob Zombie and Sam Raimi’s 20 year old clone, produced by Robert Rodriguez. Definitely not for everyone – but despite some very uneven pacing, it kept my attention and even weirded me out a little bit. I definitely don’t regret seeing it.
I saw a few faces I recognized from elsewhere on the internet, and I quietly envied them and their lovely, lovely press passes. I began to study them and learn their ways, hoping I could possibly blend in and move freely about.
And then I decided to limit myself to two glasses of Merlot.
Room 237 is the much talked about feature where…”enthusiasts”…of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining ruminate on their variously weird and completely unfounded interpretations of the film for 102 minutes. I don’t mean to be dismissive, but I found it to be the equivalent of hanging out in my dorm room with a bunch of conspiracy nuts, talking about how the Freemasons are building flying saucers for the Bilderberg Group at Area 51. Of much greater interest was a free showing of The Shining on the lawn outside the hotel a little later.
Unfortunately, it was a little too cold to be hanging around outside for that long, even for us locals. God forbid I end up like Jack Torrance, stranded deep within the shrub maze (which does not actually exist), frozen, dead and grinning…with an axe.
We began to close our evening by hitting the bar for a nightcap, where we listened to an aspiring student filmmaker lie about his career to a pair of tipsy blondes. Then,we checked out a screening of Cabin Fever, with a special introduction by a very animated Eli Roth. The Bear Jew himself regaled us with tales of his early days in Hollywood and took questions on several subjects, including of course, pancakes. After the screening it was time to head back down the mountain, my belly filled with delicious food, my head filled with ideas and my eyeballs scarred from watching people get murdered all day.
I don’t have any numbers in front of me but there was a lot of activity at the festival, and it sure felt like a success. Next year I’ll take a bigger sample but for now, I have fulfilled my moral imperative and heeded the faint but perceptible voice of Jack Nicholson beckoning me forth…with an axe.
When some wild-eyed, eight-foot-tall maniac grabs your neck, taps the back of your favorite head up against the barroom wall, and he looks you crooked in the eye and he asks you if ya paid your dues, you just stare that big sucker right back in the eye, and you remember what ol' Jack Burton always says at a time like that: "Have ya paid your dues, Jack?" "Yessir, the check is in the mail."