What You Missed at the Overlook Film Festival

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A certain breed of movie fan knows immediately why something called The Overlook Film Festival would be held at a place called the Timberline Lodge. The Timberline Lodge? In Oregon? Why, that’s the place that stood in for the fictional Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s movie version of “The Shining”! What better place to hold a horror film festival?

Well, OK, one better place might be the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colo. That’s the hotel that inspired Stephen King to write “The Shining,” and the 1997 TV version was actually filmed there. The Stanley was indeed home to an eponymous horror festival from 2013-2015, but after taking a year off, its programmers, Landon Zakheim and Michael Lerman, have moved it to Oregon and renamed it The Overlook.

Did they do this just so that I, a Portland resident, would find it easier to attend? You can’t prove that they didn’t.

The first edition of The Overlook Film Festival was a success by all of the usual measurements. Things ran smoothly, the movie lineup was solid, and Kevin Smith didn’t show up. This wasn’t Zakheim and Lerman’s first rodeo, nor the first rodeo for their advisers and co-programmers, and everyone’s experience (not to mention enthusiasm) made a huge difference, rodeo-wise.

The films, 24 features and 17 shorts, screened in two makeshift cinemas, one in the main Timberline Lodge, the other in a lesser lodge a few steps across the parking lot. As is customary for smallish festivals not held in actual movie theaters, the digital sound and projection were excellent, the chairs astonishingly uncomfortable, as if designed to enhance the experience of watching a movie where people are tortured. Sight-lines weren’t great, either. Unless you were a grotesquely tall monster (over 6’3″,) it took planning and luck not to have a head blocking your view. But logistical problems like these are typical in a new festival, and I have every confidence that the amount of bitching everyone did will lead to either improvements or murder by next year.

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