The Overlook Film Fest wrap-up

Last Updated on July 31, 2021

Just over a week ago, I received a late-evening email from one of my bosses at JoBlo/Arrow in the Head. In it, I was asked whether or not I’d like to fly to Oregon, where I’d be put up in the famous Timberline Lodge, better known as the hotel Stanley Kubrick used for the exterior shots in THE SHINING. There, I’d be put up as part of the brand-new Overlook Film Festival.

Now, I’ve been to plenty of film festivals. TIFF/ Sundance/ Fantasia are my go-to’s, and I always look forward to them each year, for various reasons. The Overlook promised something different – interactivity. The lineup of movies was intriguing, with the secret Saturday screening being the biggie, later revealed to be IT COMES AT NIGHT, which I believe will put them on the map as a premium destination for genre. But the interactive aspect, that’s the real thing that makes Overlook so unique.

Just how interactive it can get is up to the guest. Being there as a journalist who’d only arrived late Friday night, two days into the fest, I couldn’t be a part of the big immersive horror game, but as soon as I landed I got to see, from the sidelines, how special it is. Two amazing volunteers, Stephanie & Nicole, picked me up at the Portland Airport for the two hour drive into the mountains of Mt. Hood, where the Overlook – er- Timberline Lodge – was located. During the trip, they mentioned being a part of the game, and for a brief second, I believe they thought I was planted by the game as a potential suspect in the big murder-mystery at its center. Nope. The next day, I heard stories about how people were grabbed from their rooms in the middle of the night, and I could see traces of the anarchy all around, but alas, I watched from the sidelines.

After waking up from a nice night sleep in my cozy room (218 not 237 – which doesn’t exist) I met up with the fest publicist, Nick Bruno, who set me up for an interview with the legendary Roger Corman, producer of DEATH RACE 2000 (and about four hundred other movies). What was supposed to be a fifteen minute chat, turned into the greatest interview of my life, running nearly ninety minutes, and covering everything from the late Jonathan Demme, to doing acid while filming THE TRIP with Jack Nicholson, working with James Cameron on BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS, and more (interview to come).

After that, it was time for Blackout, another aspect of the fest’s interactivity. If you don’t already know what Blackout is, it’s quickly gaining traction as the scariest immersive horror experience ever – and already a documentary (THE BLACKOUT EXPERIENCE) has been made about it. I was reluctant to try it at first, especially after hating the doc, but what the heck I figured. My experience was mixed to be sure. It started off well, when I was given a bracing shot of gin and told to go to a dark room in the hotel and crawl beneath the covers. All the lights went off and I could feel two men get in bed with me and, for lack of a better word, start spooning me. Then, they led me to the bathroom, made me stand in a corner, and left. Then, I saw a woman chained up, who vomited out a key into a toilet, which I surmised would set her free. Bingo! She then undressed me (I kept my underwear) and put me to bed, handcuffing me to two posts. She was then grabbed by a masked man and attacked. At this point I truly had no idea what to do. Was I supposed to watch her be attacked or try to rescue her? What was the pass/fail here? I went with my gut and used my mouth to free myself, but alas, this was the wrong idea, as I was slammed back in the bed, and sent on my way. “No free will,” I was told as I left. To succeed in this game, basically, you have to be a total wimp and watch an assault. Thanks but no thanks. That’s not my idea of “fun.”

Even though I disliked Blackout, I was still happy I did it, and the next day, I had a better time at two of the other interactive games, a manhunt game called KILLING GROUND (based on the IFC Film of the same name) and a VR experience called Mule, which simulated being buried alive. It was a bit like just watching a movie, but it was still kinda cool, even though I think it could have been creepier for what it was.

So, while the interactive aspect was hit and miss for me, the caveat is that I wasn’t able to participate fully, as I heard nothing but raves about the immersive game, and apparently this experience called “The Chalet” was amazing, although I couldn’t get an appointment. Oh well. As I left the hotel Monday, it occurred to me that I had only been at the fest for two days, but what an amazing two days they were. I’ve reviewed all the movies I saw separately, but I can honestly say I’ve never experienced anything quite like Overlook, and I hope I can go back. It’s a hell of a genre destination for fans, and a unique festival that lets you truly be a part of it, rather than an observer.

Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.