Stanley Film Fest

LESSON OF THE EVIL from Takashi Miike

The Stanley Film Fest is the new kid on the block in the film festival game as 2013 was their premiere. We had the pleasure of attending and covering the genre-themed gathering last year, and in addition to the films that played the fest one of the biggest highlights was the location. The historic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, CO hosts the festival, and as horror fans know it was an extended stay here that inspired Stephen King’s “The Shining.” The hotel and grounds are an architectural and atmospheric joy, and the surrounding mountains add a gorgeous sense of natural beauty. Basically, it’s a perfect setting for a horror film festival. This year’s list of films playing the fest is unfortunately light on premieres, but it features a fantastic bunch of critical darlings, new releases and genre favorites. It’s essentially a make-up fest offering a chance to see recent festival hits on the big screen where they belong. Some of the highlights include Jennifer Kent’s wonderfully creepy Sundance hit The Babadook (our review), Gerard Johnstone’s fresh horror comedy Housebound, Hitoshi Matsumoto’s incredibly funny, strange and affecting R100 (our review), and the funniest film of the year so far, Taika Waititi & Jemaine Clement’s What We Do In the Shadows (our review). The fest also features some retrospective screenings including Joe Dante’s Gremlins, Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, and Mick Garris’ Sleepwalkers. (One of those things is not like the others…) There are other non-screening events planned too including a murder mystery dinner, a […]

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review big bad wolves

Editor’s note: Our review of Big Bad Wolves originally ran during this year’s Stanley Film Fest, but we’re re-running it now as it plays Fantastic Fest. After Israel’s first horror film, Rabies, was released in 2011 to critical acclaim you would have expected the floodgates to open as other filmmakers followed suit. But it never happened. Instead, it’s taken two years for the next incredibly dark thriller to escape the country, and perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s from the same writer-director pair. Young girls are being abducted, violated and murdered, and while a puzzled police force searches for evidence one morally muddy cop has run out of patience. He takes the law into his own hands after they discover the latest victim beheaded and assaulted, but his actions lead to his dismissal. The dead girl’s father makes his own move resulting in the main suspect being bound and gagged in the grieving man’s basement … with a table nearby covered in various tools of torture. What Israel’s two-man genre-film industry lacks in quantity it more than makes up for with quality, and Big Bad Wolves ups their game from their already quite good debut considerably. It’s dark, wonderfully twisted and laugh out loud funny … but it might just leave you questioning exactly why you enjoyed it so much. And you will enjoy it.

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review 100 bloody acres

Editor’s Note: Our review of 100 Bloody Acres originally ran during this year’s inaugural Stanley Film Fest, but we’re running it again now as the movie hits VOD and limited theatrical release starting June 28, 2013. It’s been said before (by me) that the horror/comedy hybrid is one of the toughest genre mash-ups to get right. More often than not one of the two suffers as the filmmakers focus on one to the detriment of the other. It’s not that the two need to be equally represented, but they need to be equally sincere. A recent and rare example of one that succeeds is the new Australian film, 100 Bloody Acres. It’s a very funny comedy through and through, but it never shies away from the red stuff. When the going gets tough the tough get grinding, and in the Morgan Brothers’ case what they’re grinding are human bodies. They’re not murderers per se as they rely almost exclusively on accident victims, but what else are small business owners to do when they discover that humans are the secret ingredient that makes their fertilizer more popular than ever? When Reg (Damon Herriman) passes three twenty-somethings on a back road and offers to give them a lift the trio learn the lengths he and his brother Lindsay (Angus Sampson) will go to secure the necessary ingredients to satisfy their customers.

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review maniac

Editor’s Note: Our review of Maniac originally ran as part of this year’s inaugural Stanley Film Fest coverage, but we’re re-running it now as the opens in limited theatrical release and premieres on VOD starting June 21st. Frank (Elijah Wood) is a lonely small business owner looking for love in all the wrong places. Sure, he meets a few girls through online dating services, but none of them work out beyond the first date. Though to be fair to the women, the evenings only go sour around the point Frank decides to scalp them for not living up to his dead mother’s high standards. His life gets a jolt and a singular chance at happiness when a photographer named Anna (Nora Arnezeder) stops by his mannequin restoration shop and asks a favor. The two develop a friendship, perhaps the first Frank has known is his life, and he begins to fall for her. It’s the closest thing to real love he’s ever felt and she’s the closest to redemption that he’ll ever get. But happiness just isn’t in the cards for Frank, and the pull of the knife begins again. This is Maniac, and not only is it one of the best serial killer films in years, but it’s also one of the most beautiful, creative and affecting ones, too.

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stanley 1

The first incarnation of any big event is bound to experience a few hiccups, but having recently returned from the inaugural Stanley Film Fest in Estes Park, Colorado, I feel confident in reporting that the biggest issue I encountered was slow service at the Sunday morning horror-themed brunch. It wouldn’t have been a problem, but these were Carrie pancakes I was waiting on complete with a bucket of red berry syrup! I ultimately had to leave before my food arrived, but the reason why was the same reason I was at the fest in the first place. I was there to see movies. This first year saw 24 feature films play, and while that may not sound like a lot, it was more than enough to fill up a single-weekend festival. I only managed to see eleven over the three days, and the titles available ranged from well-regarded horror films from years past, including All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, Cabin Fever and even The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari accompanied by live music to new releases like Maniac, Beneath and The Purge. But this fest had another ace up its sleeve in addition to the films. Location, location, location!

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review aftershock

Sometimes, despite your best intentions, you’ll walk into a movie with negative preconceptions instead of an open mind. It happens to the best of us, and while I can honestly say it’s an extreme rarity for me personally I’m still more than a little ashamed on the occasions where it happens. The most recent example, and probably the first since the Robin Williams/John Travolta travesty Old Dogs, is a new disaster thriller co-written/produced by and starring Eli Roth. His films have never done much for me, his acting even in small roles seemed on par with Quentin Tarantino’s and to make matters worse I’d heard few positive things about the movie. In fact, the most common term used to describe it was “rapey.” So yeah, my expectations were fairly low. But then something wonderful happened. I was happily proven wrong.

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review sightseers

Editors’ note: Our Sightseers review originally ran during last year’s Fantastic Fest, but we’re re-posting it as the film gets a limited theatrical release starting today. The problem with making a truly fantastic film is that sooner or later you have to follow it up with a new movie. If it was your first then rumors will swirl about a sophomore slump, and if it’s your second then people will wonder if you can keep delivering the goods. Ben Wheatley‘s last film was the dark, brutal and highly acclaimed Kill List, and that in turn was a giant leap up from his debut, Down Terrace. Wheatley’s new movie is more of a jump sideways than up, but that’s actually even more impressive. Sightseers maintains the quality and effectiveness of Kill List even as it surprises with a constant stream of laugh out loud hilarity. Where his earlier movies featured darkly comic moments, this one is a flat out comedy… with gory murders. Has there ever been a love story as great as the one between Tina (Alice Lowe) and Chris (Steve Oram)? The answer is a resounding yes, but don’t tell that to these two sad-sack lovebirds. Tina is still reeling from the accidental death of her dog Poppy, but when her new beau Chris suggests the two of them take an RV trip across the English countryside she ignores her flatmate’s warnings and hits the road. It doesn’t hurt that her flatmate is her mother who constantly reminds Tina […]

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review frankensteins army

“Original” isn’t a word often used in association with found footage films. Dull, repetitive, monotonous and generic are the adjectives you’re more likely to see used as descriptors for the sub-genre. There are stand-outs of course including the first two [Rec] films that rise above the tedium, but more often than not you know exactly what you’re going to get. Frankenstein’s Army isn’t interested in playing the typical game though. Instead of being set in a haunted house populated with ghosts or zombies it moves the action to World War II. Even better, the monsters at the heart of this POV nightmare are man-made monstrosities that resemble the twisted love children of H.R. Pufnstuf and the Saw franchise.

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review wither

Editor’s note: Rob was so moved by his screening of Wither at the 2013 Stanley Film Festival that he was inspired to present his review in a very special format: as an imagined dialogue between its co-directors Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund. Enjoy. A coffee shop, sometime in 2012, somewhere in Sweden Sonny Laguna: Tommy my friend! Thanks so much for meeting me today. Tommy Wiklund: Well 200 voicemails are hard to ignore, Sonny. What can I do for you? SL: I have an idea for our next movie. TW: Is it the Heidi remake where she’s bitten by a rabid squirrel and then eats her own grandfather? I already told you I wasn’t interested in that one. SL: No no, it’s better. But we’ll come back to that later. This is a completely fresh idea that came to me while watching the latest Josh Wheaton film.

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review beneath

There’s a certain point in Larry Fessenden‘s new film, Beneath, that sees it move from being one of the year’s dumbest films to one of the most hilarious. I don’t believe either of those accomplishments is intentional. Boat goes in the water. Six friends go in the water. Big fish is in the water. Fessenden’s fish. Needless to say, the giant googly-eyed fish eats well.

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review purge

When is a good old-fashioned home invasion movie not a good old-fashioned home invasion movie? When it sets itself in the near future and forgets to be all that good. Welcome to The Purge. It’s 2022, and the United States has finally solved its growing problem with violence and crime by making it legal. More precisely, it’s legal for a twelve hour period one night per year. Citizens are encouraged to stay safe in their secure homes, unless of course they care to vent their animalistic rage and partake in the annual event. The Sandin family feels safe behind their state of the art security shutters, but when their dumbass son has a crisis of conscience and lets an injured man in, all hell breaks loose.

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news stanley film fest

I’m on record as saying that there seem to be too many damn movie festivals these days, and that’s coming from someone who loves movie festivals. Mainstays like Sundance and SXSW co-exist alongside smaller, local fests in just about every city in America, and there’s barely a week in the calendar year without one or the other. They’ve become more ubiquitous than unique, and you’d think I would be the last person to celebrate yet another one being added to the mix. But here I am. Celebrating. The Stanley Film Fest is brand new this year, and it immediately gets right what so many others get wrong. Location. The horror film fest takes place entirely at the historic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, CO, which in addition to being a beautiful yet creepy locale is also the hotel that inspired Stephen King’s “The Shining.” Their inaugural fest promises to be a fantastically fun affair complete with parties, a horror-themed brunch, a ghost tour and more. Of course the most important element of a film fest is the film selection, and this one is no slouch. The opening and closing night films are Ethan Hawke’s new thriller The Purge and the Eli Roth vehicle Aftershock, respectively. In between are a lively mix of hotly anticipated follow ups from the directors of Rabies, Dead Snow and The Midnight Meat Train, thrilling changes of pace from Mark Duplass and Elijah Wood, a long overdue big screen showing of All the Boys Love Mandy […]

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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