All blogging and no fun make Devin a dull boy.
The good news about the Stanley Film Festival is that there’s plenty of fun to be had, and the damn thing has barely even started. In fact there’s so much fun that you have to really commit to seeing the excellent horror films the team has programmed for the next few days.
A couple of steps back: I’m in Colorado for the inaugural Stanley Film Festival, a horror fest held at the hotel that inspired Stephen King to write The Shining. The story goes like this: after the success of his first two novels, King moved his family west, looking to get new perspectives. They came to Boulder. First they stopped in Estes Park, a stunningly beautiful mountain town nestled deep in the Rockie Mountain National Park. Standing above the town was the stately Stanley Hotel.
It turned out that the King family showed up on the very last day of the season. The hotel was being shut down for the winter, and the front desk didn’t even have credit card slips available. King paid for a night’s stay in cash and settled into the empty hotel.
The Stanley has a reputation as a haunted hotel, and during the night King had a nightmare about children playing in the hall. Shaken, he headed down to the totally empty hotel bar, where he was served by a lonely bartender named Grady. That night The Shining was born.
You’d think an old hotel like The Stanley would hold The Shining at arm’s distance, but the hotel really leans into it, with Shining memorabilia everywhere. You can order a Redrum Punch at the bar (where you might also see a Jack Nicholson impersonator, hired by the hotel) and then buy DVDs of the movie in the gift shop. Or maybe a handcarved wooden coaster with a picture of the hotel and ‘REDRUM’ written on it. Or perhaps you’d like to go on one of the many, many ghost tours the hotel offers. By the way, if you’re at the Stanley and you see candy on the ground, leave it. The hotel places it to appease the ghost children who supposedly walk the halls.
Being here you get it. This is a great, beautiful hotel set amongst some of the most stunning views of the Rockies you can imagine. But it’s also so fucking spooky; the long, empty hallways tickle at your imagination, and the old wooden floors creak in strange, menacing ways. You understand exactly how King was inspired.
The drive to the Stanley is long; while Kubrick’s The Shining was shot in Oregon (the exteriors, anyway), going up the winding, single lane road through the Rockies certainly calls to mind the Torrances making their way up to the Overlook. For about a half hour you lose cell reception... but you gain elk. They’re everywhere! It’s incredible.
Nobody should be watching TV at the Stanley, but during the duration of the festival a couple of channels have become deeply, deeply interesting. Channel 42 plays a 24/7 loop of The Shining: Forwards and Back (the hotel usually plays the normal The Shining on 42). Channel 43 plays trailers and shorts from the fest, but at 3pm and 3am a deeply strange, bizarre and amazing film plays. I won’t spoil it here, but it stars John Huston, Shelley Winters and Sam Peckinpah. Look it up.
The opening night film was The Purge, the new home invasion/scifi movie from Universal. It certainly played with the crowd, but I do wish it had been a little bit smarter, or executed differently. I’ll have a review up soon.
After The Purge was the opening night party, ‘A Shining Gala.’ Live music played as we mingled and took pictures at some really cool Shining-themed photo ops. The fake Jack Nicholson made the rounds. Many shots of Redrum Punch were consumed.
I won’t lie - I punked out early. I was exhausted, having gotten no sleep the night before. I went back to my room, ready to be spooked by potential spirits, but I conked out quickly and slept like a rock. If there were ghosts in the room I missed them. But I’m still hoping for some opportunities to commune with the dead. There's a whiskey tasting today at 6 - The Stanley has over 500 whiskeys on hand - so I may have an opportunity yet.