I like a lot of film festivals, but I only LOVE a few. Fantastic Fest is one, for sure. But another fest that I love and think has the potential to be one of the best film festivals in North America is the Stanley Film Festival, held at the historic and haunted Stanley Hotel in Estes Park Colorado.
The Stanley Film Festival isn't happening again until the end of April, but if you're in the Denver area you can get a taste of it right now at the Starz Denver Film Festival. That fest - running right now! - is offering a Stanley Nights sidebar, featuring some of the buzziest genre films out there. I'm actually jealous - I haven't had a chance to see all of these movies, but they're all films I've been told are one hundred percent worth hunting down. Here's the line-up (write ups via Stanley Film Festival):
Belgian director Fabrice Du Welz’s French-language remake of 1969’s The Honeymoon Killers debuted at Cannes. Based on the true story of serial killers Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez, who met women through personal ads, moved in, and then murdered them, this version updates their sordid love story for the Internet era. The real couple were thought to have killed more than 20 women, but the film focuses on the four cases for which the pair were charged and put to death. Lonely single mom Gloria meets Michel through an online dating service and quickly falls for his charms. When she discovers he’s swindled both her heart and wallet, she agrees to help him seduce other women, just so she can be with him. Gloria’s obsession with Michel and her desperate need to be loved turn his relatively innocent racket into something much darker when she jealously murders his subsequent love interests.
The Indonesian team known as The Mo Brothers direct this Sundance pick. Nomuro, living in Tokyo, is young and attractive. He seduces women, they accompany him to his sleek apartment, and their dates quickly turn sour when he tortures and kills them. He shares his crimes by posting them to his wildly popular members-only website. Meanwhile, in Jakarta, Bayu, a journalist, recently separated and disillusioned by the corrupt system around him, is addicted to Nomuro’s sick site. He begins to kill notorious locals vigilante-style, striking out at the corrupt. The killers make a connection, but when Bayu’s killings go viral on the Internet, the psychosis that connected the pair turns into a rivalry that threatens to unravel the worlds surrounding them. As the killers compete for clicks, viewers are left wondering whether there can be good and bad murders.
Two criminal brothers are on the verge of going straight when they become trapped in a stairwell with a detective, who may not be who he seems. A family of four has high hopes for a beach vacation, but cannot find their exit off of a stretch of road that never ends. The parallel stories run infinite with madness and mystery. In his first feature-length film, Isaac Ezban pays homage to Philip K. Dick, as well as Adrian Lyne’s Jacobs Ladder. The Incident puts a surrealist spin on the horror, sci-fi, and thriller genres, examining the frailties of life and mortality through the trapped existence of the characters living analogous lives. Ezban was awarded the green light for The Incident after pitching the idea and winning the Best Presentation prize at the 2013 Fantastic Market in Austin. It debuted to American audiences at the 2014 Fantastic Fest.
It’s 1984 and Zano, a Greek vampire, goes to Athens at the invitation of his friend Jimmy, the gravedigger. Waiting for Jimmy to show, Zano dances the night away at Disco Zardoz. Soon he’s wandering the dark streets of Athens with his new friends Alice, a prostitute, and Peter, a Norwegian drug dealer. Just when he thinks he can’t sink any lower, Alice delivers him underground to Mount Mathousalas, where he meets an ancient man who may or may not be Adolf Hitler, but who desperately wants eternal life. In this feature debut, Greek commercial director and composer Yiannis Veslemes (a.k.a. Felizol) takes his audience for a dark ride. Shot in vintage ’80s style with handmade sets and an electronic score, Norway is part whimsy, part poetry, and a large part existential despair. Fans of Terry Gilliam may find a new creative force to fall in love with.
Thou Wast Mild and Lovely
Inspired by Steinbeck’s East of Eden, Thou Wast Mild and Lovely is an intimate, nightmarish thriller featuring common themes of love, death, secrets, and the wide-open farm. It’s the sometimes surreal story of quiet farmhand Akin’s unsettling summer working and living with vindictive farmer Jeremiah and his seductive daughter, Sarah. Desperate to earn some extra money for his family, Akin tries to keep to himself, but Sarah’s lewd behavior and fascination with nature cross a line of temptation. After he catches the farmhand in a lie, Jeremiah seeks bloody revenge while Akin’s wife and son visit the farm.
Steinbeckian thrillers! Dancing vampires! Honeymoon killers! What a line-up.
For more info, and to get tickets, click here. If I were within a hundred miles of Denver I'd be there myself.