Collins’ Crypt: You Don’t Even Have To Watch Movies At The Overlook Film Festival

What if a film festival had so much other stuff to do that you never actually sat down in a theater?

I'll never forget my wife's pained expression when I returned home from London with almost no interesting pictures from the eight days I was there in 2010. Alas, I was not on a sightseeing trip - I was there for the Frightfest Film Festival, so I didn't see much besides the (not particularly long) path from my hotel room and the theater. True, I did take one day to sightsee, but that amounted mostly to me wandering around Notting Hill trying to find the damn blue door only to discover it had been painted over anyway (they have since repainted it blue, so fear not, fellow Thackerphiles). And I see even less of Austin when I attend Fantastic Fest. Even I'm somewhat disappointed by how little of the actual city I've managed to see in the four times I've been there. I can only assume there is more to the area than a few plazas and an Extended Stay. I keep hearing they have some good BBQ joints?

So in addition to the simple joy of watching a bunch of horror movies over four days, what excites me most about attending the Overlook Film Festival in New Orleans is that I will indeed get to make like a tourist. The Bourbon hotel that serves as the festival's home base and the theater where the bulk of the movies are playing are several blocks apart, and since I was too late to book a room at the Bourbon I'll get to see a bit more as I make my way back and forth to my off-site hotel. But what's great about Overlook is that the movies are only about half of what they offer - there's a trivia game happening a few blocks away, a Haunted Walking Tour, and, of course, the annual Immersive Game, which could take us all over the city for all we know. In fact, as I put together my schedule (which I'm sure I'll largely abandon anyway) I noticed how many times I'd be walking from one place to another, which excites me (and not just because it'll help my Fitbit ranking) as I'll be able to check out a few different eateries and coffee shops, soak in some of the atmosphere, and, of course, look for movie shooting locations.

Naturally, I'll be reviewing some of the films I see, so I thought I'd use my last Crypt before the fest starts to highlight a few of the inventive non-movie options the festival is offering, in hopes that if you're attending you'll consider checking them out as well. And more importantly, to those who AREN'T going, maybe it'll entice you to start saving up to attend next year's fest, as it's obviously more than just a bunch of movies you'll (maybe) get to see down the road anyway.


Thurs-Sat 8-10pm, requires sign up

Ironically, one of the few things I did in London besides watch movies was attend a performance of Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman's Ghost Stories, which kind of blew me away. I still get chills thinking about one particular moment, and I can't wait to see the cinematic adaptation starring Nyman and Martin Freeman. The film has been selected as the opening night option (it also opens theatrically and VOD this Friday), but to keep the ball rolling IFC Midnight has teamed up with the French Quarter Phantoms to present a two hour walking tour covering historically accurate tales of local hauntings and vampire lore. The tour will depart from the hotel, and while on Thursday night the tour unfortunately runs at the same time as the movie's premiere, they will be providing encore tours on Friday and Saturday for those who can't wait another second to see the film (that includes myself; I'm hoping to make it on Friday's tour). I love this kind of thing, and it's not like I'll be in New Orleans all that often, so I'm gonna be really bummed if I can't join this one. 

Various times, requires sign up

I am always enticed by anything that promises food, but even if I'm full from theater popcorn and soda I might still head on over to this to see what it's all about. Created by Annie Lesser, this immersive experience from Infinitely Dinner Society’s Midnight Snacks promises an eatery "based on the cosmic horror of the multiverse featuring Bananas Foster made from Louisiana cane sugar and rum." Previous snacks have included donuts paired with the infinite points of a circle, cheese cubes paired with hypercubes and "oyster shooters paired with the intangible nature of infinity". Look, I don't know what any of that means, but it sounds like something you might eat before fighting GLaDOS. I am signed up for a Saturday night slot, figuring by that point in the festival my brain will be so warped that it might actually explode if they try to explain physics to me while I'm trying to eat something. And that's the ideal way to go out, if you ask me.

Saturday, 4/21 @ 6pm

I have gushed about Paperbacks From Hell in a previous Crypt, and since then I've only gotten more obsessed. I haven't used my eBay account this much in years, and my kid is probably wondering why part of our Saturday tradition of Dunkin Donuts and the comic book store now seems to always include going to some dusty library sale so his old man can scan boxes and shelves full of old books (ones without any pictures!) hoping to find pulpy treasures from the likes of William Johnstone and Shaun Hutson. Fittingly, right around the time I'd usually be doing that, I'll be plopping my ass down to see Paperbacks author Grady Hendrix perform a live show based on the book, and while I'm not sure exactly what that entails (reading selections from the batshit books he covers in his tome, I hope), I know I wouldn't miss it for the world. Or, technically, I wouldn't miss it for two of the movies I really wanted to see and will have to figure out how to see at another time. I plan to use some of my downtime during the festivities begin to peruse the shelves at one or more of some of the nearby bookstores; hopefully I'll be able to check a few more off my list before Hendrix takes the stage.

Friday, April 20, 4:30 PM, Dragon's Den

Back in the day, my team for the monthly version of this game in LA won more often than not. Alas, our best player, Jared, left to co-host the show after Ryan Turek had to depart, and since he knows what the rest of us on the team knows, he tries his best to make sure we don't win anymore! (We've only won I think twice since.) I'm also missing this month's game to attend Overlook, so I am personally very excited that they're having it at the fest. As a bonus, Turek is back in charge for this one-off event, where he's teaming up with Shudder's Sam Zimmerman to test our ability to remember the otherwise most useless shit imaginable from our favorite horror movies. I have named my new team Cathy and the Curses, and I hope like hell I can return to Los Angeles a champion. But if not, I'm sure I'll at least have a few drinks and angrily defend my choice to write "Shocker" for every question I don't know. I want some good competition however, so I implore my fellow attendees to try to work the game into your schedule (Dragon's Den is about a half mile away from the main venue)

Ongoing, sign ups are required

When Overlook Fest first started a couple years ago (under a different moniker; long story), it wasn't this or that movie screening that made me want to go (and it certainly wasn't the previous cold-ass climate) - it was the immersive game. All weekend long I'd see cryptic tweets from my friends, as clues took them around the venue (and beyond it) as they tried to find an allegedly missing boy. Ideally, I'd skip all of the movies and spend every minute I could trying to solve the puzzles and clues that designers Scott Gillies and Nick Tierce have come up with for this year's game, which I assume will be New Orleans-centric. All of the details are being kept under wraps until the festival begins; we only know that it will feature "live actors inhabiting unique locations, hidden clues, tactile puzzles, and surprising twists", and that a "celestial raven" has something to do with it. A bunch of my friends have already deep dived into this stuff, with that and another clue they found leading them to ancient radio tech and wine tasting blogs, none of which I was able to figure out - but then again they could be tilting at windmills. I just hope I can participate in some meaningful fashion; I am there to "work" after all and that means seeing a few movies each day (and finding time to write about them); it truly feels like one could focus on the game the entire time and keep themselves busy for all four days, never once sitting down in a theater.

But again, that's the great thing about the fest - it's ostensibly a film festival, with the traditional opening/closing night films, world premieres, etc. - but one could buy a pass and get their money's worth just by attending all of its unique and intriguing events. I hope to divide my time equally between movies and madness just in case I can't make it back for future installments (it's crazy how unexcited my wife is to watch the kid solo for five days so that I can go goof around and watch horror movies!), but no matter what I'm sure I'll be having a blast just being in my element. Hope to see some of you fine folks there!