The Overlook Film Festival is something special. Easily the best genre event I’ve attended, Overlook was created for horror fans by a team whose passion for the genre runs deep. Not only have they scoured the globe for the latest horror movies that fans will get excited for, but they’ve also worked with some of the most creative people in performance art and immersive entertainment to offer attendees one-of-a-kind experiences.
Most film festivals focus heavily on the feature programming side of things for obvious reasons, but The Overlook Film Festival has enough alternative programming that you could spend your entire time focused on it. In fact, I’d say that calling it “alternative programming” does a disservice to what they’ve put together, as their special programming was stronger than the films they screened.
If you want the traditional film festival experience, that is entirely possible. If you want to do 50/50 movies and special events, you can go that way. Or your primary focus can be on unique and immersive events, which is what makes Overlook unlike anything else out there.
To wrap up my thoughts on the festival, here are my impressions of the many special and immersive events I attended:
The Pumpkin Pie Show One-on-One: Author, writer, and actor Clay McLeod Chapman is well-known for his Pumpkin Pie Show and I’ve been dying to see it, but never had a chance to make it to New York City at the same time he was performing. Sadly, my plans to catch the full audience show were thwarted, BUT Chapman was offering one-on-one performances throughout the day. He gave everyone the option of a 5 or 20-minute version, and I immediately opted for the 20 minutes.
The entire act took place while the two of us sat down a few feet away from each other. Taken from his book Rest Area, “Grace” was a powerful and incredibly unnerving performance that I’ll never forget. Clay McLeod Chapman is an incredible actor and storyteller. Don’t miss an opportunity to see his Pumpkin Pie Show or read his books, and if he’s offering a one-on-one experience, take it!
For more on Clay McLeod Chapman, visit: http://claymcleodchapman.com/
Tales From Beyond the Pale: Featuring Clay McLeod Chapman, Sam Zimmerman, Janet Scanlon, and Larry Fessenden, we were treated to two new audio dramas exclusive to The Overlook Film Festival from Glenn McQuaid and Larry Fessenden, titled “Re-Appraisal” and “In the Wind.”
A form of entertainment mostly foreign to modern audiences, it’s great to see the team bringing this type of horror storytelling to genre fans. I also can’t forget to mention the extraordinarily talented audio team, which included live foley effects that elevated these audio dramas to a whole other level. Do NOT miss the opportunity to experience this for yourself.
To listen to Tales From Beyond the Pale or find out when you can catch the next live performance, visit: http://talesfrombeyondthepale.com/
Blackout: It has the reputation of being the most extreme immersive experience out there, but I never seem to be in LA or NY at the right time, so experiencing Blackout at The Overlook Film Festival was one of my top priorities.
Now that Blackout is established, the fear of them actually killing me wasn’t present, but that didn’t prevent my time from being any less impactful. From my introduction to the Blackout point-of-contact to my unexpected and immediate exit back to reality, everything was perfectly executed, extremely tense, and designed to run me through the gamut of emotions.
Of course, telling you exactly what happened would ruin it for people who have never experienced this, and I’m pretty my life is in danger if I share specifics (so much of it is a blur), but I will say that I encountered someone else in the room who was in the same horrible predicament as I was in, and we attempted (unsuccessfully) to escape our captors.
Blackout creators Josh Randall and Kristjan Thor were both involved with this special event, and I was extremely impressed how they were able to transform such a small area at the lodge into their own warped world. For the entire 20-minute experience, nothing else in the world was on my mind, and I was completely enveloped in the events that transpired.
Blackout isn’t for the easily rattled, and be aware that you may be put in some VERY uncomfortable and VERY physical situations, but if you’re willing to let go and accept that no matter what you go through you’ll make it out on the other end, it can be a transformative experience you won’t ever forgot.
If you’re brave enough to experience Blackout, visit: http://www.theblackoutexperience.com/
The Chalet: Annie Lesser’s The Chalet is a modified version of her “A(partment 8)” immersive experience for The Overlook Film Festival. While significantly less physical than Blackout, it’s every bit as impactful. A more intimate and emotional encounter, you step into someone’s skin during a shocking moment in their life and come face-to-face with what you’ve done.
If I were to tell you exactly what happened on (virtual) paper, you may not immediately think of it as frightening, but it was intense enough that a surprising number of people left after only a minute or less into the performance. Like many of these events, to tell you what happens would ruin the surprise, so all I can say is to not miss the chance to experience this for yourself if you’re in LA this June. There are very few tickets left at: http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/3822?tab=tickets
To keep up with Annie Lesser, visit: http://annielesser.com/
Capture: Skybound’s Dave Alpert came to Oregon to show us the first look at Capture, a full-length horror film that has an integrated mobile app experience. Ahead of time, I will say that it was mentioned that the audience were essentially beta testers and there were some technical hiccups on the both the app and festival end that prevented us from getting what is likely the full intended experience.
The movie features a spirit that has the ability to possess technology, and as the main character’s phone and computer are being taken over, the app syncs up with key moments in the movie and shows you disturbing images, video clips, and messages. The big issue with this demo is that there are long gaps, especially at the beginning, where there’s no interaction between the movie and phone, and the movie by itself isn’t strong enough to keep your attention. At the moment, it felt more like (and very well could be) a proof-of-concept, but I am excited to see the technology advancements, because it could be a lot of fun. If they tighten up the movie and app experience to cut back on the interaction downtime, this could be a great way to interact with younger horror fans that NEED to be on their phone 24/7.
Visit Skybound’s official site to keep up on all the latest from the multi-media company: http://www.skybound.com/
MULE: From Dark Corner Studios, the team behind CATATONIC, MULE is a VR journey that you experience from the comfort of a REALLY nice coffin. Before putting on the headset, you’re given a choice: burial or cremation.
From there, you’re transported into a very unfortunate situation that results in your untimely demise and body disposal of choice. While CATATONIC was more in the vein of Silent Hill or the 13 Ghosts remake, MULE feels like something we’d get from Michael Mann or Crank directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. Dark Corner Studios is definitely on the forefront of VR storytelling and I’m very excited to see where they go from here.
To learn when you can experience MULE for yourself, visit: https://www.darkcornerstudios.com/
The Immersive Horror Game: If you came to the Overlook specifically for immersive experiences, this is the big draw. Carrying over the storyline from when this team was in Colorado for The Stanley Film Festival in 2015, players were on the trail of an escaped serial killer with a plan to complete a killing ritual during the festival.
Taking place over three days, it’s unlike anything else out there. Due to the scale of this game, which included hundreds of players and multiple locations, your focus will be on clues, teamwork, and solving puzzles. So that you have the right expectations going in, this isn’t an event that I’d call extreme, but you do get transported to what I would call the horror version of Westworld for three days. Anyone could be in on the killings, anything could be a clue, and you never know exactly when the game is over for the day.
Learn more about the brains behind the Immersive Horror Game at: http://bottleneckimmersive.com/
You can also check out my more detailed rundown of the game at: