As those that were following our Twitter feed and recent features are aware, I was at the Stanley Film Festival last week and it was easily one of the best horror events I've attended. While it's something that you have to experience for yourself, I wanted to give readers details on some of the highlights, including my favorite screenings, Stuart Gordon receiving the Master of Horror award, a Cooties-inspired eating contest, a "marching band from hell," and an immersive horror game that had us working together to stop a cult.

What makes the Stanley Film Festival so different from seemingly similar festivals is that there is a great mix of screenings and special events. Sure, you could attend every movie screening during the festival and have a great time, but there's so much more.

The festival kicked off on Thursday night with Cooties as the opening film. Directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion were on hand for a Q&A, along with Elijah Wood, Josh Waller, Leigh Whannell, and Alison Pill. The evening continued with the opening night party, where a Cooties-inspired chicken nugget eating contest was won by Shock Till You Drop's Sam Zimmerman.

Friday was the first full day for the festival, with screenings including The Invitation, The Treatment, Shrew's Nest, Director's Commentary: The Terror of Frankenstein, The Nightmare, The Hallow, Stung, and Deathgasm. Special events included a live reading of Tales From Beyond the Pale, Horror Trivia, and an unbelievable performance from The Itchy-O Marching Band, a 32-piece band that looked like they came straight out of a haunted attraction.

Saturday had a number of features playing, such as The Boy, Some Kind of Hate, We Are Still Here, Sun Choke, Body, and a midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Stuart Gordon was in attendance for a 35mm screening of Re-Animator that afternoon and received the festival's Master of Horror award from Mick Garris.

Sunday started with a horror-inspired brunch, where all tables had a specific theme, such as Dolls, Creepshow, Hellraiser, and more. Awards were given out to a number of individuals and films, including The Final Girls, which took the audience award. Those that missed out on some of the films from earlier in the festival had a chance to catch up on repeat screenings and there was retro-programming as well that included screenings of Bride of Frankenstein and Repulsion.

The overall film line-up was especially strong, with highlights for me being The Final Girls, We Are Still Here, The Invitation, and Cooties.

And the icing on the cake was the immersive horror game that was running every day of the festival. A suspicious "D.E.D.I. Construction" company unearthed an ankh on the grounds of The Stanley Hotel and that was just the first in a series of strange happenings. Festival attendees were running for miles in search of clues, events kept us up until five in the morning, and cultists broke into random attendees' rooms while they were sleeping. With over 250 people taking part in the immersive horror game over the course of the festival, thankfully, we were able to team up and stop this ancient evil from entering our world.

After experiencing much of what the 2015 Stanley Film Festival had to offer, I'm left with the thought that "film festival" is not the most accurate description of what awaits those that attend. Unlike any film festival I've been to, the Stanley Film Festival is an experience that is not to be missed by horror fans and filmmakers. I met so many great people, made new friends, caught a number of spectacular films, and prevented cultists from taking over the world. There's nowhere else you can do all of this over a single weekend and that's why I'll be booking my flight for the 2016 Stanley Film Festival as soon as dates are announced. Hope to see you there!

[Photos Courtesy of the Stanley Film Festival and James Dimagiba]