Stanley Film Festival brings ‘horror retreat’ to iconic Colorado hotel

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Photo: Stanley Film Festival zombie crawl 2014
Stanley Film Festival attendees participate in a zombie crawl in front of the Stanley Hotel in 2014.

With "The Shining," the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park inspired one of the most iconic horror novels and film adaptations. The historic Colorado site now also hosts the Stanley Film Festival, which spotlights the horror genre starting today.

"I call it a 'horror retreat,'" says Denver Film Society festival director Britta Erickson. "It spurs a lot of interesting conversations about the history of the genre."

Now in its third year, the festival features more than 50 films, from full-length narratives to documentaries and shorts. And for the first time, the Stanley Film Festival will premiere brand new works too.

"This is the first year that we've done a call for entries, and we got submissions from around the world," Erickson says. "It's a natural progression because this is a destination and niche festival."

"It's a very quiet, lonely, isolated film about a girl who has psychosis who gets obsessed with her caretaker," Erickson says. "Some of the films are a lot quieter and the eeriness and that kind of psychological horror that's not so much slasher."

Crampton -- known to many as the "Scream Queen" -- starred in the 1985 cult classic "Re-Animator," which is also being screened at the festival. The film's director, Stuart Gordon, will receive the "Master of Horror" award on Saturday. Crampton, along with actor Elijah Wood, is among the celebrity guests invited to the event.

Programmers also cull selections from festivals like Sundance in Utah and SXSW in Austin, Texas. Other film festivals specifically spotlight the horror genre, including Fantastic Fest in Austin and Fantasia in Canada. (The Mile High Horror Festival in Littleton and the Telluride Horror Show also call Colorado home.)

"Horror has always been made, and it can be unoriginal and cliche," Erickson says. "We're looking for the more nuanced storytelling. And what makes it viable and exciting are these new voices and the immersion into the entire experience."

Erickson spoke with Mike Lamp of CPR News about the Stanley Film Festival, which runs through Sunday.

Do you have a film with a Colorado connection?

Photo: 'The Boy' movie still 2015
A still from Craig Macneill's 2015 film "The Boy."

"'The Boy' is directed by Craig Macneill, who went to CU Boulder. It is based on a short that premiered at the first Stanley Film Festival. It's an intimate portrait of a 9 year old who is a sociopath obsessed with death. Craig has gone on to make that as a feature. It's produced by SpectreVision, that's Elijah Wood's company. They have a group of filmmakers that they are really supporting."

What else do people do at the festival besides go to movies?

"We have a series of panels, like one on virtual reality and one on indie horror distribution. We additionally have this immersion game that we create every year. It's a story that's written by game architect Dylan Reiff and it's site-specific. You can opt in at higher levels to really start to play the game and get text clues. If you opt in at the very highest level, you're giving us the ability to go into your room and you might get a good scare. The hotel itself is spooky, so we just up the spook factor."