Overlook At Night

Blackout Conditions

I had intended to spend Friday doing nothing but watching films, but last-minute press invites to two of the festival’s interactive experiences wooed me and made me break up my day.

The previous night, I received an email about Blackout, which colored my whole day. If you’ve never heard about it, it’s an haunted house that started in NYC years ago and is infamous for being a solo deal. You have to be at least 21 years old to participate and you have a to sign a waiver, just to ensure you know how extreme it is. I have a number of friends who have tried it out and all seem rattled by the experience, and these are some hardcore horror buffs! So while I sat through Friday’s early morning screenings of some great films (Hounds of Love, in particular, is astonishing), every once in a while, I would remember what was coming for me in a few short hours and start to get anxious.

I was right to be. A trip to the bar to kick things off led to an encounter in a hotel room that I’m not about to forget soon. Friends I told about the experience were horrified, and I heard from a couple of people who had deployed the safe word and gotten out of the experience early. I don’t blame them – it was a lot, and set me even further on edge for the rest of the night. (A full report on this experience is coming soon.)

Overlook Blackout

Later on in the night, I attended another interactive experience, The Chalet. Based on The ABC Project’s A(partment 8) but customized for the location, it once again saw me meeting a contact near a bar and being directed towards a hotel room. Beyond those similarities, the two experiences could hardly be different, but you could hardly tell my nervous ass that at that point. I was tense and seemingly convinced something else was going to happen to me, and perhaps didn’t get as much out of it as I could.

But I did stick with it, something I was surprised to find out that most people didn’t. The experience sees you trying to step into someone else’s shoes, being blindfolded and having headphones put on your head that repeats a mantra to you. You are led into another room and then told to remove your blindfold whenever you’re ready. Once you do, you see a scene that’s frankly terrifying, a nightmare of a situation that would cause anyone to pause and take a few deep breaths before figuring out to proceed.

You’re allowed to leave at any time, but it surprised me to hear that that more festival goers took this time to get the hell out of there than did at the LA performance, and missed out on what turned out to be a astonishingly intimate and poetic moment.

You should absolutely check it out for yourself but don’t do Blackout a few hours before. Trust me.

The party this night featured acrobatic performers and far too few festival attendees. I found out later on that they were all involved in a hunt for the Immersive Horror Game’s murderer, who had “killed” a volunteer. The crime scene tape from her death was left up the rest of the weekend.

I ended the night by attending a secret party that was set up with horror board games and video games, because what could be better? It was a bit sad to see that no one was running the show, explaining any of the games or showing anything off, so I grabbed a copy of Werewolf and managed to wrangle a group of about 10 to play. Though many hadn’t played before, paranoia soon crept into the group and anyone with a beard was singled out as a potential werewolf. Many were killed, although the villagers lived in the end. A good sign, hopefully.

While we were playing games, the suspected murderer led the security team on a wild chase through the hotel, eventually getting arrested in the parking lot in front of a group of onlookers. Some thought he was innocent and indeed, he didn’t survive the night.

Overlook Crime Scene

Corman Comes To Breakfast

I decided to eat breakfast in the absurdly priced restaurant and found myself at the brunch line behind legendary genre filmmaker Roger Corman. I swallowed my glee and made myself a waffle.

At the table, I got another surprise when Julie Corman came over to ask me about the book I was reading (Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation.) So it was a nice way to start the day. I ate in front of them and frowned at all the skiers in the joint who didn’t know they were sharing the air with legends.

Fully satiated and annoyed at spending $23 on brunch, I kicked things off with two panels, a fascinating Industry Panel that discussed the challenges of getting funding and distribution for genre films today, and another about the Immersive Games, which humorously showed the ways that each creator went about entertaining their attendees. It was hard not to be weirded out by seeing some of the folks from Blackout answering questions and in the audience, and at the end of the panel I went over to greet my tormentors, who said “Hey Alex” as I approached, knowing everything about me.

The rest of the day I devoted to films, seeing the scariest movie of the fest (Still/Born) the most metal (Joe Lynch’s delightful Mayhem) as well as the super secret screening. It was rumored for a long time that it would be Trey Edward Shults’ It Comes At Night and we were pleased to find out it was. It played the audience like a fiddle and left me thinking about it for nights to come. You can read my full review of that here.

The closing night party featured a giant ice sculpture based on the dog from the film (seen staring out at the darkness in the movie’s poster), lots of booze, and an after-midnight screening of Meatball Machine Kodoku, which was perfect to watch after so much whiskey.

At one point, I stumbled upon a security officer placing a zip tie on a festival attendee and shoving him into a room, as he screamed that they shouldn’t be arresting suspects. While I had already stopped following much of the Immersive game (there were so many films and experiences to see!), I had seen a list of potential suspects go up earlier, which included a few friends of mine, so I figured I better go warn them. I had seen a group of Hunters convening near the lobby so I warned them what I had seen, and they took off. I very possibly aided the murderer.

At any other festival, this would have seemed strange. But we were beyond that.

Continue Reading The Overlook Film Festival in Review >>

Cool Posts From Around the Web: