Opening Night: Cooties
Michael Lerman: It’s kind of the World Premiere of the final movie.
Landon Zakheim: They’ve reshot several scenes including the ending. We’re not seeing the same cut that was at Sundance. We’re very happy to be rebirthing the film. It was received very warmly at Sundance last year, I know that people have been wanting to see it for some time. It’s just been kept away while they tinkered with it and to just have it come back, and for everybody to be very excited to rebirth the film with us is a great show of faith in the festival. We’ve had tremendous support from Elijah Wood, Daniel Noah and Josh Waller. They were a huge part of the festival last year, so we’re very glad this was a great place to bring the new cut of the film back to us, as well.
From the minds of Leigh Whannell (co-creator of SAW and INSIDIOUS) and Ian Brennan (co-creator of GLEE), produced by SpectreVision, COOTIES is a horror comedy with unexpected laughs and unapologetic thrills. When a cafeteria food virus turns elementary school children into killer savages, a group of misfit teachers must band together to escape the playground carnage. The film stars Elijah Wood (THE HOBBIT, LORD OF THE RINGS), Rainn Wilson (THE OFFICE), and Alison Pill (THE NEWSROOM) as teachers who fight to survive the mayhem while hilariously bickering in an uncomfortable love triangle on the worst Monday of their lives.
Closing Night: The Final Girls (Review)
Lerman: Final Girls is pure fun. It’s really hard to get horror-comedy right, and that movie is flashy, it’s poppy, it’s scary.
Zakheim: And there’s a sincerity to it that works. There’s all this meta horror fun happening, but it’s not coming from a cynical place. It’s a perfect film to show at the Stanley Film Festival.
Max (Taissa Farmiga) and her friends find themselves trapped in the famous 80's slasher flick that made her late mother a scream queen. The millennial gang joins the throwback camp counselors with raging libidos (featuring a standout performance from WORKAHOLICS's Adam DeVine) to battle the psychotic killer.
Re-Animator & Master of Horror Award
Zakheim: We started the Master of Horror Award last year. We were focused on a lot of new films, that’s always going to be the crux of the festival, but it seems strange—especially with horror and how much people appreciate the legends of the genre—to not do our version of a Lifetime Achievement Award. Mick Garris had been an early supporter of the festival. We didn’t want to use the term Master of Horror without him being involved. He does the dinners and he’s been such a force at keeping horror together, and so we’ve worked with him the last two years to find an honoree. It’s happened to be someone involved with an anniversary both times. Joe Dante, with Gremlins. Stuart makes perfect sense with Re-Animator hitting its 30th anniversary this year.
It’s going to be our only 35MM print shown at the festival. We’re very lucky that we have this great, historic theater that we can show that in. Mick and Stuart are going to have a conversation that goes over their career, and then present the award, and then screen Re-Animator. I think no one needs to tell you it’s one of the great films of all horror.
Immersive Horror Game
Zakheim: The Immersive Game we’ve wanted to do since the beginning of the festival. Because the first festival happened so fast after it was conceived, we knew there was no time to get a game going for that one. So, it immediately became the first priority for the second festival, to get this unique piece of live programming.
It’s a pretty vibrant form of live transmedia storytelling that people are starting to get into, but it still feels very new. Because we have this great venue, we have a platform where we can let this artist use our space, create new stories every year and our fanbase is interested in it. We have a good audience that will participate. It can’t be reproduced. Once it’s done, that story has been told. It can’t be recreated, the next year or his next event will be something completely new. It does seem to be very promising now that we live in an information-is-everywhere, you-can-always-access-content age to go back to this one of a kind, limited time experience. It makes it feel special. We’re very proud of that one.
Bleeding seamlessly into the atmosphere of fear and suspense we are excited to announce the return of Stanley Film Festival’s Immersive Horror Game. Bigger and better, this all-new interactive story is a real life horror/mystery narrative using the Festival itself as its medium. Those who follow the clues become the protagonists of an engaging and creepy thriller featuring irreproducible characters and events that you can never unsee.
Centerpiece: The Invitation (Review)
Lerman: Karyn [Kusama] is a great filmmaker and a filmmaker that’s kind of gotten her due, but not in a way. Especially, not in this world. This really accomplishes a lot of the things she’s been trying to accomplish in her movies. It is fascinating from beginning to end, it’s got great characters. It’s got a really nicely unfolding story. I really hope that she stays in this independent horror world for a while and does more with us, with the community
Zakheim: It’s very purposeful. You can tell there’s a plan in place, which is nicely in sync with the plot of the film. It’s superbly directed, and I think that’s going to come across as people watch it. It’s also nice that this interest has already bubbled up. It’s nice to show something we already know an audience is champing at the bit to see at the festival.
Two years after a tragic loss ended his relationship, Will accepts an invitation from his ex-wife to attend a mysterious dinner party held at his former house. As the evening progresses, the dread bubbling under the surface is slowly revealed in this superbly directed psychological thriller from Karyn Kusama
Tales From Beyond the Pale Live
Lerman: Tales From Beyond the Pale is the Larry Fessenden, Glenn McQuaid-produced radio play that we do live in the theater.
Zakheim: They’ve done a couple of seasons, and they write one specifically for the Stanley. Live foley, live sound and live music on stage. Last year, they did a play-within-a-play and did two plays that all were really one story. This year, I know they’re calling it Parlor Tricks. They work right up until it goes. You get the excitement of the live show from that. They’re constantly editing and changing, they’ll be rehearsing up at the Stanley before the show goes up. We had such great success with it last year that we made it a big Friday night event this year.
An ongoing series of audio dramas penned by luminaries from the world of contemporary horror, from Clay McLeod Chapman (THE BOY) to Simon Barrett (YOU'RE NEXT), and Simon Rumley (ABCS OF DEATH); featuring players from Dom Monagham (THE LORD OF THE RINGS, LOST), Vincent D'Onofrio (FULL METAL JACKET, JURASSIC PARK 4), Jeremy Gardner (THE BATTERY, THE MIND'S EYE) and dozens more. The Stanley edition will feature very special guests culled from this year's film lineup. Join hosts Glenn McQuaid and Larry Fessenden as they invite you to close your eyes and… listen.
Barbara Crampton's stellar turns in Re-Animator, Sun Choke and We Are Still Here
Lerman: Barbara Crampton actually booked her travel to the festival before she had any movies in the festival.
Zakheim: And then she just happened to end up with three projects in the festival. And she’ll be in Tales From Beyond the Pale, as well.
Sun Choke, from a festival perspective, it’s really exciting for us. The first two years we did Stanley, we didn’t open up submissions. This was the very first year we opened submissions. We’ve seen a lot of that affect the shorts programming, but as a feature we’re really proud of the fact that Sun Choke was a blind submission. It wasn’t something that we outreached, it came up through the process. That’s the goal with any film festival for discovery. In our third year, for us to be able to have found a new gem like that, we think that’s great for us, we think that’s great for the film. It’s this really slow burn kind of film that’s playing a lot with form and sensory experiences; a really great visual style, sense of sound. It’s strong filmmaking. It creates this really, really great sense of unease.
Lerman: It’s also got three really strong central female performances, which is awesome. Everyone’s coming, and just having real acting talent there is really great. We get a chance to bring out a lot of directors, but we don’t get a chance to bring out a lot of actors. To World Premiere this movie that has such great performances and to get to showcase them at the festival is really great.
In Sun Choke, Janie’s just trying to get well. As she recovers from a violent psychotic break, she’s subjected each day to a bizarre holistic health and wellness regimen designed, and enforced, by her lifelong nanny and caretaker. But when she develops an obsession with a stranger, Janie's buried demons begin to surface.
Some Kind of Hate
Lerman: That’s the dirty companion to Sun Choke. It’s got some of nouvelle horror community, Josh [Ethier] from Almost Human, Noah Segan. It’s steeped in that world. It’s a fun, nasty little movie. It’s cool because we have these two world premieres. Sun Choke is very ethereal and psychological horror, and Some Kind of Hate is limb-for-limb horror. It’s cool, we can also be for gorehounds. There’s a lot of great horror being made right now, we have a lot of it in this festival, but I think a lot of it is very psychological. Last year, we were going through the program like, “Where’s all the blood?”
Zakheim: It’s down and dirty, and does take itself seriously. There is a strong, central spine to it. We’re excited to unleash that on an unsuspecting audience.
Lerman: They’ll be suspecting now.
When a troubled teen is subjected to severe bullying, he accidentally conjures Moira Karp. Once a teenage girl pushed to suicide, Moira is now an unstoppable force on a mission of gruesome retribution. But when she goes to far, he must prevent her from spiraling out of control.
Lerman: This is even more like the nastiest piece of business, and it’s made by an aunt and a nephew. And the nephew used to babysit for her. They made this nasty movie about these nasty kids.
Zakheim: It very much has this elegant, slow burn, smart presentation to it that sucks you in.
Lerman: It’s also a movie that does both sides. It’s got the slow burn, but it’s totally gross, and totally awesome. That’s one of the movies— I know that a lot of our movies have been getting attention on the [festival] circuit. This one, we haven’t seen a lot of. There was a secret screening at Fantastic Fest, it showed in Toronto. I’m really hoping our audience flocks to it when we’re showing it. I think it deserves all the attention.
Zakheim: Goodnight Mommy and Shrew’s Nest were among the very first films we knew were going to invite to the festival.
Following a complex, facial reconstructive surgery, a young actress returns home to find that her twin sons don't believe it is her behind the bandages. Determined to exorcise the imposter, the duo rebel against her, but their suspicions may have grave consequences in this deliciously atmospheric, gruesome, Austrian spine-tingler.
Lerman: I think that movie is really great. It’s produced by Alex de la Iglesia, so it’s one of these Masters of Horror supporting younger, new filmmaking. And yet, it’s a very kind of classical, slasher flick in the way. It’s an update on the idea of Misery, but it also plays with religion and all these things. There’s something really awesome about that. When I first saw Shrew’s Nest, I was like, “Yeah! Finally, it’s still alive, the blood is still going to it.”
In the tradition of MISERY comes this razor-sharp Spanish thriller about an unfortunate man who finds himself trapped in the apartment of his obsessive, shut-in neighbors after taking a debilitating tumble down the steps in their building. As he is nursed back to health, a vicious sibling rivalry ensues around him in this entertaining and brutal look into family madness produced by Stanley Film Festival alum Alex de la Iglesia.
Lerman: The Treatment is like a Belgian, long True Detective episode, Every time you see one of these things, people are running around going, “You don’t even know what was happening. It was so sick, it was so sick,” in the plotline. Then you find out, and it’s like “Oh, I’ve seen that before.” This is so much sicker than you could possibly imagine [laughs]. In some ways, it’s more of a traditional thriller, but it does have one of the best jump scares of the entire festival.
Zakheim: I feel like we try to do one of these every year. It’s about the horror of real life, and that becoming much more horrific and unsettling than anything else.
Lerman: It’s truly fucked up.
Echoing tones of great nuevo-European thrillers like THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, this hard-boiled Belgian mystery tells the story of a hot-headed cop who finds himself caught in a web of deceit when a nine-year-old boy goes missing. He uncovers a secret so dark that it makes all other stories of the genre feel like warm and fuzzy child's play.
When Animals Dream
Lerman: It’s got a lot of heart to it. It’s very much a character study and it just happens to also be about werewolves.
Zakheim: That movie really puts the character’s internal struggle front and center. Historically werewolves use the actual transformation as a metaphor for transformation, but this does handles that in a way that feels deeper than normal.
In a remote seaside town in northern Denmark, a young woman with an independent spirit begins to display troubling signs of her werewolf heritage in this restrained supernatural thriller.
Director’s Commentary: Terror of Frankenstein
Landon Zakheim: This is a little bit of a tricky one, actually.
Michael Lerman: It’s a fake director’s commentary for a Leon Vitali movie that ends up—there’s a plot in it. It’s kind of like a radio play over an old movie. It’s like old drama gets drudged up because these guys get back together. Only these guys could’ve made this. Only the Room 237 team. Room 237 is straight up a documentary, The Nightmare is a documentary with some interesting reenactment elements. So, it’s straightly a documentary, but the scary stuff which is all really brilliant, is a reenactment. This is taking something pre-existing, in a form that’s typically documentary and then creating something false out of it. It’s somewhere between MST3K and an old-school radio play, because there’s a story running through it.
Zakheim: You’re watching the real film, Terror of Frankenstein, which is a pretty obscure Frankenstein adaptation in this day and age. You’re watching that real movie, with that real audio, you’re in the theater looking at that, but everything you’re hearing is a director’s commentary over it that’s fictional, with three really good voice actors. As you pay attention to the commentary, its own horror is slowly revealed. As an experiment in form, it’s really interesting. It’s an interesting idea in today’s technology, because it’s all about using your attention to look at two stories at once. It’s this whole narrative-within-narrative thing that exists in this whole ADD world where we look at multiple things at once now. I like that they’re playing with that. I’m surprised that that isn’t a more common thing; that it feels new. Because the movie isn’t that well known, there’s a whole question as to what it is.
It’s really exciting for us, because Rodney and Leon met at the 2013 Stanley Film Festival. They all met because they did a panel together that’s on the Room 237 DVD now. They did their Secrets of the Shining panel, that’s where they confronted each other, because Leon had been discrediting the doc. Then they became friends. Leon will also be one of the leads in Tales From Beyond the Pale this year….
Visionary Award & Panel: Tom Quinn
Lerman: We’re very excited to be honoring Tom Quinn with the Visionary Award this year. Obviously, all of the work he’s done in horror, from Let the Right One In to The Host and recently with It Follows; this irregular but really smart plan on how to do It Follows that’s been making waves.
Zakheim: The Visionary Award, that’s something we’ve been doing since day one of the festival. It’s an award established for a contemporary figure in horror who is making forward-thinking decisions to elevate the genre, and also providing a platform for newer artists to enter the field and thrive. We try to uphold the spirit of that award and pick somebody who’s doing the work to keep horror going. Tom Quinn felt like a perfect choice.
Bride of Frankenstein
Zakheim: It’s the 80th anniversary. Given the history of the hotel, early horror is very important to us. We always try to do something like that with our retrospectives. This year, as soon as we found out this was the 80th anniversary of arguably the greatest of the Universal Monster movies, it made perfect sense to show. We started doing a free family screening and it became very exciting when we realized that could be the free family screening and help educate the young, local children and indoctrinate them into horror early on with one of the pioneering movies of the field.