"I can't wait to get back in the hot tubs!" is not something you expect to hear at a film festival, especially one taking place on a mountain in the middle of Oregon. But the inaugural Overlook Film Festival, a long weekend of horror and horror-adjacent "genre" films hosted at the majestic Timberline Lodge last week, was not like most film festivals.
And by treating it like most film festivals—the more prestigious kinds usually attended by college kids and middle-aged men in berets—I missed out on most of the fun.
RELATED: "We Spoke to the People Behind Overlook: Oregon's Newest, Greatest Horror Film Festival."
My wife and I went up to the Timberline Lodge on a clear Saturday morning—an enormous misplay that dawned on us as we waited half an hour to make it up the mountain and finally park in a lot packed with those enjoying the perfect skiing weather. After checking in at a large table set up in the bottom floor of the Timberline's main room, we had to almost run to our first film—Amat Escalante's relationship drama/alien sex thriller The Untamed—which was screening in a side room at Timberline's Wy'East Day Lodge, following paper signs taped to banisters and walls, weaving through snowboard-booted dudes eating gas station-quality pizza from the cafeteria.
We sat in conference room chairs and watched the film on a screen that seemed like it couldn't have been much bigger than an 80-inch TV, the aisles lit by Christmas lights and a big guy in front of us smelling like a pound of kush—which is to say, the ideal space for watching a movie where a sex alien is used as a metaphor for relationship troubles.
After the film, festival goers shuffled out and mostly disappeared into the crowd—surprising, given that we were the only ones not dressed for a day on the mountain. We leaned slightly male, but not as much as you'd expect for a festival devoted to horror and gore. Most attendees seemed fairly subdued in the way one typically is while recovering from a bad hangover by watching horror movies on the couch
Next up was cult director Joe Lynch's Mayhem, a corporate lampoon of the "locked in a tower" action flicks like The Raid and Dredd that had a brief run a few years ago, spiked with a virus that makes people lose control of their inhibitions. We were in a much larger conference room, an offshoot of the second floor of the Timberline's handsome main lounge, complete with beer, wine and Red Vines-stocked concession stand. Before we chugged the visual and aural Mountain Dew of Mayhem, we started with a hilarious short about a demonic guitar from Chris McInroy called Death Metal.
Unfortunately, that was the end of our day. Both of us had work obligations in the morning, and as the sun began to set and the parking lot now almost empty, we had to take off for Portland. I had an exactly pretty good time at the festival.
That was when we heard a young woman exclaim about the hot tubs.
As Mayhem emptied out, an excited line of attendees was waiting outside for the festival's next event, an awards ceremony honoring B-movie titan Roger Corman. Hangovers were wearing off. The night was just beginning.
We should've known ahead of time that a destination festival whose final screenings begin after midnight would be best enjoyed in the later hours of the evening. We didn't make enough time to try the VR horror experience, which had you climb into a casket and don a headset, or attend any of the storytelling sessions. I received a promo email taken on Thursday night of a woman in lingerie holding an enormous horned skull. Later, I'd get an all-attendees email about a karaoke after party with "Booze a plenty!" We didn't get to see the secret world premiere of It Comes at Night, from Terrence Malick protegee Trey Edward Shults.
Which is to say, we missed the fuck out.
If we're going to go to next year's Overlook Film Festival 2: The Overlookening, we're going to do it right. We're going to go up for at least a night to enjoy the festivities, make enough time to attend some of the plentiful side events and get at least a drink in. This is a horror convention disguised as a film festival, and it should be treated as such.