The Stanley Film Fest – That’s a Wrap

After a few moments of trying to debunk the shadow moving across the headboard I finally shrugged it off as a large bird flying by. If I had known about the picture of the grand stairway I may have thought differently, but ignorance is bliss.

We headed out to catch our first screening (Rigor Mortis, pretty good martial-arts-ghost story) then we rode the shuttle into town to find some dinner, we were starving since we skipped lunch. We ended up at our go to place in Estes Park, The Wapiti, where they serve your beer in cowboy boot shaped mugs, awesome right?

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We checked out the horror trivia game at The Wheel Bar and then we checked out what was happening at the historic Park Theatre. This theater was built in 1913 and is the oldest working movie theater in the United States and several screenings were taking place there as well as the theater at the hotel and the modern Reel Mountain Theaters. The quaint little town of Estes Park depends economically on tourism, this area was hit pretty hard by flood waters last year and many businesses are still recovering. If you are nearby or passing by, head up for a day of shopping and sight seeing, they could use our support.

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Park Theatre, Estes Park, CO

We made our way back up to the hotel and had some time before the special-secret screening so I made my sweet husband creep around the hotel taking random photos. I didn’t see any anomalies in these photos but feel free to look again for me. The Hall of Owners looked particularly odd in the falling light of dusk.

The hallways are long and narrow. The lighting adds to a creepy vibe.

The hallways are long and narrow. The lighting adds to a creepy vibe.

Hall of Owners

Hall of Owners

Hall of Owners

Hall of Owners

Mrs. Stanley

Mrs. Stanley

Looking up the stairs to the second and third floors.

Looking up the stairs to the second and third floors.

Looking down the stairs, slightly disorienting.

Looking down the stairs, slightly disorienting.

Stairs to bell tower on the third floor. If you climb these you will feel a nanny who is still there watching the children on this floor pull you down.

Stairs to bell tower on the third floor. If you climb these you will feel a nanny who is still there watching the children on this floor pull you down.

 

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The original elevator. In King's story the elevator was operated by phantom party-goers.

The original elevator. In King’s story the elevator was operated by phantom party-goers.

Room 217 where Stephen King stayed.

Room 217 where Stephen King stayed.

We made our way to the Whiskey Bar and had ourselves a very coconutty Redrum Punch in a tip of the hat to the The Shining. Unfortunately, unlike Jack Torrance, our money was good there, good enough for an other round! But now I can say we had drinks with Elijah Wood, well at least in the same room.

Drinks with Elijah, sort of.

Drinks with Elijah, sort of, that’s him back there in the dark sweater.

By now it was dark outside and we headed over to the theater on the grounds to see the super secret screening. It was Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno that is slated for release in September. If you like gory-tense-thrills and an ending you didn’t see coming, this movie is for you. I gave it thumbs up.

The Stanley Hotel at night.

The Stanley Hotel at night.

There was a horror immersion game going on with these weird clues popping up  here and there.

Game Clue

Game Clue

I wish I could report that we had a terrible and terrifying night but I slept like a baby. Maybe even the best sleep I have had in months. In fact, nothing at the Stanley ever felt scary or sinister.

The next  morning we hung out in the lodge to drink coffee, we were a bit late for breakfast because we got stuck watching Room 237, a documentary about Kubrick’s version of The Shining. I have to watch it again, the documentary and the movie.

I don’t know who their decorator is at the Lodge, but I loved it. Okay maybe not the cow-hide chairs but everything else is perfect. I left there with visions of redecorating dancing in my head.

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The screenings we saw were all pretty good. I’m always looking for a movie to scare myself with and some of these were very well done. We didn’t get to see everything we wanted but what we did see was well worth it. The Australian flick, The Babadook, was like every fear I have had as a mother and all my kids’ childhood fears rolled into one. Loved it!

The last thing we did before we left was the Stanley Tour. It was especially fun because our guide was dressed like a zombie as were many festival goers. There had been a fun zombie parade earlier in the day. There was a wedding going on and I felt kind of sorry that there would likely be some zombies in the background of some of the photos, the bride did not seem particularly amused. It made me think about The Shining. Stephen King wrote about the time periods lapsing over each other at his fictional Overlook Hotel and that day with an impeccably dressed wedding party and zombies lulling around it felt that way.

A friendly zombie waiting for coffee.

A friendly zombie waiting for coffee.

Our tour guide told us about her own ghostly encounter in the tunnel, not scary really, just one of the “workmen” saying good night to her as she passed through on her way to the dormitories after work. She told us that she feels the ghosts at The Stanley are just coming back to a place they had very good memories of, nothing sinister. I could see that actually. I left there with some pretty good feelings myself.

My hubby in the underground tunnels.

My hubby in the underground tunnels.

We had a really relaxing and fun time and the weather could not have been more perfect. My only complaint, the chairs in the theater at the hotel were a bit too unforgiving for a long sit. On Saturday night I saw a woman come in with her pillows from the hotel, smart girl. I’m not sure if my husband is, but I’m looking forward to maybe going back next year. I want to take another photo of the main staircase.

Until next time Never Turn Off the Lights.

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All We Really Need to Know is Learned From Zombie Shows

There aren’t many television shows that I watch regularly, actually there are only two that I can think of. The top of my “to watch” list has to be AMC’s The Walking Dead. I discovered it on Netflix and binge watched until I caught up to start watching on Sunday nights. It’s not really the zombies that make this show compelling, it’s the relationships, the struggles, and the moral dilemmas posed to the living. I saw a comment on a board by a fan that said the title did not refer to the zombies or walkers as they are called, but the survivors of this harsh new reality. I never watched this show when it first started because I thought that an entire series based on zombies would be boring. I mean how many ways can you tell the zombie story? The dead rise, the living try to survive and find a cure.

When well done, the zombie story may follow that recipe but it’s the individual ingredients that make the flesh eater vs the living interesting in ways that can be surprising. As far as the genre goes, it is definitely not for everyone. However, there is an abundance to choose from: comedy, high drama, action, all out gore, and more. Here are my 5 top Zombie themed venues of entertainment and what we might possibly be able to learn from them.

1. George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead

This classic spawned one of the best known movie lines, “they’re coming to get you, Barbra!” It may be black and white but to me that just adds to the creepiness. It’s based in era that is not exactly postapocalyptic but more of a bizarre “outbreak”. It’s not just a gory zombie tale but a commentary on prejudices we carry and inter-human-social relations. The ending will leave you gasping.

Night of the Living Dead is a 1968 American independent horror film directed by George A. Romero

Night of the Living Dead is a 1968 American independent horror film directed by George A. Romero

2. AMC’s The Walking Dead

Based on the graphic novels of Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard. The issues of humanity and what is it, how do you hang on to it, and why should you hang on to it, are raised on a weekly basis. One of the advantages of having a long running serial is that people have more time to get invested in the characters and ask themselves, what would I do in that situation? This series is unpredictable as they have not shied away from killing main characters, you’ll have to watch to find out which ones.

The living fight to remain alive and human.

The living fight to remain alive and human.

3. Shaun of the Dead

“Let’s get to the pub.” Our hero, Shaun, makes lists of things to do to survive that changes throughout the ordeal but the best plan ends with getting to the pub. At one point he has to add the name of someone who has become a zombie and notes they need to be killed, sorry. This dark comedy shows us that we are all “zombies” in our modern self-absorbed world.

4. World War Z

This big money blockbuster features fast-moving zombies that act like a swarm of insects in their efforts to feed. I wasn’t sure I would like this one as I kind of felt it was an attempt to just jump on the zombie bandwagon but I was pleasantly surprised. The Israeli soldier character, Segen, played by Daniella Kertesz, has stuck with me as a picture of resilience and downright “badassness”. It speaks to our fears of collapsing economies and disease that may strike from afar, perhaps even our fear of a too inter-connected world. It was spun from a book by the same name, World War Z, An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks.

Isreali Soldier Segen in Action

Israeli Soldier Segen in Action

 

5. Zombieland

Similar to Shaun, this dark comedy speaks to the ‘unconnectedness’ of modern life. It’s rather gory but the mix of characters keeps you interested, not to mention, it’s funny. The main character counts down his list of personal rules for survival throughout the story. I think we can apply all of Columbus’ rules to our lives, not just the apocalypse. For instance, rule one: cardio.

I think the zombie genre will be going strong for some time as evidenced by the still popular movies, new and old. Almost everywhere you look there are zombie-fests, zombie-runs, and zombie-crawls. Here in my small town they hosted a zombie-prom at the library not too long ago, I’m sure some citizens were baffled. There are emerging venues of telling the reanimated dead story from new perspectives, The Returned and Resurrection are the latest examples.

Zombies may have come to represent what we as modern people fear most: incurable disease, economic collapse, war, environmental threat, and death. Zombies are the ultimate “other”.

Forget about my usual advice about Never Turn Off the Lights. Zombies (as well as the fears listed above) don’t care about the light. They are the most dangerous and deep-seated fears because we can do little, if anything, to prevent them from coming when they are set in motion and there is literally nowhere to hide. Maybe, as these movies show us, the best we can do is stick together and: 1. cardio; 2. keep fighting (even if you have to cut off your hand); 3. (a.k.a. 32) enjoy the little things; and finally, 4. get to the pub.

Zombie Subdivisions, That’s Actually a Thing

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My story Dread takes place in a new, well planned, shiny subdivision. I know in my town there a several such developments underway. While I hope this is a good sign for the economy, I find there is something unsettling in the partially built homes and undeveloped lots in these areas.

As I researched and thought about my setting an interesting little phenomena caught my attention and my imagination.

The economic downturn created what has been coined “Zombie subdivisions”. Sorry, no walking dead here but platted vacant land or partially built out plots then abandoned areas. These modern ghost towns look like they could host the undead.

 

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Newly constructed homes in an unfinished subdivision is surrounded by weeds in Coolidge

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US ECONOMY

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Unfinished subdivision

These photos are as interesting as they are depressing. It must be very unsettling to be one of only a handful (or less) residents in this type of neighborhood. I hope the recovering economy makes it possible to rehabilitate these areas away from blight. But for now, the possibilities these spark in my imagination are endless. The poor dear folks in Dread may find their beautiful subdivision a little less perfect (as if it wasn’t scary enough for them) by the time the book is released later this year.

Until next time, Never Turn Off the Lights!

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