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Overlook Film Festival brings scary movies, games, discussions, more to Mount Hood

COURTESY: OVERLOOK FILM FESTIVAL - The Overlook Film Festival, taking place at iconic Timberline Lodge, features the likes of 'Lady Macbeth,' about a 1860s Russian femme fatale. Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining," the 1980 horror movie classic that takes place in the fictional Overlook Hotel, is what some would call pure nightmare fuel.

It's been scaring the daylights out of audiences for decades since its release.

And, for fans of fear, a new film festival — Overlook Film Festival — is making its way to Timberline Lodge, a ski resort and hotel in Government Camp.

Its organizers have grand plans to capture all those generations of fear by using the lodge, about an hour east of Portland, as a physical canvas to indulge lovers of horror.

Taking place April 27-30, the festival features a wide array of films and interactive events, panel discussions, games, and more. "Lady Macbeth," about a Russian femme fatale of the 1860s, is the centerpiece film of the festival. The opening night film is "Stephanie," a world premiere of a supernatural horror thriller about a woman left alone in her remote home, by writer/director Akiva Goldsman.

It's not just by chance that the festival's organizers are using Oregon's beloved Timberline Lodge as a setting.

Most Oregonians already may be in the know, but for the few in the dark, the often snow-cloaked mountaintop hotel was used to film exterior shots in "The Shining," most notably the unsettling opening sequence. It's easily seen on YouTube.

"We embrace Timberline's presence in 'The Shining' as part of our history, and it is recognized by a lot of visitors that come here," says John Burton, Timberline Lodge spokesman.

COURTESY: TIMBERLINE LODGE - Timberline Lodge is a fun and often beautiful place for recreation, but it's fitting that a horror movie festival takes place at Timberline, where part of 'The Shining' was filmed.Despite decades of the film bringing some level of notoriety to the lodge — its gift shop has plenty of copies of Stephen King's novel on which the movie is based, as well as merchandise printed with Jack Nicholson's famous "Here's Johnny!" scene from the film — this is the first film festival to take place there.

It's the brainchild of Landon Zakheim and Michael Lerman, co-directors and veterans of the film festival circuit.

"We're big believers in community events so a big goal of the fest is to serve as a kind of horror summer camp," Zakheim says. He adds that a spring debut gives fans of horror something to look forward to in the genre's offseason, rather than having it during the fall, a time already saturated with lots of horror-related events and screenings in the community.

Zakheim says their initial attraction to hosting the festival at Timberline Lodge comes from a desire to adapt an event to a site. They began organizing in January 2016, with the official announcement of the festival on Halloween last year.

"In this kind of day and age, it's very easy to watch movies alone in your house and not have a social component," Zakheim says. "There's this great impact in eventizing the way you watch films (so) that you can use the venue ... to create an atmosphere for the people who are watching the film and also the filmmakers."

The event is certainly going astray from the typical film fest where attendees simply sit and view. At Overlook Film Festival, guests will be able to partake in an interactive game that spans the entire the weekend.

The game was created by Dylan Reiff, founder of Bottleneck Immersive, based in Portland's own Hollywood District. It features planted actors, hidden clues, puzzles and other strange twists and turns that participants can indulge in at their leisure throughout the weekend.

"It really is fantastic having (Timberline Lodge) in the back yard (to Portland) ... it gives me an excuse to get up there, which it's not just creepy, it's breathtakingly beautiful," Reiff says. "Your senses are already going to feel heightened so it's exciting to craft a narrative and kind of experience where people can touch and explore and get scared in real life."

COURTESY: OVERLOOK FILM FESTIVAL - 'Lake Bodom' and other movies are surely to entertain fans of the horror genre at the Overlook Film Festival. But, films such as 'ParaNorman' keep things light.The game doesn't have a title other than the generic "immersive horror game" and Reiff is careful not to reveal much of anything about any particular elements of the game. The festival's creators, Zakheim and Lerman, also are guarded when they speak of other aspects of the festival. After all, fear — the very basis of the horror genre — relies almost exclusively on mystery and surprise; spoiling anything ahead of the festival would be tragic for attendees.

In addition to the game, there is another "immersive horror experience" called "Blackout" that they say is not for the faint of heart.

Sure, Overlook Film Festival celebrates film's most gruesome genre, but there is something of a spectrum on its roster of activities: a screening of the kids' film "ParaNorman" rests on the side of least scary, with "Blackout" on the opposite.

The X-rated game started out as an underground experience that swept through the New York City art scene and is designed for adults over 18 to walk through alone. Participation is limited to all-access badge holders and signing a waiver is a must.

Meanwhile, there are still plenty of regular old cinematic experiences to enjoy.

Organizers whittled down the selection from hundreds of submissions, which they say is a real combination of "fresh discoveries and festival favorites."

There will be a few films that have never been seen anywhere else before.

"The festival exists to celebrate horror in all its forms," says Zakheim. Lerman agrees, but adds that it's also about community.

"We know Portland is a great place for that. We're hoping we grow a great local audience for (Overlook Film Festival)," he says.

For a complete listing of films, see www.overlookfilmfest.com.

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