After a two-year span in which we had to attend the Overlook Film Festival remotely, the standout New Orleans-based industry insider festival was back screening the festival live and in person. Twenty-Four feature films showed along with three short film blocks, which amounted to a whole lot of movies for four days of viewing! Eric, Liz, and Mike break down our impressions of the recently completed festival.
The Overlook Film Festival is a benchmark film festival for our organization. The first festival in 2017 was held on Mount Hood, at Timberline Lodge, the locale for the Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece The Shining. The next year the production moved to New Orleans, which stitches the two main hubs of our podcast together. It is also where Eric and Liz met, and became fast horror buddies.
This is more of an industry contact’s festival, rather than a fan festival. Many of the films that arrive are brand new productions looking for a distributor, so most of the films are accompanied by their crew (Usually a director) and sometimes the cast. PR agents, distribution companies, and streaming media outlets all are represented in good numbers, and often you will see directors getting in line to see their peer’s films.
In the opening film of the festival, I was approached by a stylish petite woman inquiring “What movie are you here to see?” My response? “Yours, of course!” It was Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night) checking out the admission line for the world premiere of her movie Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon ****, which was actually filmed in New Orleans. It’s those kinds of encounters that make this event special. Significant enough to bring in well-known filmmakers and their movies, but small enough that you will encounter and interact with them. There were multiple occasions where Mick Garris and I exchanged pleasantries in line, and at the social events that Overlook hosted.
In the end, however, it was about the movies. There were some pretty big productions that arrived this year. The biggest was the Universal release The Black Phone, from director Scott Derrickson and writer Joe Hill. It is proof positive that when a big production company really commits to an original horror idea and picks a great script, provides great actors, and a capable director that there is still magic in big studio horror films.
Other notable wide-release films were the excellent paranoia filed stalker-Noire production Watcher, the new Rebecca Hall psychological showpiece Resurrection, and a surprise showing of David Cronenberg’s return to body horror Crimes of The Future.
The Overlook Film Festival launched four World Premiere movies, and we caught them all. Carter Smith’s queer body-horror opus Swallowed ****.5 shocked the hell out of us with several unforgettable moments. The house-party home invasion comedy-horror Who Invited Them? **** was pure entertainment from front to back. The snappy couples therapy turned Faustian bargain story The Summoned ***.5was a confident debut, that deftly held its cards tight and kept you off balance just enough to keep you from predicting the plot. Unfortunately, Shakey Shivers **, despite all its enthusiasm was a hot mess.
The foreign films provided a few lyrical and beautiful productions. She Will ***, starring the legend, Alice Krige, was a hypnotic witch tale that was profound but probably could have used a little more witch involvement. Zalava **** is an Iranian production about the hysteria of a purported ghost in a very superstitious village, and is not only a transportive visual experience but is much funnier than I was expecting. Excellent movie. Piggy is a Spanish bullying horror film about a heavy girl whose tormentors are brutally dispatched in what Liz has described as the goriest movie of the festival. Three movies that we were unable to catch that I am looking forward to seeing as soon as I can are Saloum, from Senegal, Good Madam, from South Africa, and the gastro horror of Flux Gourmet from Hungary.
There were a number of films that we got the opportunity to review before in previous film festivals, Jethica ****, Hypochondriac ****, Sissy ***, Deadstream **.5, and Watcher *****. It should be noted that Sissy and Deadstream, while they did not impress us, finished first and second in the audience choice awards handed out by the festival. The three of us chalk that up to the fact that both of those films probably found a better audience with a younger demographic.
Again, we weren’t able to catch everything at the festival, but we did see a lot, and it reminded us how much we love events like this. It’s exhausting, as we spent over twenty hours in the theaters. It was handy that a mall cineplex, The Prytania Canal Place Theaters was able to queue up all the movies in one spot. As soon as one movie let out, you get in line for the next one. I do miss the days when the larger films would show in the grand old theater, the La Petit, but this sure was handy, particularly given how sweltering June in New Orleans can be, though admittedly the weather was pleasant at times.
We’ll be back again, but until then, check out our podcast to hear us discuss our experiences watching too many movies in the Big Easy.