Thursday, April 27
You know that infamous mistake in the opening scene of The Shining, where you can see the shadow of a helicopter following the car carrying the Torrance family up to the Overlook Hotel? All I could think today as I made my trek to the Timberline Lodge on Oregon’s Mt. Hood — which stood in for the exterior of the Overlook in The Shining — was how much I wish I were being carried to the top by helicopter. Turns out, I did not heed warnings to dress for snowy conditions — and I was shivering.
I’ve made the 12-hour plane-cab-bus journey to the Timberline for the first-ever Overlook Film Festival, a four-day horror festival with film screenings, panels, and an emphasis on immersive experiences designed to scare the crap out of you. I snagged my pass as a horror fan and a longtime devotee of The Shining; to be honest, I don’t need an excuse to hole up in a hotel for a few days and watch a dozen horror movies in a row, but it’s always nice to have a little added incentive.
My room at the Timberline is lovely and cozy (and not in that euphemistic way that just means small). There’s even a fireplace I plan on figuring out how to use before I leave. What struck me upon entering was a piece of paper on my bedside table with some weird symbols drawn on it. Ah, yes, I remembered. The game. Before I arrived here, I signed up for an all-weekend interactive game — and the festival organizers clearly wasted no time getting that started.
Just after settling into my room, I had my first event of the festival: orientation. Details about the game were pretty hush-hush beforehand, and orientation only cleared things up a tiny bit. I don’t want to say too much while it’s currently happening, but basically it involves finding clues, talking to the right people, and locating some dangerous person of interest who is allegedly wandering the grounds. It was at orientation that I realized fairly quickly that I… am not well-suited for this game. It’s possible that I’m not well-suited for any game! The two things I’m worst at are solving puzzles and interacting with strangers, so, uh, we’re at a bit of a standstill here. Nevertheless, I took a few photos of items around the lobby that looked like they could be possibly relevant to the game, and I’m definitely still playing, if anyone asks.
After orientation I had a quick break, so I went back to my room for a short nap and to deal with my anxiety over being snowed in. We’re not actually snowed in, but the view from my window was bleak enough to spook me. Yes, I wanted the full Shining experience, but, you know, with some remove.
I brushed off my unease and made it to my first screening of the weekend, Akiva Goldsman’s Stephanie. The movie itself was a solid start to the festival: The titular character (Shree Crooks) has been abandoned by her parents and forced to defend herself against a mysterious force that seems out to get her. And there are some fun twists that kept me engaged.
After the screening, there was a party, but I was too hungry for “satanic burlesque,” which was a thing that was happening. I ran into my friend Troy, who works for IFC Midnight, and we grabbed food at the Ram’s Head Bar. Delirious from my day of travel, I began to wonder if Troy had been recruited as an actor in the game and I was somehow missing the obvious signs. If the movie The Game taught me anything, it’s that literally everyone is involved and there will be serious continuity errors.
And here’s where things got really strange. After we parted ways, I walked back to my room and discovered two raspberry jam bars waiting for me on a plate next to the TV. Is it possible they’d been there the whole time and I just missed them? Is this, again, another part of the game? (The best kind of clues are the ones you can eat.) Am I being poisoned by ghosts who know I can’t resist a raspberry jam bar? It definitely felt like some kind of test — and one that I immediately failed by eating the bars. (Around this time, I also found a hot-water bottle under the covers. I do not remember it being there during my nap. What I’m saying is, I’m not not being haunted.)
As I checked my email before bed, I noticed a strange request to meet in a certain room at 1 a.m. Finally, a clear instruction from the game! But I was exhausted and in my pajamas. As my eyes closed, I wondered (somewhat hopefully) if I’d be disqualified.