Overlook Returns for Four Days of Horror in New Orleans: Inside the Genre Festival’s Glowing Lineup
ManOfTheCenturyMovie Film Overlook Returns for Four Days of Horror in New Orleans: Inside the Genre Festival’s Glowing Lineup

Overlook Returns for Four Days of Horror in New Orleans: Inside the Genre Festival’s Glowing Lineup

Overlook Returns for Four Days of Horror in New Orleans: Inside the Genre Festival’s Glowing Lineup

Mardi Gras is long over, and Halloween is still months away. But over the next four days in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Overlook Film Festival will celebrate the strange and unusual with a salute to horror that couldn’t be timelier.

“As we are talking, we have just seen two brand-new horror releases — ‘Immaculate’ and ‘Late Night with the Devil’ — have the highest openings for those distributors in their histories,” festival co-director Landon Zakheim told IndieWire. (The nun nightmare, starring Sydney Sweeney, earned $5.3 million for Neon, while IFC’s supernatural talkshow took home $2.8 million, in their respective opening weekends.)

“On top of that, we’ve got the new ‘Godzilla,’ which was made by filmmakers who are alums of many festivals, including ours. And Disney is shepherding in an ‘Omen’ franchise film from a festival circuit filmmaker as well,” he said. “That’s all just if you look at the last couple of weeks.”

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Set to host the world premiere of Universal Pictures’ “Abigail” (and celebrate the 70th anniversary of “Creature from the Black Lagoon” among other events) this weekend, The Overlook is a volunteer-led film festival and horror exhibition now in its eighth year. You can read a complete rundown of Overlook’s 2024 festival programming here.

The annual horror celebration — previously known as the Stanley Film Festival and held in rural locations relevant to the Colorado-set Kubrick masterwork from 1980 — is championed by an itinerant group of festival organizers and programmers. Like Zakheim, who also works with Sundance and Telluride, they all hail from different major markets and regional film festivals.

“We’re very lucky that we’re able to get a high-quality caliber of programming, even as far back as our earliest days,” Zakheim said. “(It was) a tighter program than a small niche new festival could get before being established usually, and a lot of that had to do with the fact that we, all the programmers, came from other festivals that were our actual day jobs.”

A community-minded labor of love designed to honor genre fans with intimate and inspirational screenings as well as immersive horror experiences, Overlook found its permanent home in New Orleans at the advent of the contemporary genre renaissance in 2018. Notable attendees (or is it “guests”?) over past years have included Jason Blum, Eli Roth, Ari Aster, Taika Waititi, Ana Lily Amirpour, and Paul Scheer among others.

This year, festival leadership is excited to welcome “Abigail” co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett. The duo’s new horror comedy, written by Stephen Shields and Guy Busick, stars former “Matilda: The Musical” headliner Alisha Weir as a vampire ballerina with a group of contract kidnappers for babysitters.

“Radio Silence is a group we’ve been watching for a long time, and it’s been so incredible to see flourish,” Zakheim said, citing the “Scream” series and “Ready or Not” among Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillet’s myriad accomplishments.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 06: Tyler Gillett (L) and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin attend the world premiere of Paramount's "Scream VI" at AMC Lincoln Square Theater on March 06, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Dominik Bindl/FilmMagic)
(Left to right): Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-OlpinFilmMagic

“Seeing them have this great success, I feel like it’s nice to play that alongside a lot of short filmmakers and newer filmmakers and filmmakers that are charting similar but different paths,” Zakheim said. “And it’s exciting to host them as well, because like all horror fans, we want to collect our favorite filmmakers and bring them out at least once.”

It was a similar case with animated shorts legend Don Hertzfeldt (“World of Tomorrow,” “Rejected,” “It’s Such a Beautiful Day”), who will be at Overlook on Saturday to present his new film “Me” in person.

“It’s funny because that came very late into the program this year simply because I happened to see it in Austin a few weeks ago, and Don was very game to have a reason to come out,” Zakheim said. “We had been playing Don’s films at other festivals for years, and the second we saw this, it was like, ‘Wait, this is actually — you could justify this as horror.’ Luckily, he agreed.”

A number of buzzy international titles, including the SXSW darling “Oddity” from Irish filmmaker Damian Mc Carthy, will rescreen at Overlook. Zakheim noted the wealth of foreign titles programmed for this year. French director Sébastien Vaniček’s spider-centric “Infested” will also screen; Vaniček was just tapped to direct a spin-off “Evil Dead” film after signing with CAA in February.  

Overlook Returns for Four Days of Horror in New Orleans.webp | ManOfTheCenturyMovie

Writer/director Jane Schoenbrun’s acclaimed “I Saw the TV Glow” will also play this weekend; it premiered out of Sundance and earned an “A” from IndieWire’s David Ehrlich. In addition to being one of the most talked about indie titles of the year so far, A24’s sci-fi thriller is an especially good fit for this program, said Zakheim, because Schoenbrun “has a history of making films that play into immersive gaming, which is a big interest of our festival as well.”

Zakheim stresses that while the Overlook Film Festival is primarily a film festival, the event encompasses terror of every type — including VR gaming and other immersive experiences. He said it’s an important space for those artists to gain exposure and appreciation. Despite horror booming in streaming and at the box office, it’s still hard to fund bespoke genre experiences for festival attendees; Zakheim cites cost-cutting across festivals.

“I still think it is essential, especially to (Overlook), to have those things that some might think of as rarities or that you have to have been there in person to experience because that’s how you create bonds and memories,” Zakheim said.

In addition to special screenings of classics like Brian De Palma’s “Phantom of the Paradise” and Lucio Fulci’s “The Beyond” — as well as a live-scored showing of the German silent film “The Hands of Orlac” — Overlook 2024 will feature a panel for the 10th anniversary of Cartoon Network’s “Over the Garden Wall” and dozens more oddities, like a vampire cocktail hour and… séance? Sure!

“During those times in a festival crunch, which happens to all of us but especially with a small team like we have here, when we inevitably get into that thing where we go, ‘Why are we doing this again?’ it’s always a good reminder to say, ‘It’s because we love this stuff,’” Zakheim said. “‘And we want to show it to the other people who love this stuff.’” You can find a complete list of organizers for The Overlook Film Festival here.

The Overlook Film Festival runs Thursday, April 4 to Sunday April 7, 2024.

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