While Austin may be the high-falootin’ epicenter of the genre film festival universe here in the States, Colorado is nipping at its heels something fierce with two wholly unique fests of its own. With its immersive festival experience and haunted backdrop, the Stanley Film Festival in early summer has quickly become some kind of monster. Two hours south, just outside of Denver’s cloud of weed smoke, is the mighty Mile High Horror Film Festival in Littleton. Now in its sixth year, Mile High is like a horror film fest/convention hybrid – combining a strong lineup of new films from around the world, a ridiculous series of classic screenings, a stable of special guests, sideshow performers, panels, vendors, music showcases, and more. That Enigma jigsaw tattoo guy from The X-Files seems to be creeping around every corner too. Last year I was convinced he was stalking me. I swear I saw him outside my hotel window at 2am. And I was on the fifth floor. Dammit, Enigma.
This was my second time at Mile High and similar to my experience last year, my asthma sucks at high altitudes. But the festival itself is such a vibrant, chill environment that even an anxious asthmatic like myself feels comfortable there. There’s no pretentiousness to be found. There’s always something to do, something to watch, and, being that it takes place at an Alamo Drafthouse, something to drink. I had previously seen a few of the films at the Fantasia and Stanley festivals, but the Mile High programmers presented some solid U.S. premieres like Even Lambs Have Teeth (world premiere), Night Fare, and Landmine Goes Click. Other highlights I had already seen include The Final Girls, A Christmas Horror Story, The Invitation, Sun Choke, and Applesauce. My god, I love Applesauce. I didn’t count because counting is for middle school kids, but it felt like they screened more features than last year, which made trying to create a daily screening schedule a bitch for myself. My wife wound up making an Excel spreadsheet with all the movies and times on it. Excel is for adults.
Photo courtesy of Westword
As far as special screenings go, Mile High’s ran DEEP. I already wrote about the Phantom of the Opera 90th anniversary screening with live score and Ron Chaney in person – an experience I’ll never forget. The poetry in Lon Chaney’s eyes still haunts to this day. My schedule unfortunately conflicted with a downright historical screening: The Shining with Lisa and Louisa Burns and Joe Turkel doing a Q&A. This was the first time the Overlook’s Grady Twins and Lloyd the bartender had been reunited for a screening of Kubrick’s iconic film.
While I missed out on The Shining screenings, I did share a hotel elevator with Joe Turkel, who stopped to talk to me and my wife for a while (he called us “nice Jews”). We also took the same hotel shuttle with the Burns twins, who are as adorable and quick witted in person as you’d think. In my two years at Mile High I’ve casually bumped into many of their special guests while just going about my business. It goes to show how laid-back the festival is.
There was also a special screening of The Descent with Neil Marshall, Hatchet in 35mm with Adam Green and Kane Hodder, Maniac Cop II, House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects with Sid Haig, and Return of the Living Dead with Linnea Quigley. Phew. That’s not even all of them. How dare they taunt us with all this greatness knowing (most) humans are born with only two eyeballs and require sleep.
Mile High’s shorts programs also run deep, with something like 70+ shorts screened. Chloe Okuno’s Slut won the Audience Award for Best Short and local writer/director James Mclaughlin’s Pills won the Creative Colorado Award. This was the first year Mile High featured a block of sci-fi shorts, with Teddy Cecil’s Helio winning Best in that category.
It was an awesome four days at Mile High. Like with any good festival, I only wish it was longer and I had the time to see everything I wanted (and more than two eyeballs). Thanks to the festival for hosting me! Yo Denver, see you next year!