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Five biggest surprises of the 2014 Stanley Film Festival

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A new vibe emerged at the second annual Stanley Film Festival: Horror vacation. That’s what the genre-themed weekend, housed at the famed Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado has become for its devoted attendees. And now fans know they have at least one more horror weekend to plan following the announcement by fest officials that the Stanley Film Festival will return for a third time in 2015.

Featuring back-to-back film screenings, expert panels, interactive games, and appearances by industry insiders, the Stanley Film Festival offers horror fans a myriad of frights along with a few surprises. Here's our top five for 2014.

1 - "The Green Inferno"
1 - "The Green Inferno" Stanley Film Festival

1 - "The Green Inferno"

The secret screening for the festival was Eli Roth’s “Green Inferno.” The film is a notable addition to Roth's growing catalog and may be the best of his films to date.

Unfortunately, I can't publish a full review until the film holds its U.S. release (September), but in the meantime I will say that "Green Inferno" deftly touches a primal nerve while also carrying an underlying social message through to the last scene. And, in true Roth style, the film may trigger your gag reflex a time or two.

Click here to see the film's official trailer

2 - Elijah Wood
2 - Elijah Wood Stanley Film Festival

2 - Elijah Wood

Wood was a treat to behold throughout the weekend. Winner of the second-annual Visionary Award, along with his SpectreVision partners Daniel Noah and Josh Waller, Wood actively participated as a fan and an industry leader throughout the fest. He also screened his film, “Open Windows,” a technology-driven thriller with a “Mission Impossible” twist, and even DJ’d – yes, turntable and all – for festival goers, along with screening a classic film he brought to the festival, "Who Can Kill a Child?" which was first released in 1976.

3 - #FindAndrew
3 - #FindAndrew Stanley Film Festival

3 - #FindAndrew

Fest goers were treated to an interactive game that began with an email and progressed throughout the four days, centered on a father trying to find his missing boy. The game included occult-themed clues and a “real” news broadcast on the festival’s designated television channels at the Stanley Hotel. Fun, but the biggest surprises were heard around the Stanley and Estes Park from people who didn’t understand it was all just a game. Concerned commentary like “Isn’t that awful?” and “Did you hear about the boy who was kidnapped?” added to the twisted fun.

4 - “The Babadook”
4 - “The Babadook” Stanley Film Festival

4 - “The Babadook”

The premise sounded promising – a crazy kid, his downtrodden mother and a sinister presence in their house – but based on the post-screening conversations, this film delivered a punch and was far creepier than most filmgoers expected. "The Babadook" was a surprise among an all together stellar group of feature-length and short films that had otherwise stronger audience expectations.

5 - Horror Brunch
5 - Horror Brunch Stanley Film Festival

5 - Horror Brunch

Last year’s closing day brunch was a Carrie-themed treat, but this year’s brunch truly brought the house down. The tables were decorated after the Overlook Hotel (“The Shining"), while Hannibal Lecter carved meats and the oatmeal was served by a vomitus “Exorcist” doll. Deliciously disgusting, and audience awards were handed out, including top honors for the closing night mockumentary, “What We Do In The Shadows.”

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