Warner Bros. Inc.
Courtesy photo / Stanley Hotel
The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting colder, and all anyone can talk about is the heralded arrival of the super blood moon — if ever there was a prime time to watch horror movies, this would be it.
It might not be what New York is to gangster movies, but Colorado has served as the setting for a healthy swath of horror movies: some classic, some craptastic. With sparsely populated mountain towns, isolating winter weather and no shortage of hapless busybodies primed to wander off alone, the state’s a logical fit for celluloid bloodbaths.
Start with the obvious, both for the state as a whole and the Front Range in particular — Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” from 1980. Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, it follows writer Jack Torrance (played by Jack Nicholson), his wife and child as he serves as the winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel in fictional Sidewinder, Colo. The film is considered standard horror viewing by many, and for good reason — it’s claustrophobic, atmospheric terror at its finest.
King originally based the Overlook in his novel on the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, just about an hour north of Boulder. While not actually used for shots in Kubrick’s version of “The Shining,” the hotel embraces its connection with the film and the story — including through the 2013 creation of the Stanley Film Festival. Held in May, the four-day event showcases classic and indie horror films alike.
The next spot in Colorado horror is a movie based on another Stephen King story, 1990’s “Misery.” James Caan plays Paul Sheldon, an author who survives a car wreck outside Silver Creek and is rescued by Annie Wilkes, a self-professed superfan. Kathy Bates won the best actress Academy Award for portraying Annie, an award duly deserved as she truly seems possessed by the spirit of a psychopathic cat lady.
Admittedly, the quality starts to take a dive after the two King-inspired flicks. Based in the fictional Snowfield, Colo., and filmed in Georgetown, 1998’s “Phantoms” brought some surprisingly big names, including Ben Affleck and Peter O’Toole, to a mostly forgettable sci-fi/horror flick. The movie focuses on an ancient being hellbent on erasing mankind one small mountain town at a time, and is mostly standard and silly ’90s horror fare. It’s not particularly great, but if you’re looking to pad an October scary-movie marathon, it’s worth a look. And Affleck is the bomb in “Phantoms.”
Next comes “Alien vs. Predator: Requiem,” which follows a ship chock-full of predators and xenomorphs that comes crashing down outside hapless Gunnison, Colo. It’s about as shitty as the first “Alien vs. Predator” film, only with an upped gore factor and an added predator/alien hybrid to draw in fans that might be pissed off from the first film’s PG-13 rating. “Reqium” doesn’t really work and is the most forgettable entry in either series, but if you’re seeking some cheesy alien gore, here you shall find it.
Colorado has some solid horror roots, and that’s not even digging into the direct-to-DVD crowd. Here’s hoping more directors will look to the mountains for inspiring terror.
Read more Nixon: coloradodaily.com/columnists.