Something strange came to North Bend in August. I had the distinct pleasure of driving out to one of my favorite small towns to enjoy the inaugural North Bend Film Fest. Most well known as the setting for Twin Peaks, North Bend is a stunning little city that serves as a gateway to the Cascade Mountains on the 30-minute drive out from Seattle. It’s charming, atmospheric, and just a little strange—an ideal location for a vanguard genre festival to take up roots. I’m eager to collect more strange memories in the years to come, but for now, I’m recapping some of my favorites from 2018.
A Gasping, Squirming Audience
The uncomfortably tense and disturbingly funny Piercing was a theatrical experience worthy of a late-night drive out to the mountains. As the film’s morbidity ramped, so did the amount of air escaping moviegoers’ lungs. I’m not sure if the North Bend crowd knew what they were getting into as they purchased tickets for Nicolas Pesce’s giallo-inspired S&M thriller, but shortly after the credits roll, there’s no questioning the level of fucked you are about to experience. Piercing took home the Special Jury Award in the “Something Strange” category. Read Ben Larned’s review from Sundance here.
Self-Induced Sugar Coma from Cherry Pie and Hot Chocolate
Despite the fact that I grew up in the area and the fact that I’m not much of a Twin Peaks fan, I still did the tourist thing at Twede’s Cafe, because of course I did. I made the happy mistake of ordering hot chocolate (I don’t drink coffee) AND a cherry pie nestled beside a scoop of sickeningly sweet whip cream. Su-su-su-su-sugar high!
The Weird Little Mountain Town
North Bend is simply gorgeous. Encircled by misty mountains, dotted by evergreens and jagged rock formations, the town is shrouded in this unmistakeable moody feeling. North Bend embraces its characteristic aura by playing up the quirkiness in its historic shopping center, just as it embraces the surrounding natural beauty with approximately 4 billion outdoorsy things to do.
A Mystical Experience in a Hemlock Grove
It began as VR gameplay with a soothsayer and ended with interactive theater in a remote cabin. Every moment of The Anabellee Experience was bizarre in all the best ways. Anabellee’s followers assisted me in setting up the VR headset, where I first met Anabellee in digital form to receive my tarot card reading. Next, they made me a bracelet, handed me a card, and told me I’d be contacted later with additional instructions. Fast forward to me driving up Snoqualmie Pass in search of a rustic cabin, where I met Anabellee in the flesh. Together, we scavenged the woods for the ingredients to my potion, which is keeping me safe from the dark forces to this very day. The North Bend Film Fest crew truly supplied an “experience” that I won’t forget.
Closing with Much-Needed Holiday Cheer
The penultimate film of the fest, Sarah Plays a Werewolf, was so depressing that it felt obscene to clap when the credits rolled. Instead, we sat there in gut-punched silence. Enter the Christmas zombie musical known as Anna and the Apocalypse to jingle our sad little bells as the closing night film. The crowd laughed, danced, and cried out as ironic showtunes played against blood-spewing apocalyptic carnage. Check out Brad McHargue’s Fantastic Fest review. The festivities continued at the final party, which featured Christmas music, presents, and holiday lights wrangled across the venue with hasty charm. I must say, it felt so right to celebrate Christmas in August — a strange way to send off a strange film festival.