The Haunt Halloween Trail; photo by Robin Catalano.
The Haunt Halloween Trail; photo by Robin Catalano.

Weekend Picks: The Haunt: Forest Frights in New Lebanon; FilmColumbia

For this edition of our Weekend Travel Pick, we’ve got a Columbia County, New York, twofer: one of the region’s best film festivals, and some spooky pre-Halloween fun.

The Haunt: Forest Frights in New Lebanon

Go ahead. Ring the doorbell.

Then push open the creaky gate—the one with the blinking eyeball—and be plunged into the darkness, with only an itty-bitty flashlight, some caution tape, and your own sense of self-possession to guide you. You’re in The Haunt, Columbia County’s newest spookfest. For the next 40 minutes, you’ll wander a twisting haunted Halloween trail in the woods of New Lebanon—which, if I’m being honest, can be pretty hair-raising all on their own at night.

Once inside, you’ll go from scene to eerie scene featuring projections, fog, special effects, whispering voices, and dozens of dangling creepy-crawlies. And did I mention the escape trailer?

There are a few good startles along the trail, especially if you’re like me and have a phobia of clowns and creepy babies. Littler visitors will find plenty of reasons to scream, while grown-ups will get a kick out of some of the more elaborate setups; the amount of time and attention to detail that went into the various vignettes is impressive.

The Haunt is good, kitschy fun for families and groups. Remember to take a picture with the (literally) two-faced hostess, and you can visit again for free on weekends and on Halloween night.

$20 per person; kids 12 and under get in free

FilmColumbia: Chatham’s Acclaimed Film Festival

Now in its twentieth year, FilmColumbia returns to the bite-size urban center of Chatham from October 18 through 27. This eight-day festival has grown in reputation over the years, and is now a must-stop for film critics and aficionados in the tri-state area.

Here’s one thing that makes the 21st Century so cool: online previews. Yes, you can check out the trailers to almost all of the films showing in FilmColumbia. Remember though, sometimes the actual film can be something quite different than the trailer bills it as, so read up on the flick prior to ticket purchase (also something you can do these days that wasn’t so easy; screenshot courtesy of https://crandelltheatre.org.

This year, FilmColumbia will screen 50 films, plus host feature panels, screenwriting workshops, and Q&A sessions with filmmakers. The selections include works from major studios and independents, buzzy international films, documentaries aplenty, children’s shorts, and animated features. Many of the selections have already received major accolades from some of the world’s best-known festivals—such as Cannes, Venice, and Telluride—and it’s not unusual for them to go on to Oscar nominations (like last year’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Green Book, and Shoplifters).

One of the nicest parts about FilmColumbia is that it’s not about see-and-be-seen parties and red carpet posing. It’s a serious-minded yet casual and convivial gathering of people who enjoy the heck out of great films, and want to experience them in the more intimate historic space of the Crandell Theatre.

$13 per day film; $17 per evening film for nonmembers ($11/$14 for Crandell Theatre members). All-access passes run $220 to $275.

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Robin Catalano believes in the power of storytelling to connect communities and cultures. She’s applied her creative approach to writing for magazines, books, blogs, websites, and a wide variety of marketing projects, and has published more than 75 articles and 1,000+ blog posts. As an editor, she has worked on more than 350 books for publishers including Penguin Random House, Workman, and Simon & Schuster. She has also served as a book coach for independent authors, helping them take their ideas from concept to print. An avid traveler and travel writer, Robin lives, reads, and writes voraciously in upstate NY.

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