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Manhunt Flips The Formula

By Gary Wien

This article was originally designed to be read in the October 2014 issue of
New Jersey Stage magazine. To read it in its original format, click here

When you think of horror films, chances are you imagine teenagers in peril. That's the classic formula but not what you'll find in Manhunt. In the upcoming horror flick from Jay Lee (Zombie Strippers!), we see what happens when a couple of guys who know how to take care of themselves wind up in a worst case scenario while on vacation with their lifelong pals. We're talking the ultimate wrestler versus psycho killer mountain man smack down!

Here's how the story is described on the film's website: For three years Buck Severs, World Wrestling Champion, has been M.I.A. After a family tragedy and a major injury in the ring, Buck decides to return to "Bro's Weekend" with his three best friends and try to put some perspective on his life. But Buck learns a little too late that the weekend will take place on a wildlife preserve, closed for 40 years, a vast, densely forested no-man's land of no laws, no rangers, and no rules. He will also find out a little too late that on the preserve lives a wild man, a feral and inbred killer whose one pleasure is to hunt the humans that dare to trespass onto his domain. It will be up to Buck to find the fighter within himself if he is to survive the weekend.

Ed McKeever, one of the producers of the film reached out to New Jersey Stage and said they were trying to get to the next level and do something different by shooting a kind of badass horror movie with bikers, deranged mountain men, great fight scenes, and a good story line. We said, "You had me at badass."

"It's fine to have the teenager in peril and the young girl, but we want to see some guys out there that can kick ass," said McKeever. "And it's known from the beginning that they can kick ass. That's the difference with this film, you know these guys can handle themselves. It means the killer has to become that much more scary because he's not going after teenage kids. The real incubus is what would happen if a bunch of guys who could handle themselves wind up fighting Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers."

McKeever is a Jersey guy who has produced several low budget horror films, including some shot in the Pine Barrens and Atlantic City areas. His role as producer involves connecting people and finding all of the different pieces of the puzzle. One of the biggest pieces is finding investors and finding the people that can help facilitate making the project "sexy" for investors. This means bringing on good actors, directors, the works. In this case, he's already got a director with a well known name in the business. Jay Lee's first feature, Noon Blue Apples, was an official selection of the 2002 Sundance Film Festival and his next release, The Slaughter, won a dozen awards on the festival circuit and was picked up by Lionsgate for distribution. His career continued to rise with the release of Zombie Strippers!

"We're going for broke with this," said McKeever. "We're not getting any younger. We're not that old, but we don't have that newness appeal anymore. We're all kind of established in our work life and the movies have always taken a back seat while we worked out our professional careers. Now it's time to go for the jugular. We want this movie to be over the top, fights, blowing up cars, destroying cabins - we want to make a movie that stands out! Jason Lee's name being associated with it will really help us with the distribution of the movie. We're hoping this is our foray into a bigger type of film, to catapult us to the next level, which would be shooting million dollar features."

McKeever draws on the classic horror films he saw as a kid for inspiration. Three films instantly pop out for him, The Exorcist, The Shining, and Jaws. "The Exorcist is a great film because of the way it was shot, it's just scary. The Shining was another beautifully shot film. And, to me, Jaws is the ultimate horror picture. It's got everything - comedy, drama, and what you absolutely need, an unbelievable protagonist!"

For more by this author, click here

Monmouth Arts Presents Sneak Peek Screening of “Never Look Away”
(RED BANK, NJ) -- See the movie before New York or Los Angeles! Monmouth Arts will provide another installation of its “Film Sneak Peek” series with Never Look Away, an epic tale of art and history spanning three turbulent decades of 20th-century Germany, on November 29 at Bow Tie Cinemas in Red Bank at 7:00pm. 
"The Brighton Bar - Home Of Original Music" Documentary To Be Screened In Long Branch
(LONG BRANCH, NJ) -- From the 1970s to today the Brighton Bar has been a live music venue and a staple of the New Jersey music scene.  On Wednesday, November 28th at 7:00pm, a free showing of The Brighton Bar - Home Of Original Music  - a documentary about the venue will be screened at The NJ Rep West End Arts Center.
Westfield IFF and James Ward Mansion Host Pop-Up Gin Joint with Movies at the Mansion
(WESTFIELD, NJ) -- Big Dreams & Silver Screens, the organization responsible for the Westfield International Film Festival, is happy to announce their end-of-year celebration and fundraiser, “Of All the Gin Joints” on December 6 at the James Ward Mansion. The evening is a Casablanca-inspired party that will feature a pop-up gin bar, light bites by Feast Catering, live music by Tony Mowatt, and a screening of Casablanca.  Westfield native, Francesca Rizzo will also be screening a complementary independent noir short film, Sullivan’s Last Call – “a sexy little film about celibacy.”
2018 International Film Festival Brings 4 Award Winning Foreign Films To Vineland
(VINELAND, NJ) -- Enjoy four highly-acclaimed award-winning recent foreign films representing diverse cultures at the 2018 International Film Festival, starting Monday, November 26, at the Levoy Theatre, 126-130 N. High St., Millville, NJ. The four films—A Fantastic Woman, The Interpreter, 1945, and Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me—will introduce the theatergoer to the universality of themes that are common to Jewish and other international themes. They are representative of the finest of today’s international cinematographic art.
NJSO presents Star Wars: A New Hope in concert on Thanksgiving weekend
(NEWARK, NJ) --The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra presents screenings of the complete film Star Wars: A New Hope with Oscar-winning composer John Williams’ musical scores performed live on Thanksgiving weekend, November 23–25. Performances take place in Red Bank, Newark, and New Brunswick.

REVIEW: "First Man"
The image that most defines the 20th century is that of a man standing on the surface of the moon. The man is astronaut Neil Armstrong, but we can’t see his face as he’s wearing a helmet, the glass of which reflects our collective achievement back at us. When he took a small step, we all took a giant leap with him, and Armstrong instantly became more than a mere man, a symbol. With First Man, director Damien Chazelle takes us inside the famous helmet, stripping away the symbol to tell the story of Armstrong the man.
REVIEW: "Halloween"
In 2013, John Carpenter’s Halloween received a 35th anniversary blu-ray release. The accompanying booklet credited the following line of dialogue to Jamie Lee Curtis’s babysitting heroine Laurie Strode: “Was it the boogeyman?” Of course, that’s a misquote. In the scene in question, Laurie admits to herself that “It WAS the boogeyman,” to which Donald Pleasence’s Doctor Loomis solemnly replies, “As a matter of fact, it was.”
REVIEW: "Cold War"
Back in 2006, German cinema scored something of a breakout global hit with Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Lives of Others, which followed the travails of a group of disgruntled, pro-western artists in communist era East Germany. At the time I couldn’t help viewing the protagonists of Von Donnersmarck’s drama as the sort of people who would be just as discontented with their lot if they found themselves living in the capitalist west. The grass is always greener on the other side.
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NJ Film Fest Preview: October 2018
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- The New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 runs from September 14 to October 26 on the Rutgers University Campus in New Brunswick, NJ. Showcasing new international films, American independent features, animation, experimental and short subjects, and cutting-edge documentaries, the New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 will feature over 30 film screenings.  

Event calendar
Monday, Nov 12, 2018


DAVID SANCIOUS & WILL CALHOUN @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:00pm

WHEN BROADWAY GOES DARK, VAN DYK GOES LIVE @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 7:00pm

Bickford Benefit All-Stars @ Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown - 7:30pm

In Dreams: Roy Orbison in Concert – The Hologram Tour @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 7:30pm

MUDDFEST 2019 @ Mainstage @ Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC), Rahway - 7:00pm


Elf The Musical @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 7:30pm

Auditions: Cinderella or the Story of Bigfoot @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 6:30pm


Free Solo @ The Newton Theatre, Newton - 7:00pm


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