Maniac Farmer (2018) reviews and overview

 
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Maniac Farmer is a 2018 American horror feature film written and directed by Matthew Williams (Presidents’ Day Massacre; short: The Honeymoon Suite) The WillCoFilms production stars Jake Roark, Tyler Caldwell and Jeremy Snead.

Plot:

A group of street punks led by the murderous Blasphemous Rex meet their match when they choose to terrorise a seemingly helpless farmer who ends up turning the tides on the group, and the hunters become the hunted…

Review:

“Although there is some gore we focus more on the characters and there are some very chilling moments that let the images speak for themselves rather than using cheesy dialogue. Not everything is explained with certain scenes left deliberately ambiguous, which in turn only adds to the intrigue…” Paul Downey, Bloody Flicks

Cast and characters:

  • Jake Roark … The Farmer
  • Tyler Caldwell … Blasphemous Rex
  • Jeremy Snead … Lenhardt
  • Alexander Davis … Dunigan
  • Hannah Davis … Dot
  • Tyler Ward … Pin Pal
  • Jake Mosley … Skit-Skat
  • Matt McNew … Sly
  • Cody Gay … Barry Yolander
  • Deanna Karr … Helen Yolander
  • Opal Williams … The Mother
  • Doyle Huskey … Anderson
  • Kat Wagers … Liquor Store Clerk

Interview with Matthew Williams by Meredith Brown:

Meredith: Judging by its trailer, Maniac Farmer seems to be an ode to 80’s slaughterhouse films. Was this your intention, to write a homage to the original slasher flicks?

Matthew: Honestly, I’d consider it more of an ode to 70s horror, like Texas Chain Saw Massacre with a subtle drop of A Clockwork Orange. While the film never explicitly states what year it takes place in, it definitely achieves a 70s aesthetic with the cars, the hairstyles, and the CBGB-inspired punk rock attire of the thuggish villains. I’d compare it to the way that Pulp Fiction strives for the same feeling of 1970s Los Angeles while being set in present-day (which was 1994 at the time, of course).

Meredith: What brought on this project and premise for Maniac Farmer?

Matthew: The plot for Maniac Farmer originated from my desire to write a horror film in which you rooted for the killer. So, I wrote this screenplay about the most despicable villain you could imagine – a murderous street punk who calls himself Blasphemous Rex – who gets captured and tortured by someone even worse: the Maniac Farmer.

Funny enough, Maniac Farmer began as an idea for a fake trailer to play before an earlier film of mine (Presidents’ Day Massacre), inspired by Tarantino and Rodriguez’s Grindhouse, and from there, it became a concept for a short film, and then into the feature it is now.

Meredith: Tell me about some of your filmmaker influences and how have they contributed to the script and direction of Maniac Farmer?

Matthew: Some of my biggest influences include Tarantino, Scorsese, the Coen Brothers, Nolan, the list goes on forever.

When I first started out, just like every young filmmaker, I tried to emulate the styles and themes of a lot of my influences. Sometimes I even questioned if I would ever be able to find my own footing in filmmaking. Over the years and through the multiple films I’ve worked on, however, I can proudly say that I’ve discovered some of my own originality and it’s really quite liberating when you finally see something in your movie that you put there not because one of your idols did it, but because it felt right to you and is now a mark left on a piece of art, almost like a signature.

Meredith: You have two full features under your belt listed as “Vernon Metzinger Presents…” Who is Vernon and can you tell me more about those projects?

Matthew: The history of Vernon Metzinger goes back to 2014 when I began work on my first serious foray into film: Presidents’ Day Massacre, a comedy/horror that was drenched in 1980s horror tropes and parody. However, because of the film’s heavy comical approach, I became self-conscious of potential negative reception. Therefore, I invented a producer who I could essentially make the “fall guy,” so to speak. It instantly became a fun gag that this fictional producer Vernon Metzinger would have produced dozens of “so bad they’re good” horror films over the course of several decades – imagine him as an Ed Wood type.

Metzinger’s second film – Thunder Boat – was a comedic thriller about a psychopath named Bryan Shelby who begins terrorising his fortune-teller Melony after his predicted fortunes don’t pan out. This film remains unreleased, but it did win in its category at Scarefest Film Fest in Lexington KY in 2016.

Maniac Farmer was originally intended to be Metzinger’s third film, but my writing on this one took a more serious turn. I don’t consider Maniac Farmer a comedy, but there is still a certain level of humor to it that I contribute to my natural style of writing. Therefore, as Maniac Farmer dropped some of the satire that existed in Presidents’ Day Massacre and Thunder Boat, it felt inappropriate to include Metzinger’s name. With that, I officially retired Vernon Metzinger.

Aside from these three horror films, I also wrote and directed a western short film titled Rush 91 that was featured in several film festivals, and an unreleased comedy/drama feature called Chaser.

Meredith: How did you get into filmmaking? Can you share your beginnings in the industry?

Matthew: Since I was a kid, I’ve had a camera in my hand, filming everything that crossed my path. As I grew up, I started writing, never really believing that filmmaking was a viable option. It wasn’t until I was in college that I realized that filmmaking wasn’t just for Hollywood – that with the help of modern technology and networking, I could do it in Kentucky, where I live. And, so, I gathered my friends, co-wrote a horror/comedy called Presidents’ Day Massacre, and then over the course of the next year, it was filmed and edited.

Presidents’ Day Massacre got into the Scarefest Film Festival in Lexington KY in 2015, which got it some attention from the local horror film community. Through these contacts, I was able to connect with other indie filmmakers, such as PJ Starks (who executive produces Maniac Farmer). PJ has put me in contact with a ton of people, including Rocky Gray – the former drummer of Evanescence – who wrote the score for Maniac Farmer.

Meredith: Is horror your “go-to” genre? What do you find appealing about this particular sect of movies?

Matthew: Honestly, no, I originally chose to make a horror film (Presidents’ Day Massacre) because I felt like it would be easy. Now here I am years later and realise that the genre has no say-so on the difficulty of the making of the film – it’s about teamwork, cooperation, patience, and the willingness to step outside a comfort zone.

Horror movies, for me, are a coin toss. I usually love them or hate them. That being said, my interest in horror movies has steadily raised over the last few years, and I believe that the last decade has produced some of the best horror movies we’ve seen in a long time, such as It Follows, Hush, and especially A Quiet Place.

I love grossing people out with my movies, which I think is clear after you watch Maniac Farmer. Hearing someone say “eww” or watching people turn their heads while you watch your movie in a theater setting is strangely satisfying – it makes you feel like the scene has done its job.

Aside from horror movies, my big genres I’d like to pursue would be dramas and westerns.

Meredith: Tell me about some of your proudest moments since you have become a filmmaker…

Matthew: Interviews like this make me prouder than you know. It’s a very exceptional feeling you get when someone asks you questions about something you’re passionate about and they’re truly interested in what you have to say.

But, by far the moment that felt most surreal was when I walked onto the stage after our premiere screening of Maniac Farmer at the Lyric Theatre on March 30th. The crowd applauded, I invited the cast on stage with me, and I looked out at the audience, seeing family, friends, and even strangers, and it nearly brought me to tears.

As a filmmaker, director, producer, any term you want to throw out – the goal is to entertain. To tell a story that people want to listen to or watch. And in that moment, I felt like I had succeeded.

Meredith: Any fall back plans if you were unable to “make it” in this industry?

Matthew: I have a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Communications with a focus on entertainment writing. I have worked as a freelance writer on-and-off since college, as well as working as a videographer for weddings, music videos, and political campaign videos.

But, if the day came when I decided I would no longer pick up a camera, then I’d shift my focus into writing. I started writing at a young age because I loved to tell stories; it was as I got older that I learned it wasn’t impossible for me to put these ideas and stories on film. I will always be a writer; there will never be a version of me who doesn’t write.

Meredith: What are some of your favourite films, both horror and even mainstream?

Matthew: I’m not sure that anyone can truthfully answer this question. No matter what films I listed, I’d suddenly remember ten more tomorrow that I forgot about. Big films that I find myself re-watching a lot include Star Wars, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Fargo, Inglorious Basterds . . . Way too many to list. Those are just the tip of the iceberg.

But if I single out horror films, then the top contenders would probably be the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Thing, Day of the Dead, Jaws, and some of the more modern ones like It Follows, Hush, Get Out, Train to Busan, and A Quiet Place.

Meredith: Where do you see the indie film market in five or ten years?

Matthew: I honestly don’t know. At one point, I thought it might be easy to predict where it was heading, but it’s starting to prove me wrong. It wasn’t that long ago that my home state of Kentucky had been bordering on the edge of becoming a big film state like Georgia or Texas, but as of lately, those hopes have faded away, unfortunately. At least for now.

As the indie film market as a whole, though? I’m not sure who it was that said it, and I’m sure I’m butchering it, but there’s a quote that’s stuck with me over the last few years: “It is now easier than ever to make it as a filmmaker, and it’s also harder than ever.”

Because of YouTube, and iPhones, and DSLRs, making a film is at nearly everyone’s fingertips. It’s inexpensive, it’s good quality, and there’s a lot of it. But, because of that, it fogs up the clarity, putting out more content than ever, meaning it’s harder for you to break through to the other side because of the abundance of content available. It’s something I’m facing head-on, and getting to participate in interviews like this truly makes me feel like I’m making headway.

Meredith: After Maniac Farmer releases, what other projects are you working on that you can share with me?

Matthew: I’ve recently gotten a job at Corbin Independent High School in Corbin KY to work with the media department to produce a feature film sometime in the next year. With summer beginning, we’ve just now begun to sit down and start putting things into motion.

Aside from that, I’m open to the possibility of a Maniac Farmer 2, depending on the reception of the first film, and I’ve always got other ideas in the back of my mind ready to be transferred from script to screen. Regardless of what the next project is, I’m eager to get to it.

Meredith: Tell me who would be a dream to work with – writing, directing, acting or even sitting down to interview over coffee?

Matthew: How could I pick just one? A few of my favourite actors are Ryan Gosling, Robert De Niro, Kurt Russell, and Christian Bale, and any of them would be a dream to even meet. I think that Natalie Portman is one of the most talented actresses of this generation. I’d love to sit down with Lawrence Kasdan, and especially pick his brain about Star Wars. And as for a director? I’d have to go with Martin Scorsese, whose work probably influences me the most without me even realising it. Especially because of the f-words.

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