FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS | BOOTH'S BLOG Interview With Kevin And Matt McManus Producers Of Slumlord
By James Whittington, Thursday 3rd September 2015
One of the stand-out movies for me at FrightFest was Slumlord which was directed by Victor Zarcoff and produced by Matt and Kevin McManus it’s a tense and nerve tingling thriller played by a superb cast. Here the McManus Brothers chat about this cracking movie.
HC: How did you get into producing movies?
MB: We’ve been making movies since we were kids. We started out with a production company we created back in elementary school with our best friend, Andy Gould. Considering our initials, we only thought it natural to name the company MGM2. We’ve been making movies ever since. We used to make a lot of horror movies back in high school, so we’ve been itching to do a full horror feature for a while now.
HC: Are you two big horror movie fans?
MB: For sure. We’ve always had a love for the genre. We used to make haunted houses for the neighbourhood kids before we made movies. The kids would go through our house where they would see our friends act out scenes from our favourite horror movies and stories. The haunted house made for an easy transition into making horror movies ourselves. There’s something so satisfying about creating something and then watching it affect the audience.
HC: Why did you decide on Slumlord as a project and were you nervous that writer Victor Zarcoff hadn’t directed a feature before?
MB: We’ve always been a bit afraid of the possibility that there could be hidden cameras in the places you would never expect. I feel like that phobia is pretty common, and now with the prevalence of surveillance cameras on the rise, it’s becoming something that genuinely happens a lot. There are tons of stories out there about landlords videotaping their tenants, and the fear really struck a chord with us. If you want to see something really scary, look up hidden cameras online. They can sneak a camera into anything from a tissue box to a bottle of water.
HC: Were you involved with the casting? Neville Archambault who plays lowdown landlord Gerald is outstanding, creating one of the most sinister movie characters of recent times?
MB: We couldn’t be happier with Neville’s performance. When he came in to audition it was a no brainer to hire him. He encapsulated the role so perfectly, but you could still see the humanity behind his eyes. I remember showing our fellow producer, Ethan Rosenberg, the footage and he asked us, “Is this guy self aware?” His performance was so realistic, that Ethan was literally worried about having a crazy person on set. In reality, Neville is one of the kindest and most disarming guys I’ve met. He’s just that good of an actor.
HC: Did he stay in character during takes?
MB: There was one day where Neville has a particularly creepy scene with Brianne (Claire in the movie), I think it was their first scene together. When we were rolling, he was intensely scary, but between takes he’d break character and chat her up. You could tell he didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable around him. They would laugh and talk about other projects, and then once we’d go up for another take, he’d just turn it on again and be even more terrifying than before.
HC: Talking of Gerald, what do you think his backstory is?
MB: We played around with the idea of giving Gerald a monologue where he talks about where he comes from, and specifically the poor hand he’s been dealt in life, but ultimately decided it wasn’t the right direction to go. Gerald is trapped inside his own body, and by keeping his dialogue rather sparse, it helps add to his isolation. He has a real struggle with this animalistic compulsion and doesn’t know how to cope with it without resorting to extreme measures. This is all because he ultimately has no idea how to interact with the world around him.
HC: Did you spend much time on set?
MB: It was a 10 day shoot, which was pretty insane. Basically there was no time for downtime between takes. Our cinematographer, Jess Dunlap, is incredibly talented and able to work fast while still making the film look beautiful. Our actors had to be on point as well. PJ (who played Ryan) said the film almost felt more like a play. They would try to get their performance perfect in a take or two. It was a blast to shoot this way, but there’s a lot of balls to keep up in the air. I think the next time around we’ll probably add a few more days to the shoot!
HC: There are a number of urban horror movies over recent times, which ones stand out for you?
MB: As you'd probably expect, It Follows definitely stands out. It was such an amazing ride. It’s everything you want from a horror film.
HC: What do you think will be the next big thing in horror?
MB: It’s so hard to predict. I hope we see a turn toward more three dimensional characters. The horror films that I love revolve around characters I recognize in the real world. Whether it’s Rosemary’s Baby, The Shining, or The Babadook, I love horror films with characters that feel relatable. It heightens the stakes and gives you so much more to latch onto.
HC: Are you nervous when your movies are played at festivals?
MB: We’re usually just really excited. Finally watching a film with an audience is why we do this in the first place. When you get that first audible reaction, any nervousness you may be feeling just washes away. That’s the great thing about horror films and comedies. If you’re doing it right, the audience will let you know.
HC: So, what projects are you working on at the moment?
MB: We try to keep a lot of irons in the fire, so right now we’re working with a few friends on producing a new feature to be written and directed by a close collaborator some time next year. On the writing side, we’ve just wrapped up a draft of a new screenplay we’re hoping to get going soon, and we’re working on a rewrite on a feature about fire fighters in Detroit. We’ve got a lot of stories we’re excited about and can’t wait to get back on set soon!
HC: Kevin and Matt McManus, thank you very much.
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