In an exclusive interview with Villain Media, executive producer Ed McKeever talks about the raw and intense thriller, 100 Acres of Hell. Find out what happens when wrestling champion Buck Sever (Snitsky) clashes with the backwoods slasher, Jeb Tucker (Sam Anoai).
Former wrestling champion Buck Sever (Snitsky) endures a family tragedy and injury that ends his career. When his pals invite him to an abandoned game preserve to forget about his problems, they soon run into a legendary backwoods madman known as Jeb Tucker (Anoai).
With 100 Acres of Hell now available on VOD and DVD, co-screenwriter Ed McKeever talks about how the plot came about, how Gene Snitsky brought Buck Severs to life, and developing the action/horror sequences. Check out our review of 100 Acres of Hell as we head over to the writer’s studio to discuss the craft of storytelling.
Villain Media: Tell me how the premise for 100 Acres of Hell came about.
Ed McKeever: My partner, Jason Koerner, and I were introduced to former WWE superstar, Gene Snisky, or as he was known in pro wrestling as SNITSKY, by an actor in a film we were producing. After meeting Gene, we discovered he was a very friendly guy who was fun to be around and told great stories. He expressed interest in pursuing a lead role in a feature.
Before becoming a wrestling superstar, Gene had done a tremendous job as a heavy in some films, including a Bollywood action film and commercials. Most recently, he had been a notorious heel in WWE. So immediately, we thought he would make a great Jason Voorhees or a Michael Myers type killer. After throwing some ideas around, including a slaughterhouse killer or vengeful backwoods maniac, we began thinking Snitsky is more Batman than Leatherface, and had all the makings of a film hero.
You do not often see a lead in a horror film with Gene’s physical presence or athletic ability. And if you did, how scary would the killer have to be? This idea intrigued us! A killer so scary, he can dispatch a group of guys that can handle themselves and drop an a$$ whooping on the former heavyweight champion of the world.
Then Gene told us about a friend’s property in the coal region of Pennsylvania, who was not opposed to us filming there. A property on a coal mountain with old cars, years of farming equipment and dilapidated structures. It had an old trailer that sat on a pond we named Foggy Creek, and the idea of the camping trip guys versus an inbred mutant cannibal was born.
VM: 100 Acres of Hell sets up the antagonist first as a dangerous and deadly threat, who preys on Eileen Deitz, who’s seen as Betty Oswald. Tell me about starting the movie off with this horror sequence.
EM: We wanted to start the film out in the past to show how long Old Jeb Tucker has been a threat to the people of Foggy Creek. A backwoods neanderthal who does not want anyone living near him or invading his domain. Setting up the folklore of Jeb, it’s also demonstrating exactly how monstrous an individual he is.
It is established that around 40 years ago. some people had bad run-ins with the Tuckers, including Betty Oswald as portrayed by The Exorcist’s Eileen Dietz. The backstory is fun and gives us the ability to have characters that have heard of the legend, but are not sure where the legend starts and the real danger begins.
Having Eileen in the beginning of the film also made it a lot of fun for us. She is a highly visible face in the horror genre, has worked with huge directors, and nailed it every take. This gave us the ability to create a really cool backstory that was both well acted and aesthetically pleasing.
Another cool nugget about that opening is how our actor/producer Ernie O’Donnell helped us recreate that vintage 1970s look with the old TV, period decor, appliances and wall art. Ernie, who is a carpenter by trade, also dressed the set of the awesome cabin. He did a bang-up job that added to the opening’s authenticity. This film was all hands on deck.
VM: Buck Severs (Gene Snitsky) is such an interesting character. Not only is Buck a blue collar everyman, he almost feels ashamed of his popularity. Buck may have been an icon in the past, but he feels traumatized by a tragedy. Tell me about creating Buck Severs with Gene Snitsky.
EM: Gene is terrific in the role of Buck! I mean his acting is really awesome and the wrestling background was a perfect fit. He gives all the subtle nuances of a man in pain and recently affected by a horrible personal family occurrence that changed his entire life. His range of emotion in the film is sophisticated in its approach. At times, he’s angry and other times, vulnerable and sad.
Much of the inspiration of his character was from Gene himself, who had recently dealt with his own tragedy, with the unexpected passing of his brother. This is something Gene has discussed in interviews. The passing caused him depression and was the impetus of the Buck character.
We added the in-ring injury, the delusioned sense of fame, and an unprecedented set of circumstances to create a character that is both relatable and interesting. Also, Gene really wanted to play a character that would make an impact. He dove in head first and worked tremendously hard to please including long cold nights, massive script notes and input. He also endured numerous hours of fight scenes, rehearsals, and numerous takes to get the shot required. Buck is a great character that Snitsky made his own. We are all proud of Gene’s performance and dedicated the movie, “In Loving Memory of Derek James Snisky.”
VM: The first act introduces the male bonding experience between Buck Severs (Gene Snitsky), Morgan Childs (Ernest O’Donnell), and Bo McKeever (Jim Roof). Tell me about developing the road trip.
EM: The Bros, as we call them, is the whole story we wanted to tell from the beginning, and wanted to convey most genuinely. These guys have known each other for most of their lives and need the ability to reconnect. They choose these trips or adventures to catch up on old times. They have all had different levels of success, and dealt with their own personal experiences and hardships openly. We wanted to tell their stories and show how they all affected each other’s lives for both good and bad.
Buck’s character has as much an effect on their lives; as they have on his. Most importantly, they come together to help Buck through the most difficult time in his life.
I believe there is an old adage. You don’t pick your friends. Your friends pick you. That is the dynamic here. Four old friends that have been through thick and thin. Although now middle-aged, they still show a lot of growing up still needs to be done. They attempt to tackle the hard subject of Buck’s loss and also choose to support him, by just being the same he guys he grew up with. They talk trash, chase women, drink too much, and treat each other like clowns.
Actors Ernie O’Donnell, Jim Roof, and Jeff Swanton did a phenomenal job of showing these very different characters, who have outgrown one another in many ways, but still manage to rally together in their attempt to cheer up an old friend. These gentlemen made for an enjoyable set and worked wonderfully together.
Ernie and Jeff worked together previously and had known each other for years, which showed in their very similar mannerisms, choice of wardrobe, and general chemistry. Both had impressive acting skills and a deep love for film. Ernie impressed us so much with his overall film knowledge during the pre-production portion of the process, we invited him aboard as producer before filming began. He helped shape the film as well as the brand of 100 Acres of Hell. Jim is a well seasoned actor, who has been in a bunch of indie films, who fit in with the group immediately. They took these four very different guys and made them a cohesive unit.
VM: What I really enjoyed about the movie is how the female characters stand out on their own. Sissy (Catherine Corcoran), Brooklyn (Brittany Ineson), and Kitty (Katie Walsh) have so much personality. Tell me about developing the female perspective into the narrative.
EM: All of these ladies are fine actresses, which made our job much easier. They each brought their own unique style to the production. In fact, I feel we perhaps underwrote the female characters in the initial script. We wanted to showcase the Brooklyn character as a tough as nails Biker Chick and Brittany brought that to life. At first, she’s a quiet, strong female character who builds to a no-nonsense leader.
Sissy and Kitty were written as local girls who enter the story to both add a youthful and carefree quality to the persons going to Foggy Creek. They are characters that show up to the party with a former wrestling superstar, but actually have much more depth. They help us learn about the Tucker legend and life in this little slice of nowhere America.
We brought the female characters as devices of the story and not as victims. We only had a few pages to develop them, but they each had their own story to tell.
Kitty longs to get away from life in a small town and her attraction — although obviously not in a sexual manner — to Buck is pretty apparent. She sees Buck as somebody who lives a life she may prefer outside of the small Pennsylvania coal town. Katie Walsh portrays this in a subtle manner and is quite effective.
Sissy is another character portrayed amazingly well by Catherine Corcoran. By the way I have been a huge fan of since I saw her in Troma’s Return To Nuke Em High and continue to be delighted with in performances in films such as Terrifier and Long Lost. We never really discussed Sissy’s backstory, but it is pretty obvious she is local small town beauty type who is fun and sassy; she kind of rules the local scene of young adults. She also becomes much of the attraction to our letch of the group, Bo (Roof). Every minute she is on-screen, Catherine demands attention. She is capable of doing so much with the slightest change in her voice and body movement. She’s a real pro who added another layer talent to the finished piece.
I would love to see these characters develop even further if the chance presented itself.
VM: The climatic battle takes place between Buck Severs (Gene Snitsky) and Jeb Tucker (Sam Anoai aka Samu), in front of a burning campfire. It’s such a physical brawl between them; the scene is beautifully lit by the fire. Tell me about crafting this action sequence.
EM: The writing of this scene was stated perfectly in the original draft penned by Jason Koerner. And I quote, “They charged at each other like two rams!” That set the tone for the whole sequence! We knew we wanted the fight to be by firelight and moonlight because we wanted natural sources of light in this barren no man’s land. We managed to get two of the most physically impressive and athletic humans on Earth to fight in this perfectly balanced, staged battle to the death.
Samu was tremendous in that heavy costume and make-up with the visual expressions and brutally effective grappling. He beat Gene! He threw Gene! He stomped Gene! He chewed on Gene’s face! It was like a wonderfully beautiful ballet of violence!
Gene choreographed a good portion of the action with Samu before shooting. They both knew exactly how to make the scene flow using all of the available props and landscape strewn with old cars, vans and trucks. We also got the pleasure of working with Samu’s brother, Afa Anoa’i Jr., who performed as his stunt double. He took blows and bumps like I have never seen! What a tough guy! All of them just tough and humble guys who put in the work to make that scene really kick ass.
VM: How did 100 Acres of Hell change you as a storyteller?
EM: I learned a lot about writing what you can achieve with the assets you have available and writing to your abilities to deliver. Our production had a humble budget and we could have written a million things to really make the film more appealing to the eye. But we realized everything we were putting on paper needed to be accomplished in camera.
Hopefully, as our budgets increase, our imaginations can elevate to a higher scale. The prospect of watching Jeb flip cars, blow things up with flaming arrows, and such would be a whoot!
VM: How can the readers of Villain Media find your movie?
EM: 100 Acres of Hell just had a limited theater release, which may continue in some markets. The film is available on VOD Streaming platforms like iTunes, Amazon, AT&T, DirecTV, Redbox, Vudu, SonyPS4, FandangoNow, USAtvNOW and Cable Providers like Charter, Comcast and Frontier. The DVD will be available at retail locations this December from Indican Pictures and Lionsgate.
You can also order on the Indican Pictures website at https://www.indicanpictures.com/new-releases/100-acres-of-hell
Or follow our social media for all the updates @100AcresOfHell!
VM: What are you working on now?
EM: I am working on a kids wrestling comedy called Mat Rats about a down on his luck pro wrestling manager, who sells ice cream by day and promotes indie wrestling spectacles at night. He sees a chance to coach a team of street kids to amatuer wrestling glory and win the girl of his dreams.
We are launching a crowd-funding campaign in the new year to shoot the first thirty pages for a pitch deck, or attempt to sell as a series. Readers can find out more at www.MatRatsMovie.com or from our social media, @MatRatsMovie.
You will recognize some familiar faces from 100 Acres including, Ernie O’Donnell who will play the titular smug villain, my son, Michael, who played the kid Zack in the 100 Acres diner scene, more former WWE Superstars, Charles Bronson Doppelganger and international action star Robert Bronzi, the amazing Catherine Corcoran in a lead role, my big briz Snitsky, and hopefully even more members of the world famous Samoan Dynasty wrestling family, and our friends, the Anoa’is.They are all amazing human beings I think the world of, and would be privileged to work with again.
Thank you Jorge and all the Villain Media readers! We appreciate you so much! The 100 Acres of Hell family grows every day and we love you all so much! We would like nothing more then to bestow some more installments from Foggy Creek! #Team100AcresOfHell
[Writer’s Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Links are highlighted in bold.]
Readers can find out more about 100 Acres of Hell here.