The horror film, the horror film: On the set of the eminently quotable Mangrove Slasher II

Published April 28, 2010


After ducking out of an Emerson Point Preserve beach party, a young couple leans against a tree to make out. But as things get hot and heavy, a dark figure lurks in the muddy mangrove brush behind them. A sinister-looking man with filthy bloodstained overhauls emerges from the muck and slowly approaches the two unsuspecting teens. The metallic sching sound of two machete blades sliding across each other splits the air, followed by a shrill scream and a splatter of blood on the tree bark. The male victim thuds to the ground, holding his slit neck; the female gags as the killer grabs her throat.

“Cut!” yells Sean Haitz, turning to his partner Chris Potter to review the footage. “That was perfect.”

It’s all just another day and another bloody body on the set of Mangrove Slasher II: The Bloodbath Beach Party, a new independent short horror flick being filmed around Sarasota-Manatee. Director Haitz, 23, and co-director and director of photography Potter, 25, say the movie originally started as a music video for Haitz’s surf-punk band. “I wanted to do a long music video for my band The Jetties,” says Haitz. “I wanted to do something like Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ and have a killer in it. I just started writing and it turned into a movie. There still really isn’t a plot. That’s why I started at Mangrove Slasher Part II. The first one is lost and has never been seen.”

The young filmmakers have been working on the project for about seven months; they plan to wrap up shooting in mid-May with a tentative release date in mid-June. “When we first started nobody wanted to be involved with it,” says Haitz. “I had trouble just getting people out there because it is all free.” But things started to turn around after they posted the awesomely gruesome movie trailer online. “Once people saw that our Facebook page lit up with people saying, ‘I want to get killed. I want to be in this film,’” says Potter. “So the best thing we could ever have done is get that trailer up there. People already know catch lines from it. That’s what we’re going for — giant catch lines.”

Haitz follows up: “Yeah, we have so many taglines and one-liners in there it’s crazy. We’re trying to get some normal dialogue in there somewhere.”

It’s no wonder it’s gotten popular. Who wouldn’t want to get slashed up in a picture-perfect throwback to classic ’80s horror movie cheesiness? “If you’ve ever seen Jason 5 you know what’s going to happen right?” explains Haitz. “You’re going to see boobs within the first five minutes. You’re going to see lots of teens get slaughtered. And you’re going to be entertained. That’s basically what this movie is. … I’m a very comedic person. So I wanted to have that comedy in there and then some awesome death scenes. I want these kill scenes to make people go, ‘Holy shit.’ But then right after that you’re like, ‘What the fuck was that?’ cracking up. So it kind of messes with the audience.”

When developing the character of the mangrove slasher, played by Potter’s roommate Rick Svec, the directors looked to well-known killers for inspiration. “What’s cool about this character is he has duel machetes,” says Haitz. “When he sees his victims he brings them up from his back and starts sharpening them and then he just comes at you. Jason had a machete, but only one.” Potter chimes in: “We wanted him to be twice as intimidating as Jason, so we said, ‘How do we do that? We’ll use two machetes.’”

The two lifelong Sarasota locals are keeping the production and casting as local as possible. “The actors are all family and friends,” says Haitz. “What’s really cool is we’re shooting all the areas where I grew up. We’re shooting Emerson Point. That has been our spot because there’s nobody out there and it’s really cool.”

The main scene of the movie, a huge beach party involving about 100 extras, will be the glue that ties the film together. “It’s the central scene of our movie,” says Potter. “We have some flashbacks and then there’s some things that happen afterwards and during, but it all stems from that party.” Haitz explains: “At big parties everybody wants to venture out and do things that they might not want other people seeing them do with girls or with drugs or whatever. And that’s a big no-no in Mangrove Slasher territory. He doesn’t like people encroaching on his mangroves. He’s kind of like Smokey the Bear with forest fires, except with him it’s teenagers having fun.”

The beach party has yet to be shot and the filming location isn’t set in stone, but Haitz and Potter are bringing in a 40-foot crane for aerial shots and are confident that Sarasota and Bradenton locals will volunteer their bodies to fill the screen. And possibly get slashed up. “We’re shooting in 1985, ’86 and ’87 at the same time,” says Potter. “If you want to come out to the beach party you gotta be cheesy. It’s supposed to be cheesy, but you still gotta look ’80s. After we’re done filming everything is going to evolve into a real party. We’re going to have a keg and everything.”

Interested potential victims or beach party extras can contact the filmmakers via the Mangrove Slasher II Facebook fan page. You can also check out the trailer (also posted at top) and the totally bodacious ’80s-style rap song that will roll with the closing credits. “It’s a rap song called the ‘Mangrove Slasher Rap Song,’” says Haitz. “We got this white rapper and I told him to write it and pretty much diss every killer that’s ever been. He disses Freddie and Jason and Leatherface and Candyman. Basically, we’re just dissing everybody. Because Mangrove Slasher is the best.”

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