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Reeling in horror: Locally made film 'The Watermen' to premier in Virginia Beach

After years of planning, casting, fundraising, shooting, editing and promotion, a horror movie called "The Watermen" from Newport News filmmaker Matt Lockhart makes its blood-splattering premier tonight, April 19, in Virginia Beach.

Showtime is 7:30 p.m. at Beach Movie Bistro, with additional screenings 10:30 p.m. Friday April 20.

The independent slasher flick was shot in 2010 at locations around the Peninsula — Poquoson, Seaford and at Deep Creek Marina in Newport News. It's been shown at a handful of festivals and has won a few honors, including ones from the Tulsa International Underground Film Festival and the Los Angeles International Underground Film Festival.

Tonight's screening, though, represents the first time the movie's played to a general audience. Lockhart, who runs the Newport News video production company Seven Cities Media, is eager to see the reaction. He's made documentaries before, but this is his first feature film.

"It's a little B movie, but Sony hasn't called me much lately, Spielberg hasn't called," Lockhart said, smiling. "I've got to work with what I've got."

The film's budget of $1.15 million is tiny compared to that of major motion pictures, but "The Watermen" boasts a level of craftsmanship not associated with low-cost films.

New technology, along with Lockhart's own videography expertise, helped him keep costs under control, he said.

"I don't expect to win any Oscars, but we had fun doing it," Lockhart said after presenting an advance screening last week. "I definitely became an expert at squeezing the most of a production dollar."

The cast features a few seasoned professionals including Jason Mewes, an actor known for his roles in "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back," "Clerks," and "Mall Rats," as well as Richard Riehle who acted in"Casino" and "Office Space."

Locals filled out the cast. Local reggae musician Scott Davis plays one of the malevolent fishermen for whom the movie is named. The film's prime villain is played by Gordy Price, whose real-life day job is running the music instrument shop Pro Music and Sound in York County. Price has been pursuing work as an actor for years. "The Watermen" represents his biggest role yet.

"It isn't 'The Shining,' but it's better than most," Price said of the film. "It's decent, it's entertaining and it moves quick."

When he describes the movie as decent, he's not making a moral judgment. "The Watermen" is Rated R for nudity as well as bloody and gratuitous violence. Mewes shows a body part not often seen in mainstream cinema. Female stars of the movie go topless several times.

Lockhart said nudity helps a film gain distribution in some markets. "The goal, obviously, is to get a return on your investment," he said. "My mom isn't too proud of it, but ..."

The story told in "The Watermen" is set in the local area. It remains to be seen how seafood industry workers will react to this tale of murderous mischief at the bait shack.

"Watermen are good people — I've known them my whole life," Price said. "It's like anything. You could have a movie about a bad doctor, but that doesn't mean all doctors are bad. It's just a fun horror movie."

Want to go?

What: Premier of "The Watermen" a film by Newport News' Matt Lockhart

When: 7:30 p.m., Thursday, April 19, with additional screenings at 10:30 p.m. Friday, April 20

Where: Beach Movie Bistro, 941 Laskin Road, Virginia Beach

Tickets: $12

More information: http://www.beachmoviebistro.com, http://www.thewatermenmovie.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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