Monday, July 20, 2009

Mercy Brown

Our own vampire, Exeter’s Mercy Brown, gets her revenge in new film
Friday, July 17, 2009
By Michael Janusonis

Pity Mercy Brown.

Suspected of being a vampire in 19th-century Exeter, her coffin was taken from the crypt where it had lain for two months in the winter of 1892 while waiting for the ground to become soft enough for burial and dismembered to remove the “curse of the undead.” Her heart and liver were burned on the spot.

Yet even at the time of her death, medical records say Mercy died of tuberculosis, accounting for the blood stains on her mouth. The fact that her corpse was unchanged two months after her death is attributed to the freezing temperatures at the time which preserved her body, not vampirism.

Nevertheless, despite the facts, Mercy’s story is resuscitated every Halloween by at least one local TV station to frighten gullible viewers. Her grave is frequently visited by the curious who leave behind such doodads as plastic vampire teeth and black plastic roses.

But what’s this?

It’s nowhere near Halloween and yet here comes The Last American Vampire: Mercy’s Revenge.

The brainchild of brothers Donald and Paul Mantia, the 40-minute film was made during a hectic 14-hour shooting schedule last winter on Rhode Island locations with a budget of $1,200. “We made it on a credit card,” said Paul, the more introspective of the two who arrived for an interview carrying a fancy carved cane and wearing a neck brace, the aftermath of recent surgery.

Paul, 51, of Johnston, and Donald, 50, of North Providence, have been in the movie script business for the past nine years. “We have been trying to peddle scripts for a long time,” said Donald, who is eager and animated and often interrupts Paul with an anecdote or to emphasize a point boisterously.

Their drama about police corruption, A Means to an End, once won a screenwriting contest. And they’ve been to screenwriting cattle calls in New York City more than once where writers each get five minutes to pitch their script ideas to a roomful of producers. The Mantia brothers’ say the 14 scripts they’ve written so far run the gamut from dramatic fare — police corruption, an upcoming historical drama about a race-related lynching in the South — to comedies. Until The Last American Vampire, they hadn’t tackled a horror script, but decided to try their luck when Providence filmmaker Michael Corrente put out the call two years ago seeking scary movie scripts that could be made cheaply on Rhode Island locations. The Mantias wrote a script that brought Mercy Brown into contemporary time, rising from her grave to terrorize a group of twentysomethings after their car gets stuck in the mud of Exeter on the way to a party.

When Corrente didn’t bite at their vampire script, the Mantias decided, said Donald, “How about we do it ourselves?”

And so they did, gathering a cast of unknowns from the Web site who were willing to work for zip, more desperate for screen credits than for cash. “They came from Connecticut and Boston to be in the film,” said Donald, still amazed. “They didn’t know us, but they came because they wanted a chance.”

They put it on video last Valentine’s Day in a 14-hour shoot on five locations that included an impressive looking scene that was set at Pocasset Cemetery. “We wanted to use St. Ann’s Cemetery” in Cranston, said Donald. “It’s our family cemetery. But after the priest read the script, he wouldn’t allow us to film there.” Small wonder. The script features a red-robed priest, played by Paul himself with a big crucifix hanging from his neck, overseeing Mercy Brown’s exhumation and urging her top-hatted father to drive a stake through his daughter’s heart.

The Last American Vampire: Mercy’s Revenge is pretty unpolished with some of the actors giving unconvincing readings. Sometimes they seem to be trying to remember what their next line is and stumbling over their efforts. Some of it looks good, however, especially the cemetery scenes. The contemporary scenes have a surprising amount of profanity, though, as well as sexual situations. There is a nice punch line, however, which seems a fitting end to a good short story (the film is only 40 minutes long). The DVD is expected to go on sale for $14 on’s Video on Demand site July 20.

If their Vampire flies, or maybe even if it doesn’t, the Mantias have big plans for where they want to go as not only filmmakers, but distributors. They’ve established their own Web site —, where you can be connected to the Amazon offering once it’s available — that they hope will one day provide exposure not only for their own ventures, but for other filmmakers and entertainers. “You can bypass the middle man,” said Donald, adding that “You can do films very cheaply today. With the Internet, everyone has access to the world.” They foresee that world as a place where Hollywood studios and producers become unnecessary as everyone has access to do their own thing and present it to the universe.

“There’s a lot of great talent out there,” added Paul, “but right now the public is not able to see them. The bottom line is that we finally figured out that with the technology available today, you don’t have to wait for someone to come along and produce your script.” They believe the day is at hand when they can present their work and the works of others as downloads, charging only for the time the material is viewed. “You pay for what you use,” explained Donald. “If you use five minutes, you pay for five minutes.”

“Eight years ago we knew this was going to happen,” said Paul. Now that day is dawning and their ship may be pulling in. “We want to put our stuff out to the public and let the public decide.”

To which Donald added, “Let Hollywood be a dinosaur.”

No comments:


Blog Archive


Google Analytics