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[Fantastic Fest] “Piggy” full of incredible heart and wonderful horror

To highlight the release of Handlerstar Nicky Whelan spoke to iHorror about how the film was made.

The latest killer shark movie, maneater, it shows no mercy and does a splendid job of providing a large body count. This movie got rave reviews, many hate it, but I plan to show this movie some love. The movie isn’t overwhelming or jaw-dropping, but I had a blast! Immediately, the audience gets the death and wastes no time setting up the story for more. The question is asked early on: “who will live and who will die?” Director Lee is not shy of the camera and has no qualms about lingering over the gore caused by the massive shark.

We’ve all seen different variations of the Great White Shark in our favorite shark movies; some are better than others. This shark changes quite a lot throughout the movie, quite noticeable in appearance and size, and this didn’t stop me from having a great time. Sometimes you do the best you can with what you have; I respect that with cinema and I’m just a shark movie lover, ha!

I think sometimes we don’t watch killer shark movies for the plot or the characters, but it’s a pure bonus when we get something more!

Despite many of the cast members being cast one by one, some very quickly, there was some character development, particularly with Jessie (Nicky Whelan). Jessie had just gotten out of a long-term relationship and her friends dragged her and “made” her to come with them to this tropical paradise. The story is kept relatively simple, and sometimes it can get a bit cliche, but heck, I didn’t mind; it was a damn good time!

MANEATER is now available in theaters, digitally and on demand from Saban Films.

Summary: Jesse and her friends’ idyllic island vacation turns into a terrifying nightmare when they become the target of a relentless great white shark. Desperate to survive, she teams up with a local sea captain to stop the vicious maneater before it strikes again in this heart-pounding thriller.

I had the privilege of speaking with Nicky Whelan (Jessie) star of the film. Nicky was unforgettable and I hope to be able to talk to her again about her future projects. We talked about Handler, of course, and touched on her work with Rob Zombie, upcoming features, and Halloween traditions in Australia (where she grew up). Check out our conversation below; you’ll be glad you did.

Conversation with actress Nicky Whelan

Nicky Whelan as Jessie Quilan in the thriller MANEATER, a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films.

Nicky Whelan: Hi Ryan.

iHorror: hi nicky how are you

NW: I’m fine, thank you, love; how are you?

iH: I’m fine; Thank you very much for taking my call today. I have some questions; first of all i loved the movie. I liked the characters and it was what I was looking for; it was a good match for my weekend watch and there were many great things about it. The cinematography was superb; it was beautifully filmed. Some of the characters he cared about, especially Captain Wally, I was so upset when the shark ate him. Both characters had such good chemistry; I was hoping it was something.

NW: I think in the previous script, there was something that was going to happen with our characters, and I don’t know why it didn’t go in that direction; something had changed in the script. To be honest with you, I liked how it didn’t turn into a romance story and spoke more to the independent vibe that my character came to have and the father/daughter bond that was developed with the Trace Adkins character. [Harlan]. So it’s interesting that you say that, but I like the way we did the ending because it wasn’t your typical kind of ending; I kind of liked it.

(L – R) Shane West as Will Coulter and Nicky Whelan as Jessie Quilan in the thriller, MANEATER, a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films

iH: It was different. It was great anyway. When you got attached to the project, was it a normal interview or was there something special about getting attached?

NW: You know, I’ve worked with those guys before and they sent me the script and I was like, “Oh my god, a shark movie, let’s do that.” Shark movies are great; they go out all the time and have a huge following. People have made them either ridiculous or realistic; people are into shark movies. I was like, “Okay, let’s have a crack,” and it was in Hawaii, and I was like, “yes, please.”

iH: Actually, I didn’t know that; now it’s usually one hundred percent CGI.

NW: Absolutely, and obviously, we used a CGI shark throughout the movie, but there are moments where Justin [Lee, Director] we wanted to use it and we were like, “okay, let’s do this, it’s going to drive us all crazy, but let’s have a crack at it” [laughs].

iH: Was there anything in particular about the shoot that was challenging or difficult?

NW: The whole production, it was an independent shark film, made in 18 days with a mechanical shark in pretty crazy conditions. As a whole team, we really went old school. It was very challenging; the water conditions were full and we had limited time and money so we were proud of the result. Personally, I was physically challenged by this film. I wasn’t ready to swim [laughs]. I was like “oh shit”. I consider myself somewhat fit but this kicked my ass and I was exhausted from swimming in water all day and in the ocean. The locals really looked after us and we felt very safe. Boiling heat and rough water and an early start. It was a lot. Using the mechanical shark and keeping the puppeteers there, pulling this thing in and out of the water. The film crew stood in the water for hours, not knowing what was at their feet; it was no joke; I was scared a few times [shrieks, laughs]. It was full.

Nicky Whelan as Jessie Quilan in the thriller MANEATER, a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films

iH: Did you see anything in the water when you were there?

NW: No, just a few fish. It was the beautiful waters of Hawaii. He was very sure; Hawaii is a great place. I’ve been there many times before. It wasn’t so much the fear of what was in the water. Sometimes I was a little nervous because I couldn’t see the bottom and I thought, “What am I standing on?” Something soft and a rock, “what’s going on?” [Squeels] [Laughs] The locals are sure that “you are good”, and I put my trust in them. I was exhausted; the rough water really exhausted me.

iH: I bet; I couldn’t have done it. This is a testament to the dedication of all involved. It’s just wonderful, it looks like it was a tight-knit group and eighteen days is just amazing; that’s fast!

NW: Honesty for a shark movie is crazy; there is not much time. The budget was small, so you couldn’t do a lot of the things you wanted to. That’s why it was a tight group of people who made the most of a situation, I was very proud of it and we made it there.

iH: It’s cool, and did this experience, this movement in particular, make you think about directing?

NW: If I’m going to direct anything, it won’t be a shark movie. It’s a real player to take on that project, to be on the water for eighteen days; you have so many things against you, it’s a challenge. It’s funny you talk about directing; I love old school music videos; I was a child of the 80s; I would love to direct music videos that are completely left-of-center for “ManEater” and what we’re talking about, that would be somewhere to start. I can definitely appreciate what Justin [Lee], our director, went through this movie and the team trying to make it work under the conditions. It was satisfying to finish this move and go; it was a lot of work and we were exhausted, but we felt good at the end.

iH: I was looking through your IMDB and it looks like you have an alligator movie in the works? the flood

NW: Yes, we have shark movies, we have alligator movies; I face every scary animal on the planet. We have flood going out I have a comedy coming out that was great to be a part of; I hadn’t been on a comedy set for a minute; is called Project Nana. There’s an action movie with Dolf Lungren and Luke Wilson; I’ve been jumping around doing random projects, doing some very different genres like I do [Laughs].

iH: This is wonderful. I like hearing that!

Nicky Whelan as Jessie Quilan in the thriller MANEATER, a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films

NW: It definitely feels good; it’s not the same thing over and over, that’s for sure.

iH: I know we talked about Jaws, but what’s your favorite scary movie?

NW: Honestly, my favorite scary movie is so hardcore and I started working with it: it’s Rob Zombie’s House of 1,000 Corpses, which I did. Halloween II. I love him; I love his work – that movie. I think I went to the movie and saw it many times. Old school, absolutely freaking scary, and I loved it.

iH: I very briefly remembered your character from Halloween II.

NW: Yeah, it was more like working with Rob Zombie. It was a small role. I said, ‘send me to Atlanta; I want to be in the mix with those great people. Rob is amazing at horror; it was so cool, just a mean bunch of people; it was a good one.

iH: He always does things, he does them The Munsters I’m going out, and I can’t wait.

NW: It looks amazing; good for him He always takes on such projects. I like his take on things.

(L – R) Nicky Whelan as Jessie Quilan and Trace Adkins as Harlan Burke in the thriller, MANEATER, a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films

iH: Do you currently live in Australia?

NW: Without love, I’ve been in America for sixteen years.

iH: I was just curious, are there any Halloween traditions in Australia?

NW: It really wasn’t. Growing up, Halloween wasn’t huge. People are now on board with the whole clothing thing. For the past ten years, Australians have been doing Halloween stuff; as a child, we didn’t trick or treat; that was not part of Australian culture; it was definitely an american thing. I’m a Star Wars nerd, every Halloween if I’m not filming you’ll see me as some kind of Jedi or in an extreme costume, really enjoying Halloween; it’s my favorite holiday.

iH: This is wonderful; I know we have to wrap up; thank you very much for talking to me; congratulations and hope to talk to you soon about another project.

NW: Absolutely love, thank you so much.

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