The crew of “Hatchet Jack”

The crew of “Hatchet Jack” films a scene from the independent movie, which is based on a Pittsburgh legend and takes place in Rivesville.

“Hatchet Jack” is just your basic scary movie.

Except it’s based on a Pittsburgh legend ... and takes place in Rivesville.

The “no-budget” film, co-written, directed and produced by Rivesville natives Justin Sago and Eddie Mahalick, will hold its official public premiere at 9, 10 and 11 p.m. today at the Warner Theatre in Morgantown. Admission is $4 at the door.

In the movie, four Pittsburgh teens travel down the interstate to ferret out Hatchet Jack, a supposed serial killer.

“Unfortunately, they find him,” Mahalick said, co-writer, director, executive producer and actor. “They disappear.”

Sago wrote the original script, intended for a five-minute silent film, based on a legend from the Pittsburgh area, where he had lived for a while.

He and Mahalick started adding scene after scene until it had expanded to 90 minutes with more than 30 local actors involved.

“A regular, traditional independent low- to no-budget slasher film is done primarily on hand-held camera,” Mahalick said. “There is more straight cutting than what we did.”

The movie has the feel of a music video accentuated with unconventional editing, mixed media filming and a back-and-forth timeline.

Made for about $10,000, this was “an absolutely no-budget movie,” Mahalick said. “We pretty much scraped our pockets, a couple hundred here, a couple hundred there.”

After a private screening of the film in October 2006, the pair took the next year and a half editing the movie, paring it from 90 minutes to 46.

“We edited to make it better,” Mahalick said. “That was the only thing we were looking to do. Length was not the issue. All we did was sweeten the product we had.”

The film has been submitted to the New York Underground Festival, Chicago Horrorfest, Los Angeles Film Festival and Terrorfest in Pennsylvania.

“Our only hope for the film is that people get to see it,” Mahalick said. “And that’s it.”

There could be a sequel, even a prequel, in the future.

“Maybe,” he said, “but we’re looking at something else right now, something similar in nature. We just spent two years with ‘Hatchet Jack.’ We do have good ideas for a sequel and prequel, but we’ll need some financing to pull that off.”

Sago and Mahalick were joined by Lee Whittle, who was editor, director of photography and producer.

Sago got the idea after hearing several versions of the Hatchet Jack legend.

“No two stories were the same. It was a great opportunity to take bits and pieces, and put into our own story.”

He and Mahalick started discussing the project, “and the artistic juices started flowing. A couple of days later I had the script and we went from there.”

He introduces Hatchet Jack to the audience through a bartender who relates the disappearance of the Pittsburgh teens to some customers.

“I’m trying to show the different versions of the story throughout the film. You don’t know what to believe or what not to believe. The story has been misconstrued and changed so much.”

This “Hatchet Jack” is completely different from the one screened in October 2006, he said.

“The creative process is funny,” Sago said. “You start with this idea and as you go along, new ideas emerge. This went from five minutes to 90 and back to 46. The first time around, it was a work in progress, far from complete. And now it’s complete.

“Now we’re hitting the festivals with a completed project, where we want to be.

“We consider ourselves filmmakers,” Sago said. “It’s very collaborative. We work together on everything. One person’s ideas are sometimes better than other’s. I’ve never worked with anyone else on film, and I can’t imagine working with anyone else. We level each other out.”

Sago took the legend and put his own spin on it, for one, moving the story to and shooting the film in his native Rivesville.

“We’re proud of where we come from. This was a chance to give our community a little boost and recognition.”

“Oh, I can’t tell you who Hatchet Jack is,” Mahalick said. “You’ll have to see the movie.”

For more information, visit myspace.com/hatchetjackmovie.

E-mail Debra Minor Wilson at dwilson@timeswv.com.

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