Dade City may be best known for its antique shops, rolling hills and kumquats — but the charming, quaint town may soon be known as a consummate setting for scary movies, too.
For two-plus weeks in October, an independent, low-budget horror film production company — Cape Coral-based Bad Clown Films — ventured into some of the city’s remote locations to shoot a new feature-length film, “Bed of Nails.”
The movie — set to be released around Halloween 2022 — has a plot as eerie as its title.
The film is about three gothic kids from Atlanta, who are camping in the rural countryside in middle Florida while on their way to the Florida Keys.
Instead of making their way to the Keys, the campers are stalked and murdered by a group of fanatic rednecks.
But the killers never planned on one of the kids — a self-proclaimed witch who is into the occult — coming back from the dead to wreak havoc and destroy the rednecks, one by one.
“Our motto is, ‘Never mess with a goth girl,’” Bed of Nails producer and director Michael Malott said in an interview with The Laker/Lutz News. “That’s the motto of the film.”
The R-rated film features about a dozen cast members, including former Whitesnake and Alice Cooper guitarist Mike Francis.
The musician-turned-actor, starring as the film’s main bad guy, recently had finished filming scenes at Paramount Pictures Studios in Los Angeles for legendary Hollywood director Martin Scorcese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon.”
That film also stars Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jesse Plemons, Tantoo Cardinal, John Lithgow and Brendan Frasier.
Malott has known Francis for years, having been a longtime Grammy award-winning creator, producer and music manager.
“He had some credibility and experience in film, so I wanted to utilize him,” Malott said of Francis.
Some local actors, extras and crew members were incorporated into “Bed of Nails,” too.
Needing a rural, swampy environment as a setting for the flick, Malott keyed in on the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve West Tract, about five miles from downtown Dade City.
He had also considered filming in the Florida Everglades, but because it is owned and operated by the U.S. government, obtaining film permits was more challenging, he said.
Pasco County’s tourism department — Experience Florida’s Sports Coast — assisted the filmmaker with a referral to utilize some private property off State Road 575 in the Dade City area.
The property features a main house, secondary house and other accents, such as a footbridge needed to pull off eerie and gory scenes.
“It just had the right kind of imagery that I was looking for in the film,” Malott said. “We had two buildings to utilize, and we also had all of the swamp area, so everything that we needed, as far as a primary film location, was right there in our hands.
“What we ended up with was a private area of land that was out in the Green Swamp, and we were able to get all of the atmosphere that we needed for the motion picture, with far less complication (than the Florida Everglades),” he said.
Other scenes from the $41,000 budgeted movie were shot at Jim’s Tires & Wheels on Lock Street and Bill Ryan Auto Sales on U.S. 301, as well as some driving footage set out along Lacoochee Clay Sink Road.
Most filming took place from dusk to dawn.
“There were some long nights,” Malott said.
Some strange ones, too.
Malott encountered a Florida panther within 20 yards of him on the second day of filming.
The siren on his megaphone spooked the wild animal off, luckily.
“I was scared to death,” Malott said. “I thought I was panther food.”
The filmmaker recalled intermittent odd noises from the woods, as well as an inexplicable occurrence where an estimated 200-pound log attached to a tree limb mysteriously flew onto the film set.
“We just had some weird, weird incidences out there,” Malott said. “We had people that were starting to think that maybe we had the Skunk Ape (Florida’s sasquatch), but I’m like, ‘Yeah, right.’
“We were joking all along about making a new horror film about us filming a horror film — a horror film documentary,” he said.
The moviemaker also presented an alternate theory to some of the oddities: “We were thinking maybe some of the locals were playing tricks on us, you know, some of the city folks come into our area to film a movie, let’s have some fun with them…”
Malott has taken some downtime from the “15 long, grueling nights” of filming, and next will assemble a movie trailer before diving into the lengthy editing process.
After that, he plans to pitch the project to film festivals, horror conventions and digital streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. There also are plans to manufacture the film on traditional DVD and Blu-ray discs, he said.
Meantime, the film crew may need to make another trip to Dade City or another location for some B-roll footage, Malott said, including scenes of alligators and snakes moving across swamp water.
Malott’s company has other horror film projects in the works, too.
One is called “The Grove,” about four teenagers who get lost in an orange grove, trapped all night with a psychopathic killer.
The other, “House of Stares,” is about someone being offered money to spend the night at a house where some infamous murders took place.
Malott has already scouted out a home in Dade City to film the latter project. “It’s very, very possible that we could be coming back to Dade City in the future to film another movie,” he said.
For information, visit BadClownFilms.com.
Published October 27, 2021