Around this time last year, we published our list of the five scariest horror movies filmed in Florida. (They could be set elsewhere but they had to be filmed primarily in the state, employing Floridians and enriching the Florida economy).
That list still more or less applies, but we have a new co-No. 1 film. Well, it’s technically not a film – at least not yet. One enterprising website that covers the film industry has suggested the story behind it would make a great documentary, and we agree. It definitely would be a horror documentary, at least for Floridians. We’ll get to it momentarily, but for now, here’s a quick recap of the Top Five we published a year ago:
- Shock Waves (1977)
Starring horror legends Peter Cushing and John Carradine, South Florida plays the role of a Caribbean island where a Nazi scientist has been hiding and perfecting zombie (not the Walking Dead kind) storm troopers. Sounds awful but it somehow works.
- Jeepers Creepers (2001)
This makes a lot of people’s “best of” lists and tells the tale of a flesh-eating creature a brother and sister encounter around Ocala on their way home from spring break. Maybe something for Netflix.
- Psycho IV – The Beginning (1990)
Technically is a made-for-cable movie with a few scenes shot at Universal Studios Orlando’s Bates Motel replica, this makes the list because it was Anthony Perkins’ last appearance as Norman Bates and because Perkins himself is an alumnus of Rollins College.
- Day of the Dead (1985)
The third installment in zombie master George A. Romero’s saga, following Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Dawn of the Dead (1978), this movie is set and shot primarily around Fort Myers and Sanibel Island. If this was on par with his first two “dead” films, it would be our No. 1, but instead the honor goes to . . .
- Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
A true classic, filmed at multiple Florida locations, the film depicts a scientific expedition to the Amazon that stumbles onto a creature that becomes captivated by the crew’s obligatory gorgeous woman. This is the kind of movie that inspires people to say, “They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.”
So what’s our new “Co-No. 1,” the documentary just waiting to be made? Let’s call it The Koch-y Horror Georgia Picture Show.
We spent a lot of 2015 documenting the battle in the Florida Legislature between supporters of the Florida film industry and the Kansas-based advocacy group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) over the future of incentives for filmmakers to make movies in Florida. The “villains” in this piece are Wichita’s famous Koch Brothers (Charles and David). The conservative activists believe tax credits and other public incentives for the film industry amount to corporate welfare, and they successfully lobbied the Florida Legislature against renewing an incentive program originally created in 2010.
“We were, by and large, the only organization in the state arguing against those incentives, and we’ve been doing it for the last four years,” Andres Malave, communications director for AFP’s Florida branch, told the website Deadline Hollywood. “It’s not the government’s role to pick winners and losers. The film industry is an important part of the economy, but the legislature should implement policies that benefit businesses across the board.”
Florida Speaker-Designate Richard Corcoran was quoted in the same article as describing how the Legislature “stood firm” against these incentives.
The article also recounted the toll being taken by that decision.
“We have third-generation industry people here who are now leaving the state to find work,” said talent agent Kelly Paige, president of Film Florida. “But the really sad thing is that (great) film schools (are) here, and when students graduate . . . they’re leaving as soon as they get out of school. They’re not buying homes here; they’re not buying cars here. It’s really a shame.”
Florida, once dubbed the “Hollywood of the East,” is watching its film industry die.
There’s a temptation to say this scenario must be scarier for Florida film workers than a horde of zombies descending on the farmhouse hideout, but the joke is that those film workers are actually chasing the zombies. That is, they’re packing up their belongings and families and moving to Georgia, home of the hit TV series, The Walking Dead as well as the Hunger Games movies and, to add insult to injury, two upcoming films (Gifted and Live by Night) set in Tampa but filmed in the Peach State.
TV series filmed in Florida, most notably Netflix’ Bloodline and HBO’s Ballers, also are considering filming elsewhere. Therein lies the flaw in the Florida Legislature’s decision-making.
Let’s assume that Florida’s leaders are “pure” in their philosophical opposition to public incentives and “corporate welfare.” Let’s assume that purity is shared by the economic development “leaders” in Tallahassee and Central Florida who sat idly by during this debate. Let’s set aside the temptation of cynically pointing out that plenty of other industries still get public incentives to locate to Florida. Let’s tamp down our sneaking suspicion this may have at least something to do with the fact that workers in the film industry might, generally speaking, support a political party different from the one to which most of Florida’s elected leaders belong.
Being pure on these issues can work – if everyone around you is pure as well. If no one is offering incentives, a state can win or lose business on its own merits and everyone can celebrate the joys of capitalism, Adam Smith-style.
Problem is, Florida’s neighbor to the north didn’t get the purity memo. Georgia is still offering lucrative incentives and building a robust film industry that employs more than a few former Floridians.
Film Florida’s executive director, John Lux, says our state’s industry hasn’t given up. Good. In horror movies, there’s often a scene at the end where the killer/creature/villain, springs back to life for one last scare. Maybe the hand of Florida’s film industry can pull off the reverse and reach out from the grave to grab the arm of the legislative/economic development monsters trying to kill it.
Now, that would make for a GREAT ending.