Monsters & Freaks: Top 10 (Local) Horror Films

Contributed by Indie Film Club Miami

Halloween is over, but our love for gore is not. Everyone knows that the “The Shining” is picked as the best horror film ever made. We can also talk about why the unholy threesome countries of horror filmmaking are easily the USA, Japan and Korea, but this is not the topic of today.

Today we share with you some of our favorite horror films produced right here in South Florida. We recommend you grab a blanket over the holidays, some hot chocolate, cuddle up and check them out.

What we were wandering when I started this particular article is why more movies of the hair raising variety have not been produced in South Florida?

Florida is fertile horror-show ground: poor, religious, full of swamps, nudist colonies, an abundance of  Haitian and  Cuban immigrants and the voodoo and Santeria legends that come with that, also the freak fauna created from irresponsible pet owners.

You must admit there won’t be shortage of topics, just read the newspaper or watch the news. So have you asked yourself how many cult classics have been produced right here in our naturally freaky state.

Here is our top ten list for you:

10. The Monster of Camp Sunshine – Directed by William Friedman

A scientist carelessly dumps some toxic waste into a river. The gardener at a nudist camp drinks the water, turns into a monster and attacks all the (female) in the nudist camp of course.  .William Friedman made many nudie films shot at the famous nudist colonies of West Central Florida, including those nearby us in towns like Land O’ Lakes. There are more of these films available on DVD than you might expect

9. Jeepers Creepers – Directed by Victor Salva

The film chronicles a day in the life of two siblings, Trish (Gina Philips) and her brother Darry Jenner (Justin Long). As they drive through the Florida countryside, a mysterious driver tries to run them off the road. After letting the vehicle pass them, they later see the same truck with a hulking man sliding what looks to be a body wrapped in blood stained sheets. Nice set up and it delivers.

8. Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things – Directed by Bob Clark

Six friends dig up a corpse named Orville. They use it in a satanic ritual to make the dead rise from their graves. Look out!!! Actors led by Alan Ormsby go to graveyard on remote island to act out necromantic ritual. The ritual works; and soon the dead are walking about and chowing down on human flesh. This is my favorite zombie film shot down in Miami.   You can find the full film here:

7.  The Day of the Dead – Directed by George Romero

This is the third (and worst) of the Romero’s Dead Series, being preceded by Night of the Living Dead(1968) and Dawn of the Dead (1978). Romero claims it’s a “tragedy about how a lack of human communication causes chaos and collapse even in this small little pie slice of society”. And this before the age of twitter. This film features Sherman Howard in an early appearance as Bub, and make-up artist Gregory Nicotero playing Pvt. Johnson and doing the make-up effects.

Some time after the events of Dawn of the Dead, zombies have overrun the world. The remaining fragments of the U.S. government and military hide out in fortified enclaves, attempting to find both survivors and a solution to the zombie phenomenon. The above ground scenes were filmed at several locations around Florida, where Romero was living at the time. Underground scenes were filmed in Pensilvania, hmmmm.

6. Satan’s Children – Directed by Joe Wiezycki

Fans of deranged Florida horror films hold Joe Wiezycki’s Satan’s Children (1975) in high regard when it comes to off-the-rails exploitation. Teenager Bobby Douglas (Stephen White) is abused at home and runs away. He is picked up by a gay man and raped by him and his friends. They leave him by the side of the road–bruised and unconscious.

A friendly Satanic cult (!!!) pick him up and bring him to their place to heal. But then they think he might be gay and Satanists hate gays and lesbians (???). Yeah, that film can only be made in Florida, it’s racist, homophobic, mysoginist, it’s everything you expect from the deep south.

5. Island of the Cannibal Death Gods – Directed by Jeff Freeman

In this recent film directed by Jeff Freeman, three men, trying to escape from the prying eyes of the media, book a fishing charter and get more than they bargained for.This movie delivers a look and feel of the old B-movies of the 60s and 70s. Loving them as much as I do, I appreciate a director who can bring this atmosphere back to life.

4. 2000 Maniacs – Directed by Hershell Gordon Lewis

Drive-in gore king Herschell Gordon Lewis reached a creative peak with this darkly comic slaughterfest about six vacationing Yanks who fall victim to the cheerfully violent Southern hospitality of Pleasant Valley. Made the guests of honor in the town’s centennial celebration, the hapless visitors soon discover that the obligations of their title include being used for the locals’ bloody amusements — which include being rolled downhill in a barrel full of sharp spikes and strapped down beneath a boulder for a hideous variation on the dunking booth — and eventually ending up on the spit for the evening’s barbecue.

3. Frogs – Directed by George McCowan

Frogs is a 1972 horror film which falls into the category of  “eco-horror”, since it tells the story of an upper-class Southern U.S. family, victimized by  several different animal species, including snakes, birds and lizards, as well as the occasional butterfly. Nature, the movie suggests, may be justified in exacting revenge on this family because of its patriarch’s abuse of the local ecology. It was filmed in Ft. Walton Beach, which is in Florida’s panhandle.

2. Stanley – Directed by Bill Grefe

Bill Grefe’s infamous snake attack movie, could also fall in the eco horror category. But it’s so much more. In it, a young Seminole Indian uses his rattlesnake to take revenge on all those he believes have wronged him. The film is at it’s most creepy with scenes of real snakes crawling all over the home of the snake-man. You can imagine what it must have been like to be on the set. Rumor has it that this prolific filmmaker has paired up with the other director on our list Jeff Freeman, to make another feature.  We can’t wait.

1. Blood Freak – Directed by Brad F. Grinter

This film is Holiday appropriate – a little-known exploitation sickie – which features an incredible “Turkey Monster”  that gobbles before it kills druggies. This film is pro-Christian, anti-drug, biker in love, homicidal turkey gore message film from the Seventies. I can’t imagine why the genre didn’t catch on. Best watched on Thanksgiving Day.

We thank Crazedfanboy, for some of the tips on this list. With abundance of stories and apparently almost no need for budgets, you have no excuse but to make your own horror film this weekend. So fellow dreamers, keep making them, because the only limit is your imagination!