I HAVE ALWAYS loved horror movies! It’s always been a hobby of mine to try to hunt down those obscure OR even banned films that you hear whispers about amongst the horror community. Though I’d love to write about them all of the time, the subject matter just never fit within the FINDING FLORIDA walls…Until now!

SO WHAT BETTER way to bring the horror genre to FINDING FLORIDA than to find some of the classics that were filmed in the Sunshine State. Here are 6 of the most well known…

1) DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004) ~ Clearwater, FL

PLOT: After the zombie apocalypse, a group of survivors take refuge in a local shopping mall.

WHO DOESN’T LOVE a good zombie flick AND Zach Snyder’s reboot is nothing short of spectacular!  I had the pleasure of seeing this in the theater on opening weekend; It did NOT disappoint! It remains one of my favorites to this day!

ALMOST ALL OF “Dawn” was filmed in Canada, so how did a hoard of violent, ass-kickingly fast zombies end up making an appearance in Clearwater, Florida? Well, I can assure you that it wasn’t because the union granted them a vacation. They came on the heels of a group of survivors that were attempting to escape via boat.

CLIP: https://youtu.be/G-_mKZ-Cq7M

THE SCENE ITSELF only takes up the last 6 to 8 minutes of “Dawn’s” 1 hour & 41 minute run time, however, it’s still pretty awesome to watch a piece of home be part of zombie history…

Filming location 2021
Scene from “Dawn of the Dead” 2004

2) MANHUNTER (1986) ~  Ft. Myers, Captiva Island & Clearwater

PLOT: Detective Will Graham is called out of retirement by FBI Director, Jack Crawford, to assist in finding a serial killer, dubbed the “Tooth Fairy.”

BEFORE THE MASTERPIECE that we all know & love, “Silence of the Lambs”, we have the 1st installment of the Hannibal series, “Manhunter.” Released in 1986, it is based on the 1st Hannibal Lector novel by Thomas Harris & was originally titled “Red Dragon.”

THE SCENES OF Detective Graham at home with his family were filmed in & around the massive estate of artist, Robert Rauschenberg. After seeing the house, it makes me wonder how much the average FBI agent pulls in!

CLIP: https://youtu.be/VA85XWLD8TU

Captiva Island Archives
Rauschenberg home in “Manhunter”

TODAY, THE RAUSCHENBERG home still stands on beautiful Captiva Island, still appearing much as it did in 1985. Drive on by & see it for yourself! If you happen to fall in love, it’s currently up for sale. You can own your own little piece of horror history for the low price of just $6.5 million.

Rauschenberg home 2021

3) JEEPERS CREEPERS  (2001) ~ Ocala, Dunnellon, Reddick & Lake Panasoffkee

PLOT: A brother & sister encounter a flesh eating creature while on a road trip through rural America.

IN SPITE OF the director being a convicted child predator, I really liked “JEEPERS Creepers!”  It was unique & definitely had a creepy vibe AND it was filmed entirely in Florida!

CLIP: https://youtu.be/QyDbIJD_YfE

AS JEEPERS CREEPERS is a “road movie”, almost all of the filming took place on SW 180th Avenue Road, which is the main road through Dunnellon. The scenes of The Creeper’s “Lair” were shot at an abandoned church located on SW 110th Avenue.

SADLY THE CHURCH was demolished several years ago, however, you can still recognize the area where it once sat. You can also drive the long stretch of SW180th Avenue Road & if you’re brave enough, visualize being chased down by The Creeper!

Site of the old church

4) FROGS (1972) ~ Walton County

PLOT: Whiile attending a birthday celebration on an island, a group of friends are attacked by vengeful frogs….AND these amphibians aren’t related to Kermit! The group learns pretty fast that these the tenacious toads aren’t playing around, as they are joined by other creatures living on the island, to wage war against the humans invading their home.

CLIP 1): https://youtu.be/Dzl1RkBxNsY

CLIP 2): https://m.imdb.com/title/tt0068615/?ref_=ext_shr_lnk

FROGS WAS FILMED in & around an old southern mansion called the “Wesley House”, located inside of the Eden Gardens State Park. This particular location has been a popular filming location since the 1930’s.

Top: 1972 ~ Bottom: 2021
Top: 1972 ~ Bottom: 2021

UP UNTIL A few years ago, Eden Gardens State Park would host a film festival, showing “Frogs” as well as a few other films shot in the area. While they are no longer doing so, you can still visit the Wesley House & Eden Gardens State Park.

5) STANLEY (1972) ~ Everglades National Park, Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park (wildlife sequences) & Miami

PLOT: WHAT DO YOU get when a man becomes besties with a rattlesnake? You get a snake & revenge movie, of course! Dare we say it’s a Snakesploitation film??

THE ONLY THING that makes this movie scary are the snakes. If they switched out the snakes for revenge thirsty sloths, we’d be talking about a totally different movie…One that I’d honestly NOT be mad at!

CLIP: https://youtu.be/QlAJrYe6Kw8

THE BEST PLACES to film a movie about a crazy vigilante & his pet snake are the Florida Everglades & a wildlife park in rural Homosassa. Hopefully they saved so much money on the location, that there was plenty of money left in the budget to pay for a full-time snake wrangler & a crap ton of anti-venom!

BOTH EVERGLADES NATIONAL Park & Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park still see thousands of visitors to this day, though I’m sure most aren’t aware that they are visiting the sites where Snakesploitation film history was made…OR maybe some do!

6) DAY OF THE DEAD (1985) ~ Ft. Myers & Sanibel Island

PLOT: As the zombies continue to eat their way through the world, surviving military & scientists hunker down in an underground bunker, hoping to find a cure. This is the 3rd installment of George Romero’s “Dead” series.

CLIP: https://youtu.be/4BKJHtobSvE

FOR THE MOST part, “Day” was filmed in downtown Ft. Myers. I’ll admit that I’m not a huge fan of this movie BUT I still think it’s pretty awesome that you can walk downtown Ft. Myers & clearly recognize the landmarks & areas where certain scenes take place. Out of all of the films on this list, “DAY OF THE DEAD” is one of the ones that sealed its locations in a time capsule; Definitely a horror movie lover’s dream!

Top & Bottom Left: 1985 ~ Top & Bottom Right: Today
Top & Bottom Left: 1985 ~ Top & Bottom Right: Today
Top & Bottom Left: 1985 ~ Top & Bottom Right: Today
Top & Bottom Left: 1985 ~ Top & Bottom Right: Today

SHOUT OUT TO “Adam The Woo” for his fabulous video on the “Day of the Dead” filming locations!

CHECK HIM OUT: https://youtu.be/IUeuvH_I-Ig

THERE ARE QUITE a few movies that have been filmed here in Florida throughout the years. For this post, I chose the 6 that I thought were the most recognizable…That leaves plenty to cover in the future!



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