Michael Malott’s Bed of Nails is the new feature length horror film from producer and director Michael Malott and his newly launched Bad Clown Films production company. Reminiscent of such films as, I Spit on your Grave, House of 1000 Corpses and U-Turn, the film revolves around three Atlanta based Goth kids who are confronted by four “good ol’ rednecks while camping overnight in a secluded Florida Swamp. Only planning to harass and intimidate the kids, one of the redneck’s guns accidentally discharges killing one of the kids leaving the rednecks no choice but to kill the remaining two kids and dispose of their bodies in the swamp. Unbeknownst to them, one of the kids, a practicing witch returns from the grave to enact a brutal revenge. The film stars Deanna Marine making her feature film debut in a starring role of Sky; Mark Francis (Mutilator 2, Killers of the Flower Moon) Erik Sizemore, Wesley Moniaci, Erin Pearl, Ken Vathauer and Carson Carollo.
The film features a stellar soundtrack featuring Atlanta based bands Liers in Wait and Empire 44 adding a tremendous treat to the stimulating visuals of the film.
Filming took place over a three-week period September through August 2020 primarily in Florida’s Green Swamp region in a former children’s camp that turned out to actually be situated on top of an old Indian burial ground with additional filming locations including Dade City, Florida Everglades, Naples, and Fort Meade. The film is expected to make its North American debut between October 2023 and the end of the year.
The project is currently represented by Alex Nohe of the Beverly Hills based agency, Blood Sweat and Honey. Alex worked closely with the original Blair Witch Project.
SCREAM: What Made you want to make a horror movie?
Michael Malott: Three years ago, I didn’t even own a horror movie. Well, except maybe a copy of the original version of The Fog? I’ve always had an interest in making a film. Years ago I had put together a comedy film project called Corporate Vacation. I had teamed up with Bon Jovi drummer Tico Torres who was going to play one of the character roles, co-produce and he was teaming up with Frankie Previte from Frankie & the Knockouts and who were going to do the soundtrack. I was lining up some pretty impressive music people into acting roles which I thought was a really cool concept. Unfortunately, it built some momentum and got some press but never materialised. So now fast forward twenty years. I’m now living in Florida, where better to make a film about record company executives getting stranded on an island then here? So, I’m thinking a low budget version of Corporate Vacation? The locations perfect just minus the rock stars and big budget. So, I started putting that project together. The more I’m starting to put this together the more I’m starting to think about the production requirements and budget. Even low budget, I need some expensive shit to do this movie. From there I started thinking about instead doing a horror movie. If I really want to pull off making a movie, horror is less production, less cost, and much better marketability for a small independent filmmaker. To top it all off, man have I got the music that is perfect fit for that. So, the idea was now to put the comedy on the back burner and let’s whip out a horror film in the meantime. So, a month later I have a completed script and I’m really liking horror by this point and once I launched Bad Clown Films a few months later, there was no looking back. Goodbye everything else, I am now making horror films.
SCREAM: As the screenwriter of Bed of Nails, how did that story come together?
MM: It just happened by piecing the story together in my mind first once I had decided to go with making a horror film. Unlike the standard practice of screenwriting a lot of that just came to me based on things already thought out in my head, like a mind embedded synopsis. I did use index cards with plot twists and scenes as a guide. But either the next scene came to you, or you took a break until it did. I kept totally aware of budget and production in what I wrote to keep those at a minimum. If I want to pull this off, I need to keep it pretty basic, like one primary film location for instance. But I wanted something different and something that was going to push the boundaries, and definitely make an impact. I tend to want to do that, push boundaries. So, it took about a month, but I had a completed script. A couple parts of the story were changed and created right there on the spot as we filmed. Seeing some of these parts acted out was a little more intense than seeing them in my imagination when I wrote them. The entire intro part with the girl was actually added after the filming had been done and I filmed that scene almost a year later in Naples, Florida as a late addition.
SCREAM: The film stars Deanna Marine as the lead character of Sky, how was that decision to cast her made?
MM: Deanna was one of those situations where you meet her, and you know right off that she is the one. Deanna is in real life really kind of shy and reclusive, but when she walked onto the set, she was all but shy and played the role perfectly. She exceeded all my expectations, far exceeded. Casting Deanna was a no brainer for me. She’s a very talented and awesome individual. Look at the end result she is brilliant. This was Deanna’s first lead starring role in a feature film, but she was just a natural. Most of her parts were like one take and she’d nail it where the one who was supposed to have all kinds of prior film experience, his takes were numerous and overly time consuming. So, Deanna was the choice from the start from the moment she walked into my office and certainly proved to be a wise choice. Deanna is just a very talented actress, and I am not sure that she realises just how talented she is yet? But I hope to not only work with her again but see her career in film go somewhere with different projects because she is very versatile and has endless potential.
SCREAM: Your whole production was housed in a swamp; how did that work out?
MM: We were working so many hours from sundown straight through to dawn that all of us were exhausted. It was definitely work. This is during the later part of Covid, so we were all kind of secluded from the outside world most of the time as best we could. Our base doubled as our primary filming location; it was an old children’s camp so most everyone was housed together there. So, filming all night in the middle of a swamp is not the most ideal scenario, and the heat and the bugs were bad, but we all fared pretty well. Everything that goes bump in the night is out there and we had a few interesting things happen.
SCREAM: Were there any special considerations filming in a swamp?
MM: Outside of the usual snakes, gators and bug spray? Unless you are born and raised in the swamp, you have no business being in the swamp, especially at night. All our filming was done during the night and that made things a little more complicated. We were off the beaten path about a half mile back from the road in like real life Deliverance land with real life rednecks. In fact, the guys who supplied the tow truck that Leroy drives, were real moonshiners. So, now we’re in their territory and we are filming in the middle of a swamp, and it was a little unnerving. Everything out there is running off batteries and half the time you’re dodging all the bugs attracted to the lights. We were actually close to our buildings but still a few hundred yards away from a power outlet, so in between takes all but one light went dark to conserve batteries. So we are setting up and making changes basically by flashlight. The heat and humidity was brutal and either a vicious wild hog or bigfoot could come out of the bushes and come at you at any given moment. I actually had an encounter with a panther that was scary as hell. To top everything off at early dawn I’d start to have to deal with condensation in the lens always when we were trying to get that last scene quickly filmed. So really, you only had to be aware of your surroundings and use common sense. It was actually far more brutal with the heat filming the auto repair shop scenes than the swamp, but you had the security of a building.
SCREAM: You said you didn’t really have high expectations for this film?
MM: No I didn’t at all. I didn’t think this was going to be anything more than another crazy goal crossed off on my bucket list. I always wanted to make a film and I had two prior crashed attempts at pre-production of films to prove that. Once you are there and actually filming you know you’re gonna end up with something . My first concern was whether I had enough footage for a feature. Second was editing what I had into something, I did not have a budget for editing, so it came down literally to either I learn how to edit, or we have no film period. So, I took several months devoted to learning how to use the Divinci Resolve editing software and that program rocks and made it so much easier. I had gone through all the footage and made notes as to good takes and stuff, but once I started editing everything together, I was really excited about the result. It still was far from a major production in any way, shape or form but we actually had something. Then my friend Jermaine, who is a brilliant and creative person came in and mastered everything into a completely new realm. So, my original plan was once editing is done, we make 300 DVD’s because that’s the minimum for copy protection and in two years somewhere I’d have 280 DVDs left stashed away? I never ever expected anyone to be interested in distributing my film. Between the quality that Jermaine took this film to and the reception from people whose opinion mattered to me, it made me open my eyes to the fact we may have something a little more than expected. Because of the content, I honestly never expected to get into a single film festival. Suddenly not only were we getting in but we are winning like almost all the one’s we entered and that was a total surprise. I’ve put so many projects together over the years, ones with people like Eric Clapton tied into it and even Keith Richards that just never materialised into my expectations but here is the project I thought was going nowhere and it is the thing that is actually turning out to be something which may allow me to make a name for myself and for people to remember me for?
SCREAM: Let’s talk soundtrack? You say the film was written in some parts around the music?
MM: Fun fact about that is everyone thinks the soundtrack was actually written for the film. That is not the case. Parts of the movie were actually written around the knowledge of this music. The Liers in Wait album was put out back in the late 90’s on the Railroad Records label and the Empire 44 material already existed too. The Liers in Wait Speer of Destiny album is very dark and would easily go on my top ten albums of all-time list. I love that album and it is a brilliant album and having that material in this movie is a game changer. What happened is I have known this music going on decades and probably as well as the people who created it. So every bit of music you hear in this film was already placed when I wrote the script if that makes sense? At the end of the day only one song was replaced from the original soundtrack line up and that was only because I was given access to some unreleased stuff and one track was a better fit. But that’s how concrete the music is in this thing. Both bands feature some very talented musicians but there are basically two people behind both bands and one of those people is Erik Sizemore who plays the character of Leroy in the film. Erik is the writer and guitarist for both Liers in Wait and Empire 44. In fact, Jon, the drummer helped me move from Georgia to California more than twenty years ago. Erik and I have known each other for over 30 years now and I think his music is amazing. Liers in Wait was just years ahead of its time, like pre-NIN but better than NIN. There is a very close friendship and bond that has existed for years between Erik and I and Paul Cornwell who founded Railroad Records, the label that released some of this stuff. Even the Metroplex shirt one of the characters wears that was from Paul’s club in Atlanta thirty years ago. Hopefully this movie will allow me to share this brilliant music with the world. It sure was totally perfect for this film and made this film what it is.
SCREAM: The rednecks present as being pretty brutal, as screenwriter and director was that your intention and was that difficult to present them the way you intended?
MM: Yes, they were intended to be brutal, very brutal. I wanted them to be hated. Mark played the part almost natural and improvised some dialog to better effectuate his character as just a nasty person altogether. Erik gave a strong performance as did Ken, who portrayed the most compassionate member of the group. The character of Skeeter is a whole different story. Wesley Moniaci as Skeeter was a last-minute addition. He actually never even saw a copy of the script until the night before we started shooting. Wesley was actually a production assistant pushed right into an acting role out of necessity. With no prior film experience he adlibbed and created, moulded his character like right on the spot and he nailed it. In fact, Wesley is the one getting most of the cast awards for best supporting actor and it’s well deserved. The character of Skeeter was polished out of Wes’s interpretation of the character in the script, and I just let him go because he was dead on to what I wanted. It was an absolute blessing in disguise that Wesley ended up as Skeeter because he just made that character perfect. Collectively, the rednecks are a group of pretty undesirable characters and that’s exactly what was planned. I wrote them out to be nasty and each added their own little spin to more effectuate that.
SCREAM: What elements were important during filming?
MM: As a director, I was paying attention to all the things that occurred to me during the writing process and how I intended to present it on film and to a viewer. I was really paying attention to the lighting, shadows and angles I was shooting at. Lighting was really key, and you see I utilized a lot of blue hues. I wanted the film to be dark. The soundtrack was also of huge importance to me, perhaps more than anything else. I already knew where and how the soundtrack was going to carry the visuals, so it was just sticking to the plans and doing lots of experimenting to get darker overtones to help mood a scene. I really wanted a dark and artsy film, something out of the norm. Who wants to create something that everyone else is creating? So, my content is controversial, my film intense and made to be dark. I want someone to see my film and see something new and different and hopefully disturbing yet entertaining.
SCREAM: So are you planning on continuing to do more horror movies in the future?
MM: Yes absolutely, I’m infected by the horror bug and already have plans for future projects. I launched my company Bad Clown Films for that purpose, specifically to produce low budget independent horror films and I also started a company called, Horrible Films to handle distribution and marketing although it appears we will have outside distribution with this particular film which is ideally what I want. I’m actually sitting on a couple other completed scripts, one that was written at least twenty years ago when I was living in New Orleans which is a very dark and artsy vampire story, but when I wrote that I wasn’t thinking about things like production expenses or budget so it would need to be revised with that in mind to make it feasible.
SCREAM: What movies inspired you as a filmmaker?
MM: As far as horror? The original version of The Fog, I love that movie. I saw that when I was a kid when it first came out and it literally scared the shit out of me. Also, Rob Zombie’s 31 was a big influencer. Another movie called Hell House Inc as well as a couple other films that aren’t necessarily horror, Southern Comfort which is a group of National Guardsmen vs Cajun swampers and Cruising, a film starring Al Pacino. That has been a major influence on me as a filmmaker and director as far as dark artsy cinematography and intense use of soundtrack. Likewise, that film had controversial content dealing with the underground gay S&M sub-culture. Whoever did that films soundtrack is a genius and whoever the D.P. [director of photography] was is a genius.
SCREAM: There seems to be some political overtones to this film, was that intentional?
MM: Not at all, it is no secret that I hate Donald Trump, I actually have an aunt in Massachusetts that disowned me because I wasn’t a Trump supporter when her own kid has a room full of SS and Nazi shit. But the Trump shirt is in there because I spent a week studying the location and everything was Trump hats, signs, flags. You’ve got people in Dade City, which was our primary location, running around in pickups with Trump flags, and Fuck Joe Biden flags. In the film you’ll actually see a couple flashes of the sign they had at the auto repair place we used, he had some conspiracy theory going about the vaccine and put-up signs? That’s not a prop by any means. It was fitting to include a character in a Trump shirt simply based on trying to recreate the proper continuity. I think I can safely say that every person that played a redneck character in Bed of Nails was in fact, Republican.
SCREAM: Have you gotten any interest from distributors?
MM: Yes, a few and from some impressive people. People tied in with films like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and one who is the former VIP of a major film company. I known North America and Canada are really important markets and we have to have a good distributor who believes in the potential of this thing and knows how to market it. There is one distributor in particular that I am really leaning towards but right now I’m having my lawyer to review all the offers on the table.
SCREAM: So where are you hoping this film goes?
MM: Right now, everything is in such chaos that I’m just looking forward to getting the damn thing out. Where it goes from there, I can’t say. Remember this is a film I had no real expectations for until we saw the end result and even then, because of its content I still had serious doubts. So everything that happens is a gift. I’ve had people predict some positive things, some predict it to generate a cult following, but I’m along for the ride at this point. Right as we finished this, I had to pack up everything to move because the landlady had sold the house. So, we left Florida, and half my company is in L.A. and my son, and I are temporarily in Michigan dealing with my mom who recently had a stroke. Our lives are literally in storage right now. So right now, I’m just trying to get grounded and get my son and I into a new home and settled. Technically this should be a great time for me, but right now it’s kind of a fucked-up circus sideshow. Everything is tied into this movie right now including my future. I’m looking forward to settling into a new place and environment and getting back to business and working on the next project. I hope to see some success with Bed of Nails. We all worked hard and seeing something come out of it would be great, I just want to be able to do what I love and survive off it.