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The man who created 'Final Destination' is now producing a Tampa horror franchise

Joe Davison, who appeared in season two of Stranger Things, decorated the dining room of his Tampa home like a set from the hit Netflix series. [Times (2017)]
Joe Davison, who appeared in season two of Stranger Things, decorated the dining room of his Tampa home like a set from the hit Netflix series. [Times (2017)]
Published Jul. 15

TAMPA — Jeffrey Reddick is the man who launched Final Destination, the film franchise about cheating death that has grossed more than $600 million through five productions.

Now, Reddick, writer of the first Final Destination movie and executive producer of the second, wants to help launch another horror franchise — this one anchored in the Tampa Bay area.

It's called Hank, written and directed by Joe Davison, 43, a Zephyrhills native living in Tampa.

Filming will take place from July 22 through Aug. 9 in Riverview, Oldsmar and Sarasota.

"When I first read Hank, it was the type of fun, scary and twisted story that I love," Reddick said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times. "Hank is definitely going to be a thrilling, wild and bloody ride that will have horror fans screaming for more."

Hank is about a group of college friends who test the authenticity of a twisted legend that says those who ring the doorbell of a scary mansion at midnight during a full moon will be slaughtered.

Davison has been making low budget independent movies in the area for more than two decades.

He is best known as a writer for 100 Tears, about two journalists on the trail of a demented serial killer dressed as a clown. Released in 2007, 100 Tears became a worldwide underground hit among hard-core aficionados of the gore genre.

Ten years later, Davison appeared in four episodes of the second season of the Netflix hit series Stranger Things. His character, called "Nerdy Tech" in the credits, appeared along alongside Paul Reiser — the star of Aliens and Mad About who portrays Dr. Sam Owens in the Stranger Things universe.

Still, Davison said, having Reddick attached to Hank is "by far" his biggest break.

"He told me this is a franchise and he wants to be a part of it," Davison said. "It blew me away to hear that. Jeffrey Reddick is executive producing my movie. He is the puppet master. It's unbelievable."

Davison has already penned the sequel to Hank and a treatment for the third installment.

The cast of Hank hasn't been announced yet, but Davison said it will include local residents. The crew will be local, too, he said.

"Hank gives homage to classic horror films," said Artisha Mann-Cooper, the producer who optioned the screenplay and brought Reddick on board. "Everyone who reads the script falls in love with it. We just needed to find the right person who wanted to work with me on it."

The Tampa Bay area is becoming a hub of horror productions.

Last year, footage for the alligator-themed Crawl, now in theaters, was shot locally.

READ MORE: Horror movie Crawl filmed in Tampa Bay, in waters where body was found

The Blair Witch Project director Dan Myrick is opening a production studio in Ybor City where a web series will be shot this summer followed by a feature film.

READ MORE: A piece of the proposed Rays stadium site in Ybor will become a film studio

What's more, independent films of all genres have been shooting on both sides of the bridge over the last year. That includes two Hallmark movies and thriller I See a Man with Yellow Eyes starring Katherine Heigl.

Around two years ago, Davison said, he and his wife Leanne Charland were shopping at a Walmart when producer Mann-Cooper called.

"We hadn't heard from Artisha in a while and Leanne excitedly said, 'Maybe it's big news,'" Davison said. "It was. Artisha told me Jeffrey Reddick wanted to take a phone call with me."

Around 12 hours later, Davison said, he was chatting with Reddick.

"He knew my other movies, which blew me away," Davison said.

"He then gave me some ideas on where he thought the script should go and said he has gotten 1,000 scripts this year and mine was one of only two that he liked. I will never forget those words."

Contact Paul Guzzo at pguzzo@tampabay.com or follow @PGuzzoTimes.

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