‘Midnight in the Switchgrass’ is a thriller film that revolves around two FBI agents, Karl Helter and Rebecca Lombardi, who are on the brink of bringing down a sex-trafficking ring. They join hands with an agent from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement when they chance upon the works of a dangerous serial killer. However, their plan is upended when Rebecca gets abducted. All pieces of evidence point to a person called the Truck Stop Killer.
We have often come across similar stories about people being abducted or killed in isolated pockets of a highway. So, it naturally brings up the chilling question, could ‘Midnight in the Switchgrass’ be based on actual events? In that case, what we know might interest you!
Is Midnight in the Switchgrass Based on a True Story?
‘Midnight in the Switchgrass’ is partially based on a true story. The film is inspired by the unsettling crimes of the infamous serial killer Robert Benjamin Rhoades, better known as the Truck Stop Killer. Today, Rhoades is imprisoned for life without parole and is held at the maximum-security facility Menard Correctional Center in Chester, Illinois. Although he was convicted for three murders, the authorities believe that the actual body count might be much higher. It has been challenging to trace all the people Rhoades might have hurt or killed because his job required him to be on the move constantly.
Much like Rhoades, Peter is a professional truck driver, and Tracey becomes one of his victims. Caitlin Carmichael, who portrays Tracey Lee in this crime film, admitted that she researched real-life events to develop her onscreen character. One of the primary reasons she was drawn to the film is that it depicts incidents that happened to real people. Carmichael felt immensely responsible for being the voice of many young women who go missing without a trace.
The actress was happy to do her own stunts, which helped her channelize the required emotions in the scenes. Carmichael recalled how scenes were shot in small spaces so that the feeling of being abducted and confined in Peter’s box felt real. She was able to feel the fear and desperation a person would have felt if it were to happen to them. The actress’ hands were actually zip-tied while she enacted the scene where Tracey crawls through a sewage pipe. This not only helped Carmichael emote better but aided her in making the depiction of her character seem authentic.
The director Randall Emmett also warned Megan Fox (Rebecca) that actual chains would be used during shooting, but the actress remained unfazed by that and was focused on delivering a convincing performance. The production for this movie had to be halted several times due to COVID-19. However, the off-times gave the cast an opportunity to get to know each other better and translate their off-camera chemistry to their onscreen interactions.
For Carmichael, this was particularly helpful since she had many sensitive scenes with Lukas Haas (Peter) that includes violence. However, certain parts of the narrative might have been tweaked and dramatized for cinematic purposes. For example, the setting of the story has been moved to Florida instead of Texas. For the uninitiated, the former cross-country trucker Robert Ben Rhoades AKA The Truck Stop Killer hailed from The Lone Star State.
Moreover, there seems to be no real-life account of FBI agents such as Rebecca Lombardi and Karl Helter. Still, the characters may be a composite of various real-life people. Nevertheless, it is true that the crimes depicted in the crime thriller film are rooted in reality. In fact, in 2009, the FBI started the Highway Serial Killings Initiative to spread awareness about such crimes and educate people about the assistance they can receive from law enforcement should they come across any such instance or witness suspicious activities.
In 2004, the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation noticed a crime pattern. Hundreds of women had gone missing or were killed, and in most cases, long-haul truck drivers were suspects. This gruesome pattern was found when the bodies or remains of several women were discovered along interstate 40 in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Mississippi. This is what prompted the FBI initiative. Taking the aforementioned things into account, we can infer that the story of ‘Midnight in the Switchgrass’ is partially true as it mirrors several events that actually happened.