Saturday, November 5, 2011

Digging Into Some Devilish Mountain Lore

Cherokee Indians believed that a slant-eyed giant with sharp claws, Judaculla, dwells within the bowels of the Devil's Courthouse peak in North Carolina's Blue Ridge mountains. Later on, the legend took on a more sinister meaning among early settlers, who feared that the devil himself lived in the Jackson County landmark's caves, there to cast judgment upon sinners.

It all adds up to a pretty good backdrop for a horror thriller, finally made all these years later by writer-director Ken Comito as In the Devil's Courthouse. The movie premieres on November 10th at the Carousel Luxury Cinemas in Greensboro, where it will run for a week. Comito is also arranging for a separate showing in Winston-Salem.

Main co-star Ashley Nelson

“Several people played the creature,” Comito tells FilmStew of his $50,000 2010 production. “Without revealing too much about the plot, I'll just say that out of necessity, schedule conflicts required several people to don the suit(s). The creature make-up is a full body suit made of latex and tons of hair. It has a latex head-mask, chest and back plates, hands-claws-feet, and hand-woven hair everywhere in between.”

Only one other movie, the 2004 horror-comedy The Devil's Courthouse, has made prominent use of the Blue Ridge landmark. For Comito, it was something of a difficult first feature project; his father died during pre-production in 2009, and he had to delay post so that he could care for his mother, who passed away of cancer this past June. However, several other family members were there to help.

“My wife was amazing throughout the production,” raves Comito. “She did make-up, helped with wardrobe, acted as a weapons expert, caterer, photographer, PA, decorated sets, and operated the slate. She did so much and I'm very thankful.”

Tim Scales ("Hiker") holding court

The couple's two daughters appear in the movie as “Pine Cone Girls”, Comito's trademark tiptoe version of the Girl Scouts, while two nephews were also instrumental. Josh Spiegel, based in LA, edited the film, and J.T. Prevost was the main creature actor. Yet another relative, brother-in-law Jason Crews,wrote and performed a couple of musical compositions for the film.

After the North Carolina rollout, the plan for Comito is to ideally sell the film to the highest bidder. He has also submitted his movie to the Carolina Film and Video Festival and will send it to Durham's Nevermore. Other festivals to be targeted may include the Atlanta Horror Film Festival and Asheville.

[In the Devil's Courthouse]

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