The Witching Hour … For whom the hell’s bells toll
Filmmaker Ken Comito is making the Tarheel State a little scarier and a little more entertaining. In 2011, the life-long horror buff made his feature bow with In the Devil’s Courthouse, inspired by a Cherokee legend in Transylvania County.
Last year saw the release of Witching Hour, a horror anthology again filmed mostly in North Carolina (Greensboro, Burlington, Colfax, Jamestown, etc.). The new film was an official selection of the 2015 Phoenix Comicon Film Festival and is a selection of the 2015 North Carolina Film Awards.
One segment, The Birthday Present, which had been completed prior to the overall feature, won Best Film at the 2013 Howl-O-Palooza Film Festival in Lenoir and Best Film at the 2013 Geek Short Film Festival in Atlanta, as well as an official selection at DragonCon Film Festival in Atlanta, Horror Realm Film Festival in Pittsburgh, Mad Monster Party Film Festival in Charlotte, Concarolinas (also in Charlotte), and the Killuride Film Festival in Myrtle Beach.
“My wife and I are both giant fans of television shows like ‘The Twilight Zone,’ ‘The Outer Limits,’ ‘Night Gallery,’ ‘Tales from the Darkside,’ ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ and movies like Creepshow, Cat’s Eye, Trilogy of Terror and Trick r’ Treat,” Comito relates. “We wanted to make something that felt like those pieces, with more story and less gore.
“Secondly, we both had so many stories running through our heads with no place to go. Each was a simple story that would come out nicely in a short, but weren’t beefy enough for a feature. So the solution was to write a story to link them all together and create an anthology.”
Comito’s wife Melanie wrote and directed the segment Misfortune, as well as pitching in on producing and cinematography, and this “indie power couple” joined forces with Victoria King, who wrote and directed Gone, and Josh Spiegel, who wrote and directed The Rules of Being Dead.
“We didn’t want to have all the stories be done by my wife and me, so we enlisted the aid of guest directors for some of the short segments,” Comito says. “This gave the movie some different looks and feeling, yet kept it together at the same time.
I had a great time working with the guest directors. I love the different styles that the other directors brought to the picture.
“In the Devil’s Courthouse taught me I couldn’t do it all,” he admits. “So now I’ve teamed up with my wife to move forward. I am much more comfortable now (working) as a team.”
That film, incidentally, has been acquired for worldwide distribution by the Texas-based ScreamTime Films, with a release date to be determined.
Comito’s youth was spent – not misspent – watching and learning from the works of the masters: Romero, Carpenter, Argento, Craven. (And, yes, he read monster magazines and played around with stop-motion animation, too!) He remains a fervent fan of horror, fantasy and science-fiction, and his films are an affectionate salute to the films that inspired and continue to inspire him. “I really enjoyed The Babadook, despite the annoying kid,” he quips, “but my wife took great inspiration from the movie as it was directed by a woman (Jennifer Kent).”
Even before Witching Hour was complete, the Comitos were already planning a follow-up.
“As I mentioned earlier, we had so many stories that we needed to tell and not enough time to tell them in Witching Hour, so I decided to split the project into two movies. We’re currently in production on Witching Hour II, which will begin where the first left off, but with new characters and a new story for the framing segments.
“Witching Hour II will have six shorts stitched into the main fabric,” he reveals. “We will have four guest directors this time. Melanie has written and directed one of the shorts and directed another that I wrote. I directed one short and the framing story.”
Comito’s company, Brain Juice Productions, also provides video production, photography and editing service for a variety of clientele, including the town of Pleasant Garden’s annual Veteran’s Day Celebration. Comito also appears in Kevin Richmond’s filmmaking documentary Beyond the Blue (available on DVD and online at peepintomproductions.com).
What Comito jokingly describes as his “expensive hobby” is taking on a life of its own.
“Our film work will continue to be focused on horror, suspense, and may even dip into sci-fi,” he says. “Another feature film (aside from Witching Hour II) is already in pre-production, as well as a stand-alone short and a proposed web series.”
For more information about The Witching Hour and Brain Juice Productions, check out:
http://www.brainjuiceproductions.com/ Brain_Juice_Productions/Home.html. !