The tagline for Brain Juice Productionsâ€™ first feature-length film In the Devilâ€™s Courthouse is â€œPray Youâ€™re Not Judgedâ€¦..â€ It may seem as much a self-reflective warning as a clever phrase. This film has all the makings of a no-budget, zero-production independent bore-festâ€¦â€¦except that it isnâ€™t. In this case, you shouldnâ€™t judge a DVD by its cover because, although campy and predictable, Courthouse has a certain endearing quality that makes it not only tolerable, but downright fun. After allâ€¦.isnâ€™t that the point?
In the Devilâ€™s Courthouse spins the yarn of a monster creeping around the Appalachian Mountains, a mythical monster from Cherokee lore that stalks anybody foolish enough to camp out in its vicinity. Of course, its favorite prey are the naÃ¯ve teenagers who spend the night in a tent and have pre-marital sexâ€¦.will they never learn? When Leah (Ashley Nelson) watches her boyfriend get dragged away, her police officer brother Steve (Dustin Webb), along with his partner and his girlfriend, come running to the rescue. But thereâ€™s a small problemâ€¦..they have no idea where they are. As day turns to night and they run out of places to hide, the number of survivors begins dwindling until only a few have the opportunity to escape. But what IS this menace? Where does it (or they) come from? Why do they product such a high-pitched, increasingly-annoying shriek? Few answers are offered, but in the end Iâ€™m fine with that. The journey is all over the place, but I was along for the ride.
As I mentioned, the special effects were as cheap as expected and the acting was downright laughable at times. But a funny thing happened on the way to the televisionâ€¦..I found myself actually caring what happened to the characters. The story itself has been done a million times, but writer/director Kenneth S. Comito put his personal touch of several elements. One particular scene that comes to mind is the bloody demise of a group of unsuspecting girl scouts. Other movies may allude to such a fragile subject and imply that something heinous has taken place, but here the massacre plays out in front of you. Does this prove that Courthouse is a good movie? Not necessarily, but it shows that the producers have balls. Thereâ€™s also a character in a wheelchair, and while I wonâ€™t divulge their fate I will say that the envelope was pushed in more than one scene. For this, I applaud Comito.
Some other positives for this film are the setting, a gorgeous and picturesque part of the North Carolina backwoods, complete with rolling hills and mountains. With a setting like this, you can almost begin to feel that anything could certainly live in there, sinister or not. And taking a page out of the mid-90s, teenage slasher films formula, Courthouse boasts a surprisingly-cool soundtrack. An eerie score punctuating the moments of tension and anxiety are complimented, particularly at the end, with the hard rock stylings of Jive Mother Mary, Dreamkiller and The Last Hour. While I hadnâ€™t heard of these bands previously, it was enough to at least initiate a Google search for their other work.
I tried to view In The Devilâ€™s Courthouse with an open mind, and not apply all of the typical indy-genre stereotypes to it. In the end, Iâ€™m glad I did because what I watched was a surprisingly-entertaining piece of horror goodness. You may be able to predict the action, but at least in the end you wonâ€™t be wondering where the last 85 minutes of your life went. Give it a shot.