An Interview With Henrique Couto
An Interview With Henrique Couto
By Pathetic Waste
Henrique Couto has directed over 8 feature films. He has his roots in backyard DIY cinema and is currently sowing his legend in independent horror cinema. I sat down with Henrique to get an insight on what is behind the brain of the Dayton madman himself.
PW: I know, like many directors, you started off as a fan. How did you become a fan of the genre? What made you transition from fan to filmmaker?
Henrique Couto: It’s hard to really pinpoint my first moments of fandom, I remember at around 6 or 7 years old seeing Return of the Living Dead on cable and loving it. I remember having a VHS recording of Jaws 4, which looking back was silly but as a kid it scared me so badly. But when it really all came to a head was when I was around 9 or 10 and I was given the first five Nightmare on Elm Street films on tape from my older sister. I watched them again and again, memorized them and became so fascinated.
Being fascinated with movies and being kind of an outcast in school was a perfect storm to lead me toward wanting to make my own. I got my first camcorder when I was 12 years old and I couldn’t stop video taping things. Anything. I’d film our dog, I’d film myself, my friends, whatever I could point the camera at. Then I started editing them together by connecting two VCRs. I would make lots of montages and music videos. There’s a level of obsession that went into my desire to make videos that I’ve never quite been able to understand. But it is there, and it has never seemed to leave me.
Eventually I started volunteering at a cable access station, that was when I began getting a structured background on video. From there it has just always been a gradual progression, every video I make is a little better than the last.
PW: Also, you were a convention kid, much like myself. You still run the convention circuit to this day. What was it like when you went to your first convention? How have conventions changed since then?
Henrique Couto: Conventions were an incredible discovery for me when I was 14 years old, it was as if all the years of fandom I had were finally paying off. Being at conventions is like knowing a foreign language and then finally getting to speak it when you are around the right people. The first convention I ever went to I was overwhelmed by, I spent every penny I had in the world there because there were so many incredible and hard to find items. Fan heaven. Overall conventions have changed with the internet making things more accessible. With file sharing you don’t need people bootlegging rare and out of print movies so what you find are a lot more people selling original art and films. I still love them to this day.
PW: Around 2002-2003, you started your own production company. Freak Productions. Making DIY cinema in your backyard. With films such as Patches 2, Headcheese, Slumber Party Murder Mania and Teen Suicide. What was your mentality back then? How did these films prepare you for future projects? Was this your own, personal, film school?
Henrique Couto: Freak Productions was my own little empire, I loved making little movies and I looked up to other companies so I wanted to emulate them. My attitude was that every time I could manage to get a half dozen bottles of corn syrup together we would make a movie. Often they didn’t have scripts, just a concept and 2 or 3 days. We almost always shot them all at once. In a way they taught me a lot about running a set and marketing projects. Every little movie I made I would make a cover box for and sell DVDs of and always managed to make them turn a profit on the 30 or 40 bucks spent. Haha.
In a way it was like film school, but it was like elementary school compared to the full blown university of hard knocks I would end up at later on.
PW: Under your label, Freak Productions, you released one of Chris Lamartina’s early films. Eat Me. How did you develop a relationship with Chris and how did the film get into your hands for distribution?
Henrique Couto: Chris and I met at Horrorfind weekend in Baltimore, we were both pretty young, I think I was 16 he was a year or two older. He introduced himself and gave me a VHS copy of Eat Me to check out. I didn’t give him much thought again until I watch it and was blown away by the editing, quality, and attitude. I immediately got in touch with him and that started a friendship and occasional collaboration that still goes on to this day. Eat Me wasn’t a huge splash on DVD, but it was an awesome experience.
PW: Freak Productions also released Justin Channell’s Raising the Stakes. A vampire horror-comedy. How did the film come to your attention?
Henrique Couto: I saw Justin around film forums here and there and we got to talking, at the time I was one of the few guys in our peer group who had a system down for making and selling DVDs. I had the graphic design, the manufacturing, and then the outlet to sell them. I loved his film and wanted to help him get it out into the world. It was a cool experience and again, I often collaborate with Justin to this day. A great friendship that started so long ago.
PW: In 2005, you did two horror anthology films. Faces of Schlock and Faces of Schlock Vol 2. For these films you partnered with three other filmmakers. Chris Lamartina, Andrew Shearer and Justin Channell. How did these projects come to be? What was it like working with such company?
Henrique Couto: Andrew Shearer and I became friends around the same time as Chris LaMartina and I, so we were always thinking of ways to partner up. LaMartina and I had toyed with the idea of an anthology here and there and finally it happened. It was massively out of a desire to make something fast and feature length. Then it got coverage in Fangoria and was a huge hit at conventions, so we knocked out a part 2 less than 6 months later and involved a newer friend of mine at the time Justin Channell. The experience was excellent, I am so honored to work with such talented people.
PW: You have also worked on some projects for Chris Seaver, of Low Budget Pictures. How did you meet Chris and how did you two start a working relationship?
Henrique Couto: Chris Seaver and I met at my first convention and I bought some tapes from him, since then I have lost track of how many things Chris and I have worked on. I did lots of DVD work with him, helped him with the editing on Carnage for the Destroyer and Destruction Kings. We just kind of clicked and enjoyed working together from the start.
PW: In 2006, you left backyard horror behind, with the release of Marty Jenkins and the Vampire Bitches. A horror comedy and step up from your previous productions. How did you come up with the idea? What made this different from your other films? What was the response upon release?
Henrique Couto: Marty Jenkins was my first real feature length movie, and it is where I consider the start of my “professional” career as a director. I came up with that title which I thought was hilarious and then kind of ran from there. I had just went through a very hard breakup right before I started writing it so it is full of a lot of not so subtle anger. It was also the first thing I ever wrote that ended up being very personal because of what I was going through at the time. I think the script being so personal is what gives my first feature some staying power to where people still compliment it to this day.
PW: Around this time, you also played a role in the zombie film Die and Let Live. How did you get involved in the production? How was it to work with the guys from IWC Films?
Henrique Couto: I was actually gearing up to move away from Ohio while they were starting to produce Die and Let Live, so I drove out for a weekend and helped out on set and played a role. It was a complete and total blast, lots of improvising and crazy makeup. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything.
PW: You took a break from 2006 to 2009, but returned with a bang. A reboot, re-imagining, suedo-sequel to Faces of Schlock. Also returning were previous co-directors Justin Channell, Andrew Shearer and Chris Lamartina. What made you go back to the well? Did it feel natural to do another entry? Will we see the four of you working together in the future? Possibly another Faces of Schlock?
Henrique Couto: My break was while I worked for Alternative Cinema on the east coast, but the entire time I was there I wanted to do something new. We had all talked about a part 3, in fact Andrew Shearer had even shot his segment ahead of everyone else but it never quite happened. Well at one point we had the same realization we had the first time. We didn’t have much money or time but we wanted to make a feature. So we all came together and made it happen. It felt awesome to bring it together, the excitement I got when the MiniDV tapes arrived from those guys was indescribable.
At this time, we are all working on numerous projects I’m not sure theres another anthology on the way, but I wouldn’t rule it out forever.
PW: This entry in Faces of Schlock was “Slay Ride” A love-letter to the killer santa film. What made you pick a killer santa flick as your subject matter?
Henrique Couto: I have an adoration for Christmas and Slay Ride was the first time I really let myself indulge it. I think holidays are the perfect backdrop for stories, Andrew Shearer actually wrote that script and he gave it such a perfect bite. It’s still one of my favorite things I’ve directed.
PW: This is also the first time you would work with Scream Queen Ruby Larocca. How did your work relationship begin? Any plans to have here in future films?
Henrique Couto: Ruby was recommended to me when I was looking for the lead for Slay Ride, she hadn’t been very active at the time so I sent her an email with the script. I had been a big fan of her work before that so I was excited but also very nervous. She had hugely positive things to say about the script so we talked a little more and cast her. I actually didn’t meet her in person until the first day of shooting, that’s how fast things move in my world!
PW: Next up, you directed the suicide-revenge film Bleeding Through. Once again, a step-up over your previous films in storytelling and production value. This film has similar tendencies to your earlier backyard-opus Teen Suicide. Was this a suedo-remake? This was also a much more serious tone for you. What was behind the darker tone of the film? What was the overall response to Bleeding Through?
Henrique Couto: Bleeding Through was such a change of pace for me in every way. It was loosely based on the short film Teen Suicide I had made as kid. After shooting Slay Ride I had adored working with Sandy Behre so much I wanted to do a feature with her as the lead. She and I get along very well so it seemed like it would be a cakewalk. We actually shot the film in two big chunks, we had to stop when we ran out of money.
I love being funny and I love humor but there is something about being very serious that fascinates me. Before Bleeding Through I was always more obsessed with technical things like shooting and editing, but after the film I fell in love what directing. That was when I knew I wasn’t just making movies to try it out, I knew what I wanted. I wanted to direct actors, I wanted to choose stories and I wanted to tell them.
PW: You have also done two comedy/drama films. A Bulldog For Christmas and Depression: The Movie. Can you tell us why you chose to differ from the genre you are best known for? What was the inspiration behind the films?
Henrique Couto: I love movies, and I love the idea of directing every kind of movie possible. When I made Depression: The Movie I was feeling kind of disenfranchised by making movies so I decided to make something totally different and incredibly personal. I dived in head first and made a movie I wasn’t sure anyone else would want to see. I loved making it and I loved expanding my horizons as a director.
A Bulldog for Christmas was an experiment in making something the whole family could enjoy, I am a sucker for sappy stories of family and holidays so I wrote something that would pull at my own heart strings while delivering a fun and silly ride. Shooting Bulldog was hard because of the long schedules but one of the most fun sets I have ever brought together.
PW: You would return to horror with Babysitter Massacre. A nasty little, 80’s style, slasher. You really seem in your element here. What was the inspiration for Babysitter Massacre? Can you tell us a bit about the production? Any chance for sequel?
Henrique Couto: After making Depression it was becoming clear that soon I would return to making something more commercial so I started thinking about what kind of horror movie I wanted to see. I immediately started thinking about a film centered around Halloween with the vibe of Slumber Party Massacre. I wanted to make a fun horror flick I would enjoy myself, on a budget of course!
I announced I was making the film and had a poster already being shared around and I managed to get the attention of Alternative Cinema, who had distributed two of my films prior. They got on board and I produced the film for them to release. It was the first time I ever made a film that already had distribution in place.
The production was fast, and it involved a lot of new people, people I’ve now worth with on many more movies. I remember loving recreating the halloween vibe and lots of really difficult emotional scenes. It was a hell of an experience and I’m so glad it has found an audience. I don’t know for sure if there will be a sequel, it is still too early to tell how successful the film has been.
PW: Your latest release was Haunted House on Sorority Row, arguably your best and most prolific film to date. Bringing back a majority of the cast from Babysitter Massacre, this time a supernatural movie rather than a slasher. Did this seem like a natural successor to Babysitter Massacre? How has the response been to the film?
Henrique Couto: Haunted House on Sorority Row started like a lot of my films as a title I really loved, with the successful partnership I had with Alternative Cinema on Babysitter we moved to this next one. I brought on the very talented screenwriter John Oak Dalton to help bring it to life and we were off and running. The films production ran incredibly smooth and so far everyone is raving about it. I’m very proud of the film, my cast and crew delivered a very professional film with very little money and time. I loved making it.
PW: Your last few pictures have been released through Independent Entertainment. You also have an ongoing partnership with Alternative Cinema. How did they start releasing your films and how has the relationship with IE and Alternative Cinema been, thus far?
Henrique Couto: I used to be a staffer at Alternative Cinema, I learned so much about the business from them. When I made Faces of Schlock I had intended to release it myself but alternative came to me and offered to license it for distribution. It was a big deal to get it out so wide and it did pretty well. I’m very proud of my work with them and look forward to doing more with them in the future.
PW: You have two upcoming releases. Another comedy, entitled, Awkward Thanksgiving. Also on the platter, a horror film, called Scarewaves. Can you tell us a bit about the two? When can we expect for them to be available?
Henrique Couto: Awkward Thanksgiving was another very personal film, kind of like A Bulldog for Christmas but with much more adult humor. I just wrapped it entirely and I think people are going to love it, I put so much into the characters and the production. It should be out wide in November with details to come shortly.
Scarewaves just wrapped its final cut, and it is a really awesome love-letter to horror anthologies. I was trying to create a Tales from the Crypt vibe and I think I achieved it. This is another one being made for Alternative Cinema which will release early next year. Very exciting to have two whole films ready to go.
PW: What is your favorite film of your own and why?
Henrique Couto: That’s such a hard question to answer, I feel like Depression: The Movie is probably a persona favorite just because of the risks I took and how hard I worked to tell a story I wasn’t sure anyone would want to see. The response to Depression has been incredible and I’m so proud of it. But Awkward Thanksgiving might be able to dethrone it, only time will tell!
PW: If you could remake any of your films, what would it be? Are there any of your films you’d like to erase from your filmography?
Henrique Couto: Honestly, I love my filmography. I love making movies, and more than I want to remake anything or erase anything I just wanna go shoot more. I want to make as many films as I can.
PW: Obviously, you are a fan of the genre. What are your favorite genre films? What directors inspired you to become a filmmaker?
Henrique Couto: Dawn of the Dead is probably the film I can watch a million times and always get something different from it. That is my absolute favorite genre film.
I was massively inspired by Jim Wynorski, Fred Olen Ray, Jeff Burr, and Woody Allen just to name a few. I love their work, and their body of work as a whole.
PW: Do you have any advice you can give to aspiring film makers?
Henrique Couto: Make movies, all the time. Don’t stop, don’t question. Just keep making movies. Don’t look back, only look forward. Be resilient. Resiliency will pay off more than skill or talent ever could.
PW: What can we expect from Henrique Couto in the future?
Henrique Couto: That’s a tough one, the kinds of movies I make are always shifting. Maybe an action film, or a sex comedy. Who knows? I have a few things developing, but I will tell you whatever it is I will put everything I have into making it entertaining.
PW: Anything you’d like to share with your fans, Henrique?
Henrique Couto: Just a huge thank you, thank you for following my work. Without people enjoying my work I have no work to do. It means everything to me to wake up every day and see how I can entertain you all with a camera yet again.
PW: One last question. I know you are a fan of Tremors. So, Tremors 5? Thoughts?
Henrique Couto: If they give me more Burt Gummer, I will eat it up. I’m easy like sunday morning!
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