Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Interview with horror writer/director Henrique Couto

When we think of horror directors it is possible that we imagine a variety of physical and personal traits that encompass the horror genius.  Maybe they are a man or a woman.  They could be tall or short, thin or fat, darkly attractive or hideously frightening in appearance.  We likely imagine someone with a certain darkness to them.  Maybe a crazy glint in their eyes that makes us want to be sure we can see both hands at all times so as not to fall victim to the concealed razor blade.  They dress in black and have wild, unkempt hair that is most likely as black as the content of their films.  Their smile speaks of mischievously evil plans and chills us to the bone.  You could not possibly get further from this image then Henrique Couto, but don’t let that fool you.  Henrique is definitely a master indie horror film maker.

Henrique began making TV programs for Cable Access when he was just twelve years old.  By the age of 15, he was making DV films.  While Henrique has not stuck to horror, it has definitely been, and continues to be, a huge part of his career and personal interests.  Check out his wish list and you will find that Henrique collects teen horror novels from the early 90’s like R.L. Stine, Nightmare Hall, and other staples of the era.  Of his seven feature-length movies, with an eighth in pre-production, four were horror movies and a fifth was a horror/comedy hybrid.  His fans are eagerly awaiting the release of Haunted House on Sorority Row which premieres at the Edgewood Cinema on February 21, 2014.  From information, stills, and the trailer revealed by Henrique to date, it looks like horror fans will have another slam dunk. 

Physically and personally, however, Henrique is about as far removed from a stereotypical horror film director (if there really is such a thing) as one could imagine.  His trademarks are Hawaiian shirts and his long, well-cared-for hair.  He is energetic and loves to be around people, friends and fans alike.  Henrique’s outlook on life is perhaps best summed up by the two quotes he provided for IMDB.   “Always, always, always hold people over ideas. Period. Love and care for others because they breath air just like you do, because they need food and water just like you do, and because they crave love just like you do. Everything else is just collectivist bullshit.”  “If you aren't closer to your dream every day, then why even get up? Why even waste the shampoo?”  I had the pleasure and honor of talking to Henrique about his filmmaking and his own personal experiences with horror.

Ira Gansler:  So this question must be asked because you know everyone is likely wondering the same thing.  Given the vast amount of talent that you show on each of your films, does your awesome facial hair give you magical movie making powers?

Henrique Couto:  I feel like it would be foolish to admit the sources of my powers, but the idea isn't completely out of the question...

IG:  George Romero is the “Godfather of Zombies” and Tom Savini is the “Godfather of Gore,” just to name a couple.  If you could pick your horror nickname, what would it be?

HC:  I think part of the fun of the nicknames is that they are kind of handed out to you by a sort of unspoken consensus. If any nicknames come along for me, I will be thrilled. I would prefer it isn't “Asshole of Horror” or something like that, but I think that's a worst case scenario. For now I think I'm probably known as “The Best Pants in Horror.”

IG:  You have written/directed seven movies with an eighth in the pre-production process.  Out of these, one was a family film, two (including your newest project in pre-production) were comedies, four were horror movies, and one was a horror/comedy hybrid.  With this variety in your career, would you identify yourself as a horror film maker? If not, then how would you define yourself as a film maker?

HC:  I wouldn't really identify myself as a horror filmmaker, but I would NEVER deny my horror roots. The majority of my personal fandom is horror related, horror films and the culture around it have a kind of wonder you don't find in comedies or dramas. Horror films also have creative aspects you don't find in other genres aside from science-fiction. You can use wild lighting, you can use wild methods of creating tension and drama, the sky is the limit. But one of the reasons I am attracted to other genres is you can tell stories without elements necessary to have a horror film. Sometimes I just like people talking, and learning in my films.

IG:  Your film Babysitter Massacre was a fantastic nod at 80’s classics like Slumber Party Massacre and Sorority House Massacre.  Why did you choose this style all these years later?

HC:  I've always wanted to make something along the lines of Slumber Party Massacre or Sorority House Massacre 2, and I also had always wanted to make a film that took place on Halloween night. These ideas always got me excited to come up with story lines and characters, and I had a suspicion that this type of film was something audiences wanted to see. To test the waters, we put together a poster that sold a retro idea but with a little bit of modern grit to it. That poster led to us finding financing and worldwide distribution in a relatively short amount of time and we were off and running. I never really looked back, but I am so pleased when I hear people like yourself who love those flicks like I do enjoying my little piece.

IG:  Your horror films tend to contain a good deal of nudity in them.  Do you think sex and horror go hand in hand?

HC:  I absolutely do! Honestly I think sex goes with most things and well, sex is a major part of all of our lives. Whether we are having it, or not having it we are most certainly thinking about it. I think a lot of contemporaries these days really hold back on the sexual aspect of the horror films of yesterday that they reference as their inspiration. Horror films are a morbid fantasy, a little sex never hurts a fantasy.

IG:  What is it that you think causes modern horror film makers to try to hold back on the sexual aspect of horror?

HC:  I think in our culture there is a strange aversion to sex and an even stranger ability to accept violence. Sex can make people very uncomfortable and generally sexuality is a bit more real as to where violence in films is mostly fabricated. Maybe some people are just too embarrassed to ask someone to be sexy for their film.

IG:  What is your earliest horror-related memory?

HC:  Return of the Living Dead. My mother let me watch it on cable, I must have been four or five years old, it engrossed me with such terrible fear. My mother used to scare me by just growling out “brains” really slowly in a throaty voice. I guess that's where the scars all start! Haha.

IG:  What scares you?

HC:  Just about every damn thing, honestly. My imagination goes out of control at the drop of a hat, so I give myself the creeps very often. I think the worst thing there is though would be total silence. Silence is when my mind really wanders fast and furious, then what's worse is when the silence is broken. That's tension.

IG:  Given how well your Kickstarter is going for Awkward Thanksgiving, it’s obvious that you are developing a solid fan base.  To what do you attribute your success?

HC:  If I knew for sure then I could sell that information for some large cashola. I'm not completely sure, but I do know that I am thankful every single day for the support that seems to be growing every day. All I do is try my best to be honest and to make the best films I can with the resources available, and I also try to make sure everyone knows just how much I appreciate them. I feel like what's really happening in my life is I'm making incredible friends all over the country and to an extent the planet. It's astounding and humbling.

IG:  What would your dream project be?

HC:  It is funny you ask, I've been developing the story for a few years now and I always kind of dismissed it due to the financial needs. With how this latest Kickstarter is going, I feel like maybe in a year or two I could appeal to my audience to produce the film with me. I don't want to go into it too much until it really happens, but my dream project is a comedy with a main character who is dying of cancer. I know, I'm morbid but that is the story I desperately want to tell.

IG:  What advice would you give aspiring artists, whether they be film makers, actors, writers, or others wanting to go into the film industry?

HC:  Start working today, don't wait, don't talk about it any more. Start doing something, ANYTHING, in your field to get experience and learn your trade. It takes a long time creatively to find your voice, I feel like I'm only now really discovering how I want to say what I want to say and I've been shooting movies and videos for nearly a decade. Just make what you want to make, make a lot of it, and try to be as honest as you can be.

IG:  Are there any elements or topics that you consider to be too extreme or too taboo to include in one of your horror movies?

HC:  No.

IG:  Henrique, as you know, this blog, The Rage Circus Vs. The Soulless Void, is dedicated to all things horror.  In your opinion, what is horror?

HC:  Horror is anything we don't want to happen to ourselves or our loved ones. When we imagine ourselves in a situation that fills us with dread and fear, that is horror.

You can learn more about Henrique’s fantastic work on his upcoming horror film, Haunted House on Sorority Row, on the movie’s Facebook page -!/sororityghoststory.  Information about the premier is available at -!/events/190045867859050/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming.  In addition, you can support Henrique’s work at any of the following sites:


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