Interview: HENRIQUE COUTO

SCAREWAVES director talks anthology horror
Director Henrique Couto has been blowing up the underground with his unique yet diverse voice in cinema. Bringing horror with heart – and lots of guts, gore or otherwise (depends on the flick!) – this irrepressible filmmaker embraces his art with rarely matched passion and sincerity. His movies are original, energetic and surprising, and always intelligent. His latest, SCAREWAVES, is a return to the beloved anthology format that rose and peaked in the 70s and 80s (though it appeared before that), which was in turn inspired by the classic E.C. Comics. Couto had a lot of inspirational goods to work with but, as with all his films, regardless of subject, this auteur puts his own distinct spin on the material.
1. What unique challenges did shooting an anthology horror movie present, as opposed to the rigors of regular features?

One of the hardest elements of an anthology film on a budget is not being able to reuse locations and talent. There are only so many actors, actresses and places you can film, and not being able to use the same house or living room between segments was easily as much a challenge as not being able to have an actress appear in more than one segment. They each have to stand alone and that was a big challenge dividing up resources.
 
2. Did you worry about the possibility of a slump story – that one tale in a lot of anthology horror films that doesn’t hold up to the others, a coattail rider?

I did have that concern, so I decided to make each segment hugely diverse from the last. Having multiple screenwriters really assisted me in that endeavor, I was able to pull from their stories different elements I really loved. Some segments focused on characters most, others on theme or atmosphere. It was a really fun space to play in.
 
3. What’s your favorite segment in SCAREWAVES and why?

That is so hard to say, I think Painting After Midnight holds a special place in my heart because it turned out to kind of be like an old episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark but with nudity and blood. It gives me a kind of joy I really really love. I’m sure if you asked me tomorrow I’d choose a different one though, they are just so fun and diverse.
4. What was the most difficult segment to shoot? The easiest? Why?

Office Case was by far the hardest segment to shoot, it had the most locations and the most characters in it. The schedule was up in the air a lot of the time and we ended up having our main office location drop out, we found a replacement but we had some snags there that almost caused us to be booted out. We had to shoot the majority of that segment in a VERY short amount of time due to that.

The easiest segment was absolutely Fair Scare, it has just three characters and a simple but awesome locale full of atmosphere. With that segment it was all about the performances and creating ambiance. It was like an episode of Tales from the Crypt, it had bank robbers, dark hallways, and a beautiful bombshell actress. It was a lot of fun and we had a great time shooting it.
 
5. Were you aware of or familiar with the old EC Comics such as Tales from the Crypt, Haunt of Fear, etc., when you started work on SCAREWAVES?

Absolutely, EC Comics and the films/TB they inspired were the biggest influence. I love the way those stories felt, they almost had a texture to them. They were grimey and sordid and you couldn’t ever look away.
6. Is it a safe assumption that you’re well versed in the world of 80s anthology horror? What are your favorites and why? Weakest?

I love Terrorgram, which I feel like almost no one has ever seen. Also From a Whisper to a Scream, which I think really captures that EC Comics mindset to a T. Of course then you also have Creepshow and Tales from the Darkside.
 
7. Would you make another anthology film after this experience?

I would, I would just have to find a really great perspective to tackle it with. If I come up with it, you’ll get to see it in no time flat I assure you!
 
8. Were there any trepidations about releasing an anthology film to the horror market?

I think the horror market is opening up to anthologies very much right now, obviously V/H/S is hitting pretty well as well as ABCs of Death, but there was also Theatre Bizarre and Chillerama. I think they are gaining traction and there is something in the short form you just can’t get from feature length movies.
9. What was the best part about working on anthology horror? The worst?

I loved the speed at which we could move. Each segment was like its own little movie, so we could schedule them separately, shoot them separately, rewrite and edit them separately. That allowed us to be working on all the projects at the same time in different capacities so we got it wrapped up in record speed. The worst part was for certain having to spread the resources out between segments, it was a challenge to say the least.
 
10. What did you learn by filming SCAREWAVES?

I learned to push forward no matter what and that if I put my heart and soul on the line I could accomplish whatever is put in front of me. This was the first film I rolled cameras on since quitting my day job, and it was an amazing experience.
 
11. What would you do differently if you could?

I would have cut myself more slack during post production, I made myself work 16 hour days in editing to get the film done obscenely fast. It was some of the worst stress I’ve been through.
 
12. What kind of feedback have you been getting regarding SCAREWAVES?

People love it! They love the throwback feel and the atmospheric elements, it gives people the willies and that’s just what I wanted!
13. Were there any story ideas for SCAREWAVES that ended up cut?

There were a few concepts we considered that just didn’t add up due to budget, my favorite being about a warden in a near future prison who used his technology to abuse the prisoners. We couldn’t even vaguely afford to shoot it, but I loved it, and it had a hell of a twist!
 
14. Compare and contrast SCAREWAVES with similar movies from the 70s and 80s.

I think Scarewaves manages to pay homage without trying to be just like its predecessors which was very important to me. I wanted to evoke similar feelings but while making the film modern and I’m very happy with what we accomplished.
 
15. Final thoughts?

I just hope people love the movie and see my fanboy heart at work in it and I hope they get scared! I also want to thank Camp Motion Pictures for having enough faith in the film to produce and distribute it. Without them there would be no film!
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