Slashing through, one frame at a time

Local filmmaker Henrique Couto is ready to shoot his own close-up

By T.T. Stern-Enzi

Photo: Babysitter Massacre” filmaker Henrique Couto [second from left] with his cast; photo credit: Alicia Lozier

During a recent multiple screening day, I had the chance to catch the new Sam Raimi-produced “Evil Dead” followed by a first look at the latest slasher project “Babysitter Massacre” from Dayton’s own Henrique Couto. The juxtaposition had a jarring effect on my sensibilities, but not because I was overwhelmed by the shock and awe of the gore-fest – bring it on, I say – rather, it was the sequencing of the projects, moving from a big budget studio remake of a classic to a raw slice of young flesh, blood and guts. But there’s a powerful lesson in retracing the path from a finished studio project to the humble beginnings of a genre-based labor of love.

It all begins with a crazy dreamer, a schemer with a vision, and my first impression of Couto is that he certainly fits the bill. When I met him briefly, to pick up a screener for his film, his stylized facial hair, the devilish twirl of his mustache and the twinkle in his eye reminded me of Sam Raimi’s new directorial project “Oz The Great and Powerful,” a movie I can’t say I was completely taken with, but I appreciated the idea of Oz (James Franco) as a charming scoundrel and a bit of a charlatan, a man whose sleight of hand techniques leaned dangerously close to the just plain slight. But he believed in this mythic idea of himself, his desire to be something more. And that is what I recognized in Couto.

After watching his film, I engaged him through email, to get his backstory and a sharper sense of the man behind the bloody scenes. I shot off a list of questions, sequenced for a particular effect and what I received had the makings of legend.

“My background is actually self-taught,” Couto dove right into his story, “I volunteered at the community access station MVCC in Centerville at 12 years old. I learned a lot of the basics of video editing and camera operation. I became a freelance video editor from 16 onward while always working on my own films. ‘Babysitter Massacre’ is my fifth feature film. It was written, shot and edited between Nov. 1, 2012 and March 1, 2013. It had an incredibly hectic schedule, but we completed everything on schedule and on budget, even with minor set backs such as illness, cancellations and just generally shooting around Christmas.”

And right away, there was our very own Oscar Diggs (minus the creepy womanizing). I loved his eagerness to use the media to create his brand in such an old-school way. Couto marries an earlier hucksterism with contemporary DIY flair; the magic originates with him.

“On the film, I actually ended up working with largely new cast and crew, all of the leads were new to working with me and all really impressed me immediately. With a film like this you never have much time, so we would arrive on location and while the actors were working on their lines, myself and the crew would set up lights and figure out the shots. I never had a story board; I would have three or four shots I was married to getting, then when we rolled camera (and) if we ended those shots ahead of schedule, I was allowed to experiment with an extra shot here or there to spice things up.”

With the world premiere set for Friday, April 12 at the Englewood Cinema at 10 p.m., Couto has a master plan for “Babysitter Massacre” that extends beyond this one event.

“We intend to do a few more shows in the area particularly around Halloween. The film is slated for national DVD and Video-on-Demand release via Camp Motion Pictures later in the year, so to support that we will try to get into as many theaters as we can.”

Filmmaking is Couto’s otherworldly realm and this “Massacre” is just another step on the long journey to becoming a great and powerful visual storyteller and without a doubt, he will be framing his own mythic version of the narrative.

For more information, visit facebook.com/babysittermassacre.

Reach DCP film critic T.T. Stern-Enzi at Film@DaytonCityPaper.com



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