There’s an energy around Henrique Couto that’s hard to ignore. When I met him at VHS Fest at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater, I immediately knew I wanted to speak with him more. He’s funny, intelligent, and most importantly, passionate about horror. I picked up a copy of Babysitter Massacre, we shared contact info, and I went on my way. Fast forward to today, and I had the chance to talk to Henrique about the recent limited edition release of Babysitter Massacre.
PopHorror: Thanks a lot for your time, Henrique. First off, could you just give a brief description of Babysitter Massacre? It’s not a movie a lot of people have had the chance to check out.
Henrique Couto: No problem. Sure, well, Babysitter Massacre was just kind of my love letter to the 1980s slasher movies that were direct to video. Films like Slumber Party Massacre 1-3 and Sorority House Massacre 1 & 2. The movies that were kind of that genre where women are in their lingerie and in peril, which were films that I grew up renting when I was far too young to be renting. So when it came to make Babysitter Massacre, I wanted to pay homage to those and have a really good time making the film. I wanted something that could sit on the shelf next to those movies. Actually, prior to release on VHS, it was surprisingly successful. It was actually the last independent film on DVD to be carried at Blockbuster.
PopHorror: Oh, wow! That’s awesome. I had no idea about that!
Henrique Couto: Yeah! It came out in October, and a couple months later Blockbuster announced the official demise of the stores. So we were the last indy on the shelves, which is a pretty cool thing. Kind of like a bucket list thing. At the last minute, getting one move into Blockbuster. We did it, just barely, on my fourth feature.
PopHorror: That’s so cool. It’s like a trivia question you’d hear at trivia night: “What’s the last independent movie to be at Blockbuster?” Anyway, you already kind of answered another question I was going to ask. I’ve been telling people that Babysitter Massacre is like a love letter to those 80s slasher films. I was just wondering if those were a big part of your life? Were those the movies you grew up watching, or were they just something you enjoyed but wasn’t something that was as influential as it seems?
Henrique Couto: They were a huge part of my formative years watching movies, especially the Slumber Party Massacre movies, and in particular, Sorority House Massacre 2. I’m actually standing in my office right now and I have an original one sheet from Sorority House Massacre 2 and Slumber Party Massacre hung up prominently. They’re important flicks to me. They were fun and they were morbid. You can say what you want, you know, because the women in those movies disrobe and then they die, but they’re movies about women. You can say that they’re set dressing, but then they’re the only set dressing. It’s not like those are all movies about men with women dying all the time.
PopHorror: Yeah, I can see that.
Henrique Couto: And not to get hyper-personal or anything, but I was raised by a single mother and I always kind of got along with women better. Just in general, I’ve always identified with women better. So movies that were predominantly female connected with me very well, and horror movies tend to have leading females. I think that was the big thing that attracted me to horror movies. So those type of movies had a big impact on me, but then other movies had big impact on me because I couldn’t see them. They were on the shelves and I didn’t know what they were, or I didn’t have access to them right away. I remember when they were putting out Slumber Party Massacre 2 & 3 on DVD back in, like, 2003, and I was 15 or 16 years old waiting for my Amazon order to arrive. Or like, Sleepaway Camp 2 & 3. I remember seeing the box art and they drove my imagination wild.
PopHorror: Sleepaway Camp 2 is definitely my favorite. I didn’t see them until they were released on Blu-Ray, but I have seen the original box art for them and I love it.
Henrique Couto: Yeah, it’s not only my favorite, but I remember buying the the medical aid box at Best Buy. I had never seen any of them at that point, but I remember taking them home and watching all three in a row, and by the end of it, I couldn’t believe how I had been missing out on them.
PopHorror: Just briefly, I want to touch on what you said earlier. You had mentioned how horror has predominantly female leads. I saw someone post the other day about how horror films are the only genre where women speak just as much as men.
Henrique Couto: That’s definitely the case. The funny thing about Babysitter Massacre is that it came out on DVD in October 2013, and then it went on Amazon Prime, and now we’re celebrating the limited edition VHS release. When I made the movie, there were a couple of reviews who actually criticized the depth I gave the female characters, because those characters eventually took off their clothes or took a shower. I felt pretty offended by their critique, because it just blew my mind. It didn’t make sense. If a character is shown in the shower, is she automatically supposed to not have depth?
Erin Ryan’s character, Angela, and Marylee Osborne’s character, Bianca, are sort of co-leads. One being immersed in the slumber party aspect of the film, and the other being immersed in the mystery element of the film. I tried to give both characters a whole lot to deal with and to talk about. There’s a scene where Angela is talking with her mother, and she’s getting advice from her mother. I love that scene. I think it’s important, because she has a lot of things to say about life and loss. I just didn’t want the characters to show up, take a shower and die and not accomplish anything other than fill a quota.
When you rent or buy a movie called Babysitter Massacre, you almost have an expectation of what you’re going to get. I wanted to deliver, but I knew that I could deliver and do a good job. It just blew my mind that the critics were only focusing on the fact that the actresses took off their clothes. Ultimately, though, we ended up with more positive feedback than we did negative.
PopHorror: I agree. Women can both be in situations where they take their clothes off, while still being smart and strong characters. I do want to give you some praise, quickly. I was impressed with the actors and actresses you chose for the film, as they weren’t the generic, almost cut-and-paste actors and actresses we are used to seeing. They looked like real people, and they looked like they really did live in the town the movie is taking place in.
Henrique Couto: Thank you! Some of it was on purpose, while some of it is because we were making the film in the midwest. You know, I as a person… my sensibilities are very midwest. When I’m interviewing an actress for a lead role, I like the down to earth, girl next door look. We had a really nice and diverse group of actors and actresses. Geoff Burkman, who played Mr. Walker, is an incredible actor and a mainstay in the Dayton, Ohio area. I would say it was half thought through, and half just the way that I work.
PopHorror: Yeah, I understand. It was just something that really stood out to me, and I really enjoyed. Something I did want to bring up was that the movie was released in 2013. What’s the reason that we’re now getting a VHS release 4 years later?
Henrique Couto: I produced the film for Camp Motion Pictures; they were the producers. I pitched the movie, and they bought it. When we made it and released it, it did pretty well for an indie movie. As typical, though, I had to just move on. I direct movies for a living, so there’s an impetus to just keep swimming and creating new films. Babysitter Massacre was my fifth feature film, and it was released in 2013. Now in 2017, I’ve made 11 feature films since then. First, I think the VHS craze, or the VHS boom of nostalgia, had to grow to a point where it made sense to try this out. On top of that, I had to focus on the other films I was working on. The first limited release VHS we did was for this horror anthology film I made called Scarewaves. We put that out on VHS a few months after the DVD came out, and the response was pretty good. I kept dropping some hints that Babysitter Massacre would be great on VHS. I’m excited that for some people, their first viewing of Babysitter Massacre will be on VHS.
PopHorror: I’m impressed with Babysitter Massacre because it shows a lot without actually showing a lot. The camera kind of hides how the effects are done. There’s a scene at the beginning of the movie, and I really think the appearance of the film helped it. The babysitter is being held captive by the killer, and you see him rip off her fingernails one by one. It looks way worse than what it is.
Henrique Couto: That does not surprise me at all. I haven’t gotten a chance to watch the VHS yet, but I’m not surprised. That scene is one of my proudest moments in the film. It’s in the first 3 minutes, and we got to hear everyone squirm when we premiered it. When the actress showed up to film her scene, I told her we were going to put these press on nails on her, so that way later we could rip them off. It was a very simple effect, really. All we had to do was paint the nail underneath red, put some sticky blood on it, and then put the fake nail on top.
PopHorror: I really think that if Babysitter Massacre was in high definition and looked incredible, that scene would be nowhere near as effective. One last thing, is there anything you’re working on that you’d like to let our readers know about?
Henrique Couto: First off, I just wrapped up a horror feature called Haunting Inside. We just wrapped up shooting about a month ago, and we’re close to finishing post-production. That should probably come out next year. I have a large quantity of my films on Amazon Prime, as well. I’ll be making an appearance at Cinema Wasteland in Cleveland, Ohio. If you are into VHS and horror, I highly recommend making it out there. Finally, I just want to mention that if you’re interested, there are still some copies available of Babysitter Massacre on VHS. Once they’re gone, they’re gone for good. You can head over to Alternative Cinema and pick one up.
PopHorror: Thank you so much for your time, Henrique.
Be sure to check out Henrique Couto’s Babysitter Massacre and keep an eye out for his upcoming films. Check out the trailer below for Babysitter Massacre, and let us know what you think!