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AV Club Interviews Remy Couture: FX Specialist’s Upcoming Trial Has Many Ira Isaacs Parallels To It

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from www.avclub.com – Released in 1960, Michael Powell’s voyeuristic thriller Peeping Tom was immensely controversial. Following a largely sympathetic serial killer and featuring scenes of graphic violence that dwarfed Hitchcock’s Psycho (released three months later), Peeping Tom is now considered a classic, admired for its ballsy prurience and psychological complexity. At the time, it effectively ended Powell’s career.

Canadian visual-effects artist and filmmaker Rémy Couture is at a similar crossroads. His work—which is extremely graphic, even by horror industry standards—is being put on a trial this December for “moral corruption” and “distributing obscene material” some three years after he was arrested in his Montreal home. His conviction would set a slippery, and ludicrous, precedent in Canada. The jury trial date was set earlier this week.

Couture’s case has become a rallying point for artists, filmmakers, a horror fans who believe that as graphic or repellent (or even, as the Globe & Mail’s Russell Smith put it, “dumb”) as Couture’s videos are, they’re not illegal. Tom Savini, the so-called “Sultan Of Splatter” responsible for loosing all kinds of arterial spray in films like Dawn Of The Dead and Maniac, has rushed to Couture’s defense. As have editors at two of horror fandom’s most prominent rags, Rue Morgue and Fangoria, both published out of Toronto. For these guys, Couture has become something of a cause célèbre.

Couture’s more concerned with the practicalities. Stuff like paying for legal fees, building his case, and the prospect of facing jail time for creating video content which, no matter how gnarly, is above all else fake. Like Peeping Tom’s Michael Powell before him, Couture’s creative career now faces a decisive end. Waves of cult appreciation may follow. But it’s small consolation when he needs the help now. The A.V. Club spoke with Couture at his home on Montreal about his arrest, his work, and the dangerous precedent a guilty verdict would set.

The A.V. Club: For people who haven’t been following your trial and arrest, can you tell us what exactly happened?

Rémy Couture: It all started with my website, Inner Depravity, which has been online since 2005. This website, it was my own work, my own creations. You could see all the photography and some short movies, of a character in a mask doing murder and stuff like that.

AVC: Did someone see it and think it was real?

RC: I think it was a guy from Germany. He saw it and he called INTERPOL. INTERPOL tried to see who was behind this website. It was hosted, legally, in Los Angeles. Everything was legal, right? But they followed me, and sent a warrant to the Montreal police. The funny thing is that this website has a disclaimer that says this was not real, that it was all fake and makeup. It’s funny that the Montreal police would send two undercover police when it had this disclaimer.

AVC: The police went undercover as two people wanting you to do a photo shoot of them, right?

RC: They pretended to be two people who wanted makeup for Halloween, because they’d seen my portfolio. They turned out to be two undercover police. They arrested me on my street, and went in my house trying to find something—I don’t know, maybe a cadaver or something. I was in the police station for hours. I thought it was a joke. I tried to find a hidden camera or something. But it was not a joke. The police, they seized my computer, they seized my passport, they seized my credit card. I don’t know why. Maybe they thought they’d find something on my computer, murder or something like that. But they realized everything was fake. My studio is in my basement. They saw my fake heads, fake limbs, fake blood, and everything. So then the police felt stupid, but they still charged me. Now the charge against me is “corruption of morals through distribution of obscene materials.”

AVC: So you think the police charged you for this because they felt they’d been duped after finding your workshop and realizing the videos weren’t real?

RC: I think so. But we don’t know. In the few weeks after my arrest, the police called me and said, “Okay, go to the courthouse and just plead guilty and we’ll give you the absolution. No charge or anything, but you’ll have to shut down your website.” I said no. Because, guilty of what? They said my material was illegal. If my material is illegal, they’d have to arrest the whole horror industry! I haven’t done anything new, or too disturbed. You can see the same in horror movies, in cinema, in Hollywood. The charge was—how do I explain it—I was arrested in 2009 and charged in 2010. It took one whole year to charge me.

AVC: The idea has circulated a bit since you’ve been charged that, as a visual effects artist, you couldn’t buy this kind of publicity, and that it’s only served to expand your profile. Do buy this?

RC: Well, if I’m found guilty it will be really bad for my career. I won’t be able to travel in the U.S. and stuff like that. If I’m not guilty, then maybe, yeah, some things would come up for my career. But it’s cost me so much money, and so much stress. I don’t really care about the good consequences. Right now I’m paying the price, in stress and in money. Right now I can’t see the good part. Maybe in five years, I will laugh about it. It’s just stress now. And my girlfriend has cancer, so that’s causing more stress. It’s cancer on one side, and my trial on the other side. It’s like a nightmare.

AVC: That’s terrible news about your girlfriend, Rémy.

RC: We found out about that one month ago. For two weeks, she’s been in my home. And she has a big operation in June. The trial was originally in June, so it’s a good thing it’s been pushed back until December. Right now we’re just focusing on the cancer. All our energy is on that.

AVC: You’ve received a lot of support from people in the horror film industry. Tom Savini has spoken out in support of you. How does that feel?

RC: I’ve met Tom Savini, and we keep in touch. He’s really upset about what’s happened to me. And I’m a good friend of Rodrigo [Gudiño] of Rue Morgue magazine in Toronto. For them, too, it’s kind of unbelievable. We can’t close our eyes on what happened. If I’m found guilty it’ll open a door for something really dangerous with the horror industry in Canada. A lot of people don’t like what I do, but they don’t agree with the criminal charge behind that. I’m facing jail time. I’m facing criminal recourse. It’s not a joke, you know?

AVC: Well the issue seems to be precedent: If your work is judged as “obscene” or “corrupting” morals, then where is the line drawn next?

RC: Exactly. I think I’m kind of an example now. They try to make an example with my case. I think. I don’t know for sure.

AVC: On the Support Rémy website, there’s a short called “Bloody Blow.” Is this something you made in particular reference to the trial?

RC: Yeah, I made it two months ago, I think. I’m trying to do some short movies to express myself, and how I feel about this case. And to try and catch the attention of people. I’ll release another one in summer. But it’ll be really funny and satiric. It’ll be in the same vein, but in a comedy way.

AVC: How can people support you? You mentioned all the legal fees you’re incurring.

RC: On the site, you can give donations, or buy T-shirts, to help my case. It costs so much money. It’s about like $30,000, and more. I have to pay my lawyer. And I have to pay experts in the trial—psychologists, criminologists, teachers in cinema. We have to bring in a lot of experts, and we have to pay them, too. So people can help me, and know the story. On this website, everything is explained for people who want to know more about my case.

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