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Review: Henrique Couto’s ‘SCAREWAVES’

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Ohio filmmaker Henrique Couto has made quite a name for himself with flicks ranging from the throwback feeling HAUNTED HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW or BABYSITTER MASSACRE to the family friendly film, A BULLDOG FOR CHRISTMAS.  His latest venture is an anthology horror film titled SCAREWAVES, scheduled for release next summer by Camp Motion Pictures. SCAREWAVES follows the final broadcast of a radio show hosted by Amos Satan (John Bradley Hambrick), who decides to spend his last night terrifying his listeners with four horrific tales, each by a different screenwriter: “Painting After Midnight,” written by Jeremy Biltz; “Fair Scare,” by John Oak Dalton; “Office Case,” by THE THINGS IN THE DARKNESS author Ira M. Gansler; and Couto’s own “Worth the Wait.  SCAREWAVES plays homage to classics like CREEPSHOW, but feels fresh and totally original.

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Our “face” of SCAREWAVES is Amos Satan, and actor John Bradley Hambrick delivers really well as the radio DJ.  Hambrick has a golden voice and maintains the right balance of arrogance and cynicism reserved for most shock jocks.  When Hambrick is ‘on the air,’ he’s definitely on the mark.  His performance as our narrator of the film is extremely strong, despite the storyline of the wraparound being a little less than interesting.  The wraparound follows Amos’ final broadcast, while he receives increasingly threatening phone calls.  I never once feared for Amos’ life, which made the investment in his storyline a bit forgettable.  When he was running the show, however, the strength of the character really shone through.

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Amos tells his first story, “Painting After Midnight,” a tale that feels like a more mature episode of ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK?  An amateur photographer named Linda (Erin R. Ryan) responds to an ad for a roommate posted by a mysterious and famous artist named Garrett (Joe Kidd).  While the two seem to live harmoniously, the photographer suddenly becomes suspicious of her strange roommate and his seemingly disappearing figure models.  Something sinister is afoot and we shortly realize the lengths people will go to create their art.  Erin R. Ryan is a regular for Couto, and she proves yet again that she’s an indie actress worth recognizing.  Ryan completely steals this first segment creating a likeable, vulnerable, and determined character in just a short amount of time.  “Painting After Midnight” was a perfect opener, and one of the stronger segments.

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“Fair Scare” is a southern fried tale of blood being thicker than water.  After stealing a large sum of money, a man is forced to choose between the woman he married, or his confidante…his cousin.  Joni Durian as “Eva” plays an excellent emasculating wife, but comedian Vincent Holiday shines as “Robbie.”  He turns on that southern charm and steals every single moment.  Titus Young Wolverton does well as “Mitchell,” but Holiday is such a dynamic presence on screen, Wolverton seems to falter.  It’s not that he wasn’t good, it’s that Holiday was fantastic.  Couto teased a bit with adventurous lighting in the first segment, but he really goes for broke with his lighting in “Fair Scare.”  This one feels a lot like an old episode of TALES FROM THE CRYPT, right down to the final moment.

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The third segment is “Office Case,” which although the most culturally relevant for 2014, drags a bit too much for my liking.  The story follows a seasoned police officer under investigation for wrongfully shooting alleged criminals.  Haunted by his past, the officer must come to terms with his actions and pay for them.  All of the performers in this segment are solid, it just feels extremely long for a short film.  Geoff Burkman plays the officer in question, and he is fascinating to watch.  He’s another Couto regular but I can’t help wondering when I watch him why he hasn’t had a career spanning decades in Hollywood. The final moment was a pretty decent payoff, but “Office Case” is arguably the weakest segment of the film as a whole.  The nice thing, however, is that even the weakest segment is still better than most short films.

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Saving the best for last, Couto’s segment tells a familiar story of a man and his mistress plotting to murder his girlfriend, but updated for the age of instant gratification.  It’s easily the strongest story because of the direct relationship of desire and obstacle- these lovers want to be together but another stands in the way. With the previous story, the moral is one to be found at the end, whereas “Worth The Wait” sets its tone from the jump.  The special FX are outstanding in this segment, and the editing style creates a genuine sense of fear.  Josh Miller as “Albert” plays off wonderfully with indie darling, Haley Madison as “Tara.”  JoAnna Lloyd plays the unsuspecting girlfriend, “Jenny” and totally exemplifies everyone’s cute and caring girlfriend.  “Worth the Wait” is easily the most fun segment of the bunch, and it is totally reminiscent of why anthology horror is so fun to watch.  Couto knows what horror audiences want, and serves it up on a silver platter.  Blood, boobs, boy short panties, and freak-outs, “Worth the Wait” completely delivers the promise of the title.

timthumb.php(Director: Henrique Couto)

SCAREWAVES is the perfect example of an anthology film. Each story could easily serve as a short but collectively, each story is strengthened by their inclusion together.  It may be comprised of tales from four different writers, but SCAREWAVES always feels like a single being.  On the surface, SCAREWAVES isn’t bringing anything new to the table.  “Painting After Midnight” is a traditional Faustian story, “Fair Scare” is a Southern supernatural revenge tale, “Office Case” is a morality tale, and “Worth the Wait” is a comedy of errors.  Taking these traditional stories and sprinkling them with modern twists give us given an original anthology that fills us with a nostalgia.  It’s an indie-film and it’s definitely a little lower budget, but Couto again shows an insane amount of promise and continues to prove why he’s one of the hardest working directors in underground cinema.