Remy Couture's legal battle and the fate of Canadian horror

Curator's note: I interviewed Rémy and Rosalynn at the Rue Morgue Festival of Fear in August 2011. I intended to pop off a quick, though long article for the next morning. By the time it was 3 a.m., I knew I had to set it aside. I was too personally attached to the topic. I was made angry by the accusations against the subject, and worst of all, I became scared by the idea. I was terrified for him and the future of horror and the arts in Canada. So, that said, I just wanted to note that I did not intend to 'sit' on this interview... but I did finally find something that scared me: what could be a direct blow to the freedom of expression and one of the few things I hold dear. Horror. Violence. Mayhem. Fiction. - Lydia Peever


Trial runs from October 3, 2011 to October 14, inclusive.

RemyFX - Rémy Couture's portfolio.

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Donate to his legal fund - with your PayPal account or what method you prefer.

Have you ever watched a horror movie? Have you ever made a horror movie? Have you ever read, written, heard, watched, shared or sold anything horrific? If you are here there is a good chance you have. I am guilty of all of those things. Hell, I revel in it. You probably do to. Under the very broad section on corruption of morals in the Criminal Code of Canada, we could be breaking a law.

Under the article 163. (1) Every one commits an offense who (a) makes, prints, publishes, distributes, circulates, or has in his possession for the purpose of publication, distribution or circulation any obscene written matter, picture, model, phonograph record or other thing whatever; or (b) makes, prints, publishes, distributes, sells or has in his possession for the purposes of publication, distribution or circulation a crime comic. "Crime comics" are stated to be books that glorify criminal activities and have at least one depiction of such criminal actions of the book's text.
A crime comic. So those back issues of Fango under the coffee table? The short sex-death poem you just posted to LiveJournal? The photos you took of your perfect slashed neck last Halloween? They will likely offend someone, and that is the trouble with the tests that courts look to when judging if an offence falls under Section 163, or if an action is an offence at all. This, and the following section are what keeps court documents and other legal documents where violent criminal acts are depicted out from under the catch-all that is 163.

Defence of public good (3) No person shall be convicted of an offence under this section if the public good was served by the acts that are alleged to constitute the offence and if the acts alleged did not extend beyond what served the public good.
Question of law and question of fact (4) For the purposes of this section, it is a question of law whether an act served the public good and whether there is evidence that the act alleged went beyond what served the public good, but it is a question of fact whether the acts did or did not extend beyond what served the public good.
This is also the subsection that makes me wonder about the Russell Williams news coverage. If so many people complained that is went beyond serving the public good, how come no one invoked the awesome powers of Section 163? Perhaps it is good they did not...

(8) For the purposes of this Act, any publication a dominant characteristic of which is the undue exploitation of sex, or of sex and any one or more of the following subjects, namely, crime, horror, cruelty and violence, shall be deemed to be obscene.
Well. This is where I would tap out. They pretty much covered every movie I have enjoyed in the past decade, half of my bookshelf, and a lot of my own art. That is, unless the horror community is the one to judge us. If Tom Six came and told me my taste in films and books on my shelf were horrifically obscene and corrupting morals I would accept his judgement. It's not though. The morality police here are made up of the Uwe Boll's of the world. It is not made up of artists.

This is the legislation and thinking that Rémy Couture is up against. The Montreal special effects artist and filmmaker is pretty much alone in the battle.

In 2007, there was a complaint from Germany to Interpol that his website may have depicted child molestation. They had viewed his short films, Inner Depravity I and II. Interpol forwarded the file to the Montreal Police Service. Nothing was done. Couture summarizes that they looked at the site in 2007, realized it was fiction and disregarded the complaint. Interpol followed up in 2009 and pressed for his arrest.
In the method he was arrested, he seemed to be treated as a dangerous offender. In reality, Couture is a hard working graphic designer by trade. He began making amazing special effects for film and only got better as he created his own character for Inner Depravity. He is a respectable, friendly and well spoken young man.  

If you have not seen his films, I would bet you have seen something worse. A Serbian Film, perhaps? Aftermath? Irreversible? How about the Sexxorcist? More recently, and also from Quebec, is Good Neighbours which does have a beautifully framed and carefully lit long-shot of a man having sex with a dead body. According to the law under which Couture is being charged, all of these films contain footage that is as obscene and perhaps more abrasive. 

Well, now that I have shown where the line in the sand is; an interview with Rémy Couture

Ottawa Horror: So how is your stress level?

Remy Couture: High. High stress

Rosalynne Nguyen: We both work real life jobs. He is a graphic designer, I work at an engineering firm so balancing real life and this it's just...

OH: A bit much. I bet. This has not only national but worldwide coverage. Has the media been supportive?

RC: I have had interviews with many papers, The Sun, and coverage in Spain, the US, Canada. Most people are on our side. The media says good things about my work. If the media is against you, they can play with the understanding of the topic. A lot of people don't like what I do because it is rough, but they do not agree with the charge against me... but it is easy to judge when you just look at surface level. If you are into horror it is not rough. I think it is like black metal, if you don't like the music it is just crap - for movies it's the same.

OH: Is there a legal argument for gore? Does this not infringe on your personal freedom?

RC: In the trial we have to prove that my goal was not to promote violence - which is crazy - they thought my site was to promote violence against women and rape. A psychologist will be there to say that it is influential, much like [the PMRC case lost against] Twisted Sister. We have to find a psychologist to counter that. It is a war of words. It's pretty dangerous, to judge my work if you went to school but if are not into this genre. They will likely not talk to me. They will tell the jury what they think my goal is. They don't know me personally, and they don't know the viewers.

OH: Are there psychologists within the horror community, or anyone who has been through something similar that can help or has offered help?

RC: Not really. A lot of support, but there are no makeup artist who really want to back me. People just don't want trouble. This fight is not only mine. It is for the future of all horror and effects. I have all this weight on my shoulders and find it really sad. Rodrigo [Gudiño, publisher of Rue Morgue] has been on my side and done a lot for me, but he is the only one in the horror industry. Really sad, since if I am found guilty it opens the door for more censorship. Maybe in 10 years Rue Morgue or Ottawa Horror will have some trouble too. If you read the law, its about magazines, music, everything all kinds of publications can become illegal.

OH: I write horror with violent sexual scenes, read the Criminal Code two years ago, and the devil on my shoulder said 'Ah don't worry, no one will care or notice.' Then the angel on my other shoulder said 'Oh no. Be worried. Be really worried!'

RC: If I am found guilty a lot of people will look and say 'Now we have to worry, look what happened to this guy!' and could be in serious trouble. I mean, I did not reinvent the wheel. People have made this before.

OH: Certainly not, you have influences.

RC: Yes. My biggest influence was Aftermath.

OH: Yeah, and I could watch it on Netflix right now. So could kids.

RC: The crown will be saying the site was easy to access. I feel it is more dangerous for a child to go on a internet chat room where there are predators. I don't think kids could find it.

OH: How widely available is it really, what do you need to type into a search engine to find your site when it was active? [Note: the original site is only available as an archive]

RC: Necrophilia, murder... if you are six years old, typing necrophilia, I think there is a problem! If you leave your children alone on the internet, there is a problem too.

OH: Do you think they are trying to make an example of you?

RC: I think so. It's going really far. It is a two week long trial so I think there is something else, since they won't drop the charge as I think they can't now, it has become political. If we win, it will be fine, but if they chose to appeal...

OH: How much has it cost?

RC: $30,000 or more. I have to pay my lawyer for 2 weeks, all the preparation, the psychologist...

OH: You have a PayPal donation set up?

RC: It is at RemyFX - some people have donated and helped. See, if I am found guilty, I will not be refunded. I have never had trouble with justice before and I thought they would refund me if I win, but they don't. It has hit me pretty hard. I am not even sure what the sentence will be as there is no case like this before. If they fine me, I don’t know how they will set that fine. Perhaps public service. If it is a fine, it will kill me since I have to eat and pay rent. If it came to public service I would lose time working.

OH: So either way it is still a problem.

RC: If I win, the biggest fear is that they will appeal. It could cost me another $30,000.

[we were interrupted by passersby for a few minutes]

RC: I saw the prosecution at the preliminary hearing, the woman that is prosecuting me, she glared at me. Looked down at me. She said 'Rémy Couture masturbates in front of woman cadavers' To the judge I said, we are talking about fiction here. There is no real corpse, there is no real masturbation.

[we were interrupted by Tom Savini "Hi, my name is Tom Savini, I am Rémy's friend. He is brilliant."]

OH: A lot of your viewers are girls, you get fan support from women, your actresses support you....

RC: Yeah, and I am supposed to be a misogynist! [according to those against him]

OH: The female prosecutors, do they seem well-adjusted and open-minded?

RC: Not open minded. I talk to so many lawyers about my case, and they say perhaps some lawyers work with battered women, and are very sensitive. They work with real violence against women, and they don't separate the difference. They know it's fake, but for them, it's all bad. Now, I imagine how it could be frustrating. I think I look well, I talk well, and have a sound argument. All the women and people on my side it is the inverse [of what those involved in women's issues would expect].

OH: So they have the ammunition of fictional masturbation near a simulated corpse.

RC [nodding]: In the trial, we will show some parts of Aftermath and some of A Serbian Film - the newborn baby rape.

OH: Even Irreversible could be shown, it is pretty harsh.

RC: There is a French film that is in theatres. Baise-moi [Rape Me] was with a real porn actress, the rape scene, so it was real, not suggested. I have never been that far because I don't want to go there.

OH: What about the background of their investigation prior to your arrest?

RC: The first complaint was 2007. Someone thought a child was molested. Interpol sent files to Montreal police who looked at the site and went 'Oh, it's fake'. Then three years later Interpol asked what happened with this complaint... they wanted to know what happened, as they saw the site was still online. So they sent the file to another Montreal police officer who said 'okay, now, we have to do something,' and set up the arrest.

OH: So they did not track the followers to the site? Did they investigate you or just pounce?

RC: They told me it was a year investigating me, but they way they arrested me it was like they thought I was dangerous... if the way I was arrested was illegal, the case may be dropped. If the judge agrees with that, everything will be done [over]. I don’t want to dream too much, but there is that possibility... I do hope my case will reshape this outdated law, but to do that it needs to go to Supreme Court, but I don't want to go there. Maybe a lawyer would take it on for free because if he won his name and reputation would be made... my biggest fear is that they want to drive me into poverty - if I was rich I would find the best lawyer in Canada, the best psychologist, and say 'Come on, my army is here', but that is not the case.

OH: So has it hurt your effects business at all?

RC: It has not hurt my effects business as I am still working a lot. I made a video with the same character as Inner Depravity and it is really insane, at a higher level [but unreleased]. Inner Depravity is really old! Now I see it and I think it’s really boring. I made it in 2006 and 2007. I have not made other movies, but made this new one last year.

OH: Maybe a bit of this tension has come out in your films?

RC: Oh, it's like 'you want to see something obscene! I can give you something!' In others movies there is real sexual activity, but I just moulded my own penis in silicone. There is some sexually disturbing action, and some people could think it is real, but it is not. We just filmed the making of where you see the girls with the fake penis.

OH: Now, what about horror-porn with real penetration sex where they are pulling each other’s guts out - does that not fall under the same thing?

RC: To me, to see an 18 year old girl dressed up like she is 14 and it is "barely legal" porn. The girl is legal, but the implication of that set up, I think that is worse than what I do. You can't say [my work] it's a promotion for necrophilia, because you don't do that! It is fiction. But you can't say barely legal porn is not a promotion. You watch some of those... [we describe back and forth some typical aspects of lollipop porn] girls and you say 'did she really choose to do that, or was she forced?' And you don't know how she is coming into it. Maybe there is a pimp, she is on drugs and has to pay the dealer. I think that's worse.


RemyFX - Rémy Couture's portfolio.

SupportRemy - more information on the case, the media and the law.

Donate to his legal fund - with your PayPal account or what method you prefer.


Anonymous said…
Remy shouldn't have to go through this at all. The type of graphic content Germany produces far surpasses (in terms of gore/sex/what-the-fuckism) is kinda like the cauldron calling the pot black. Either way, it's out in the open now, and I sincerely hope that Remy will be found innocent of all charges, and in fact found that no charges should ever have been laid.
typicallydia said…
Cheers to that. I would like to see further discussion on this section, just not at anyone's expense. Watching someone dragged through the mud like this is corrupting my morals.
I think a complete stupidity as are censoring the art of cinema horror genre this decade. The censors and political (global) to worry as the wars and cases of child abuse emanating from the Catholic Church. Horror movie is to shock and cause discomfort but would not be produced to cause fear.

Rémy Couture has my full support here in Brazil. Strength in battle, my brother.
Anonymous said…
Rémy's struggles are negated by how dumb he is. A guy working at a low pay job, barely making it as a part-time second-tier makeup artist. Having very little education, he can tell you who his influences are using statements like "the guy who did the fx on Saw" not knowing who the fuck he's talking about. He thinks he's a martyr and he's riding that wave of controversy, hoping it will help his career and not actually believing he could be declared guilty and go to jail. The offending material he put on the web is idiotic and clumsy, just like he is. But, hey: we, horror fans want to keep our freedom. Just too bad this dimwit is at the center of a very important debate.
warringsoul said…
Seriously, that last commentor calling Remy stupid is just infuriating. They obviously have no idea what they are talking about calling his work second-tier. If they had eyes they would know better. He is an amazing artist and is doing make-up in his spare time for fun. He learned the craft through trial and error and now has the support of the likes of Tom Savini. To the person not even brave enough to put their name on that post, you are a sad, miserable human being. Get a life.
warringsoul said…
Okay, so I've had some time to think, and I still believe what I said in my first response, but I just wanted to add some things.

I get it, you don't like Remy - fine, that's great, you're entitled to your opinion. The way you made your point was just plain childish. It makes you look like a bully in the school yard shouting, "look at me, I'm better than him and I'll punch him until you notice". Posting comments like that anonymously is just really sad. If you want to actually discuss the issues - that's awesome! We’d love to hear your well thought out and educated opinions. If you're just going to call someone names - get a life.

This entire issue is so much bigger than your dislike of one person. This will set precedence in Canadian court and would have insane implications for essentially every Canadian, not just people who make their living as artists. Remy being found guilty could mean that you have to screen every picture you put up on your flicker account or Facebook in case there is some slight oversight that could potentially "offend" someone and start millions of frivolous lawsuits that cost everyone involved and every taxpayer. In a case like this it doesn't matter who is the focus of the case because it effects us all.

Personally, I like Remy's work and I like him as a person. Perhaps the reason his influences are upsetting to you is because English is not his first language. Maybe he doesn't watch what you would consider mainstream films because he takes in French media. Maybe outside of his community is unlikely to know the people who influence him so he uses a reference we would understand. I’m not going to judge what he tells the media his influences are because there are so many other factors out there that could be major influences that he might just not be comfortable sharing. Who knows? Only him.

Also, if his work was good enough for this whole issue to come about, then his work has to be pretty damn good. He didn't seek out the attention, he was arrested.

Finally, I know you're a troll, and your purpose in life is to make a scene and try to make people angry, but you should be ashamed of yourself for acting out like an attention starved 5 year old when it comes to an issue this serious. The artistic community has to stick together in an issue like this, not let petty arguments take over and let our free speech get taken away (yes I know we don't have free speech in Canada to begin with, so change that to - the free speech we do have, to get taken away). Stop trolling small-time blogs and start spending your time on fighting in an arena that really matters. You don’t have to like Remy, but you do have to stick up for your rights as a Canadian and an artist.