Support Remy Couture and You Support Violence Against Women
December 26, 2012
By Valerie Smith
The Free Radical
"It is hard to find sympathy, no matter what the legal argument, for a guy clearly so obsessed with the torture and dismemberment of women that he represents these over and over again." (Russell Smith, Globe and Mail columnist, October 21, 2010)
Quebec filmmaker, Remy Couture, was charged in 2009 under the Criminal Code obscenity law over material posted to his website, and went to trial in Montreal in December 2012. The material in question includes hundreds of photos and a pair of videos that depict gruesome murders, torture, simulated rape, extreme violence and necrophilia, all with young female victims. The sets viewed in court included titles like “Hook”, a series of photos depicting a woman being tortured with hooks by a masked man. Another picture set titled “Burn” involves a woman’s burned body being assaulted and mutilated.
The films, titled Inner Depravity I and II, feature Couture in the role of a serial killer who hacks off limbs and performs sex acts on his victims. Couture says the films are meant to depict the life of a serial killer, assisted by a 10-year-old boy, whose tendencies lead him to also have sex with his dead female victims. One sequence shows a woman bleeding after a crucifix was shoved down her throat. Another graphic scene shows a character carving out a victim's organs.
“I wanted to recreate this universe, which is truly disturbing, and make it as realistic as possible,” Couture said. “What caused a lot of the problem with my site were the sexual connotations, but 98% of serial killers are driven by a sexual perversion.” The boy in the films was played by the 10-year-old son of one of his friends. “He had a lot of fun making these photos,” according to Couture.
Couture says he created the material to showcase his talents with special effects. He could have chosen any number of ways to do this, including using a serial killer who targets young men (e.g., Gacy, Dahmer), but he picked a serial killer who kills women. Why? Because that's where the money is. As Couture himself admits, there's a market for it. Couture claims he's an "artist" and defender of free speech. I claim he's opportunistic, sociopathic and dangerous to women, a threat to our safety.
The fact that Couture was acquitted doesn't render the material harmless. The Supreme Court, in their decision upholding the obscenity law, ruled that explicit sex combined with violence is harmful to women. Just because the material was made by someone claiming to be an "artist" doesn't change the harmful impact on women. And to normalize this depraved, violent behaviour for boys by using a 10-year-old as the killer's assistant is beyond what a civilized society should tolerate.
Couture wasn't defended pro bono and he has a website on which he begs for money to help pay his legal bills. Hopefully, his legal expenses will bankrupt him, which is less than what he deserves -- he deserves a prison sentence and a $100,000 fine -- but it would provide some justice for women.
As for his claims to being an artist, below are screen captures from his "Support Remy" website.
Yeah, that's really artistic, especially the "corrupt me" underpants below. News items on the case follow.
Remy Couture found not guilty of corrupting morals
December 22, 2012
The Montreal Gazette (Canadian Press)
By Sidhartha Banerjee
MONTREAL — A Quebec special effects artist charged with corrupting morals has been found not guilty in a case that tested the boundaries of creative expression and Canadian obscenity laws.
Remy Couture received the verdict from the jury late Saturday, after two days of deliberation.
“It’s like a 400-pound weight has been lifted,” Couture, 35, told reporters after hearing the verdict at the Montreal courthouse.
“It’s been the most stressful thing I’ve ever had to go through in my life.”
Couture said the ruling means he can continue to create his art, without infringement on his right to free expression.
He was charged with three counts of corrupting morals by distributing, possessing and producing obscene material.
During the trial, Couture argued his gory works, roughly a thousand images and two short videos that appeared on Couture’s website, Inner Depravity, should be considered art.
The material in question depicts gruesome murders, torture, sexual abuse, assaults and necrophilia — all with young female victims.
The jury was tasked with determining whether the material in question was obscene and dangerous enough to actually incite people to act out what they see, as the Crown contended.
The jurors were sequestered Friday and were asked to first decide if they felt the images were obscene under the Criminal Code. If yes, they were asked to determine if the works had artistic merit.
If they deemed it to be artistic, they had to find Couture not guilty. If they deemed the work to be obscene and gratuitous, they had to find him guilty.
The website was part of a personal project by Couture designed to raise the bar of his make-up and special effects work. Couture, who is self-taught, sought to bring a psychopathic killer character of his own making to life.
Couture described it as a sort of “fake diary of a serial killer,” complete with his own universe inspired by horror movies and literature.
But there was no victim in the case — all of the works were staged with willing actresses and a combination of fake blood, latex and silicone to create life-like, horrific images.
Couture testified the reason behind the work was to highlight his skills and abilities as a master of special effects horror and that the goal is to make his work look believable.
Couture told the jury that his was a creation of horror and aimed to disgust. He denied the Crown’s contention that he was making pornography with a violent twist. He argued the sexual nature of some of his work was secondary.
“My objective was to create horror, plain and simple,” Couture told the court.
Defence experts testified that Couture’s work was in line with other similar work in the genre. A university cinema professor testified that what was acceptable in the genre had changed greatly over the span seven decades.
The trial heard that Interpol received a complaint in 2006 from a user in Austria. The scenes were deemed so realistic that a pathologist in Europe couldn’t rule out that a homicide had actually been committed.
Montreal police began their investigation in early 2009.
Police officers who testified had doubts that Couture’s work was real homicide, but still engaged in an elaborate sting operation with police posing as clients looking to do a gory photo shoot around Halloween.
Couture, who has no criminal record, pleaded not guilty in 2010, arguing that the state has no business defining what art is, or infringing on his right to free expression.
The artist told reporters that he was approached by a police detective about a pleading out and getting an absolute discharge in the case, but Couture has said that he went ahead out of principle.
He said that pleading guilty or settling could set a dangerous precedent and raise questions about other kinds of work done by artists.
In her closing, Crown prosecutor Genevieve Dagenais said that Couture was not targeted by police and admitted the case is particular because there is no victim.
She also said the investigation took some time because it was a first for the Crown. But it was clear to the prosecutor’s office that Couture’s work should not have been displayed on the web.
The Crown argued that there were risks associated with exposing such material, calling it violent pornography. Publishing the material “undermines fundamental values of Canadian society,” prosecutor Michel Pennou argued.
Experts for the Crown testified that the material could push vulnerable members of society to act out what they see.
They also took issue with the fact that the victims were all women.
Couture had said he’d planned to create a new video where the female victim turns the tables on his psychopath creation, but he never got to it as his special effects career began to take off.
A seven-woman, five-man jury heard the case with Quebec Superior Court Justice Claude Champagne presiding.
Jury out on slasher filmmaker's charge of corrupting morals
December 21, 2012
A jury has begun deliberating the verdict in the case of Remy Couture, a Quebec special effects artist who made a film so macabre and violent that he's been charged with corrupting morals.
But a local legal expert says the verdict will likely not set a precedent.
Mark Bantey, the lawyer for several large media organizations in Canada, told QMI Agency on Friday that he isn't worried a guilty verdict will affect other artists or writers.
"It's a very specific case," Bantey said. "I think the verdict will be restricted to the actual material."
The material in question is so macabre and violent that Montreal police arrested Couture, 35, in 2009, after a complaint to the international police agency Interpol about content on his website.
Among other gory and violent imagery, the site contained a short film that depicted a woman being mutilated and raped.
Crown attorney Genevieve Dagenais argued that the artists' work could "excite sexual deviants."
While Bantey doesn't think the case will set a precedent, Western University professor and academic director of the Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women & Children, said he hopes it will.
Peter Jaffe told QMI Agency Friday that academic research is clear that exposure to violence desensitizes viewers to the real meaning of violence and provides role models for vulnerable people.
He said he favours what he calls a "violence tax" where a consumer would pay a 10% surcharge after downloading a violent film. The money collected would be invested in anti-violence programs.
Couture, who faced the jury Tuesday, said the point of his art was to create a film that was realistic. He maintained that his work was fiction and no one was injured in the making of the movie.
Expert witnesses on both sides testified during his trial regarding the effects of violent imagery on society.
Others in the horror industry told QMI Agency that Couture's films are beneficial to society because they do not glorify violence but rather represent it as horrible and grotesque.
"We have a serious problem in our society related to sexual violence against women," he said. "No one has ever drawn a line, and (the violence) is going from bad to worse."
Couture is officially charged with corrupting morals through the distribution of obscene material. He could be sentenced to a maximum of two years in jail if found guilty.
Jury to deliberate for second day in obscenity trial of special effects artist
December 21, 2012
By Stephane Giroux
MONTREAL—The 12-member jury in the trial of Remy Couture, a special effects artist charged with obscenity, is faced with the difficult task of deciding what level of sex and violence Canadians are willing to tolerate.
On Saturday, the jury will begin a second day of deliberation after no verdict was reached on Friday.
While the trial lasted only two weeks, the case has dragged on for three-and-a-half years since Couture was arrested for making a movie that blended very high amounts of gore, violence and sex.
“I’ve gone through a lot of stress and anguish,” said Couture, who added he was confident that the jury would rule in his favour.
With the jury sequestered, CTV Montreal is able to report that the prosecution wasn’t even interested in continuing the controversial case. Barely a week after his arrest, Couture was offered a bargain: to plead guilty in exchange for no criminal record, he declined on principal.
A costly gamble, Couture admitted with the hindsight of a multi-year saga.
On the stand Friday, the jury heard from the final witness in Couture's defence, who presented a lengthy argument asserting that art in movies often exists to disgust and that the existence of scenes offensive to some is no reason to condemn a movie.
The jury heard expert opinions from the prosecution, which said such movies are dangerous because they can encourage violence against women--a defence witness claims it’s a flawed argument.
Richard Begin, a university professor and film expert, said that an artist should not be held responsible for actions taken by people who watch a movie.
If the jury finds the videos acceptable, Couture must be acquitted.
If they rule his work obscene, there is another question they have to answer: Is this art or was there an artistic process involved? If that's the case, Couture must also be acquitted because his work is protected by freedom of expression. If the jury rules the sex and violence are gratuitous and without artistic merit, then he must be found guilty.
The decision must be unanimous.
‘I’m not a pornographer:’ Quebec gore artist defends photos of murder, sexual assault
December 18, 2012
By Sidhartha Banerjee
MONTREAL — A Quebec special-effects artist charged with corrupting morals has defended himself in court, testifying that his gory works constitute art.
Remy Couture testified on his own behalf at a jury trial being heard Tuesday in Montreal.
Couture, 35, said the horror website he ran, Inner Depravity, which brought to life a psychopathic killer character he created, is artistic and not pornographic.
He is charged with three counts of corrupting morals by distributing, possessing and producing obscene materials in a case that explores the boundaries of artistic expression and Canadian obscenity laws.
The material in question includes hundreds of photos and a pair of videos that depict gruesome murders, torture, assaults and necrophilia — all with young female victims.
Couture said he was inspired by horror films and literature he’d read and created a serial-killer character.
The Crown describes the material on the site, not currently online, as obscene and says it goes too far. The prosecution says the work is dominated by sex and is criticizing the fact there was nothing to keep minors off the site.
Couture counters that the point of his artistic work is to make the gore look believable.
“The objective of anyone working as a make-up artist is to make people believe their work,” Couture said. “My objective was to create horror, plain and simple.”
He said the sexual nature of some of the photos is secondary — he referred to it as an “accessory.” He said the special effects and artistic value are what he’s most interested in.
Couture told the jury that some people didn’t believe the images were fake and would write to tell him so. He said he would send them the “making-of” images to prove it.
Under cross-examination by Crown prosecutor Michel Pennou, Couture denied that he’d created what resembled a “snuff film” and denied that what he was creating was pornography.
“I create horror. I’m not a pornographer,” Couture told the jury.
“The goal is not to excite, it’s to disgust.”
Questioned by the Crown about the fact that all the victim characters are women, Couture said he’d planned to create a project where a female victim gets revenge on the psychopath.
But a heavy workload had left him with less and less time for his “Inner Depravity” project, he said.
Couture was arrested in October 2009 and pleaded not guilty to the three charges the following year. He has argued that the state has no business defining what is art, or infringing on his right to free expression.
A seven-woman, five-man jury is hearing the case, which is into its fifth day.
Under questioning from his lawyer, Robert Cote, the jury heard the 35-year-old special-effects artist speaking passionately about his trade, which involves using fake blood, latex and silicone to create realistic gore.
Couture told the jury of a lengthy list of movies he’d worked on as an effects specialist.
He said his work took him to Europe to do art for a heavy-metal band in Hungary. He described being invited to speak to Grade 10 and 11 students at a high school in Shawinigan, Que., about working in the movie industry. Couture even used his special-effects knowledge to help put together a training video for the union representing federal prison guards.
Couture said he’d appeared at a number of horror and movie-related events. A university-level arts student was assigned to work with him for a course.
He said his late 2009 arrest is the only run-in he’s ever had with the law.
“The first and I hope the last,” Couture said.
Canadian filmmaker Remy Couture charged for allegedly making film too gory
December 15, 2012
By Giuseppe Valiante
MONTREAL — There will be "big consequences" for Canada's horror film industry if a jury finds Quebec special effects artist Remy Couture guilty of corrupting morals, says a Montreal-based documentary filmmaker.
Frederick Maheux recently completed a documentary film on Couture, who is currently on trial for producing a violent and macabre short film that international police thought depicted real events.
Montreal police arrested Couture, 35, in 2009, after someone complained to the international police agency, Interpol, about content on Couture's website. Among other gory and violent imagery, the site contained a short film that depicted a woman being mutilated and raped.
Maheux told QMI Agency on Saturday that he has already felt the consequences of Couture's arrest.
Quebec's film board and the police confirmed to Montreal's La Presse newspaper that DVDs of Maheux's documentary were recalled from video rental stores in Montreal and seized by police. The documentary included some of the footage created by Couture.
"It was catastrophic for that to happen to an independent filmmaker like me," Maheux said.
Couture's trial continues next week. He is officially charged with corrupting morals through the distribution of obscene material.
On Friday, the Crown presented its last witness, psychiatrist Peter Collins.
He said that sexual deviants don't discern between real and fake imagery. Whether a woman is tortured for real or not is of little importance to the sexual sadist, Collins explained.
However, his testimony was contradicted on Friday by the defence's first witness, Marc Ouimet, a criminology professor at University of Montreal, who told the jury that there is no evidence suggesting pornography incites people to commit violent, sexual acts.
One of Couture's supporters is Dave Alexander, editor-in-chief of Rue Morgue magazine, an international publication that celebrates the horror culture.
Alexander told QMI Agency Saturday that he thinks Couture created particularly revolting and violent scenes in order to show off.
"You need to stand out in your field," Alexander said.
He added that movies that depict shocking acts of violence are more helpful to society than those that glorify it.
"Horror movies should make you sick," he said. "In Hollywood films, someone gets shot and they get to say a few last words, death is represented as noble. But violence is not like that. It's bloody and disgusting and awful and I think there is value in representing it that way."
Violent pornography can add ‘fuel to the fire:’ Psychology expert testifies at trial of Quebec gore filmmaker
December 13, 2012
By Graeme Hamilton
MONTREAL — It is not uncommon for gruesome photos and videos to be exhibited in criminal trials, but usually the author of the violence does not claim credit.
In one 10-minute film played in Quebec Superior Court Wednesday, however, the accused’s name was proudly displayed in the closing credits as director, special-effects artist and “psychopath.”
The director and star, Rémy Couture, is not charged with physically harming anyone in the films and photos that have been shown to the jury. He is a special-effects artist and the images, which he posted online, were a kind of calling card to show off his talents.
But the fictional violence inflicted by Mr. Couture’s “psychopath” – the torture, mutilation and sexual abuse of naked women – appears so brutal, the Crown is arguing the material is illegal.
In 2009, Montreal police arrested the 35-year-old on charges of producing, possessing and distributing obscene material.
In a world where graphic horror movies play in theatres and hard-core pornography is widely available on the Internet, the case hinges on the Crown’s contention Mr. Couture’s combination of brutal violence and sexual degradation went too far.
The Criminal Code defines an obscene publication as one characterized by “the undue exploitation of sex” or a combination of sex with crime, horror, cruelty or violence.
Testifying as an expert witness for the Crown, Neil Malamuth, a professor of psychology and communication at the University of California, Los Angeles, described his 30 years of research into the harmful effects of violent pornography.
He noted his work has been used in Canadian courts, including in the landmark 1992 Supreme Court case of R v. Butler, which upheld restrictions on pornography on the grounds depictions of degrading or dehumanizing sex harm society.
Prof. Malamuth testified Wednesday violent pornography “can add fuel to the fire” when viewed by men who are predisposed to being sexually aggressive toward women.
In a report entered into evidence, he said he has viewed Mr. Couture’s two films, Inner Depravity 1 and 2, as well as many of the hundreds of photos shown to the jury.
“These materials often portray sexual images and acts embedded within or merged with extreme acts of violence, including murder, mutilation and body dismemberment,” he wrote.
The images “portray the man as looking very powerful while completely controlling helpless, suffering, viciously tortured and dismembered women,” he added.
Research “strongly suggests that these types of materials may have negative or harmful effects on consumers,” he concluded. The effects include “greater acceptance of violence against women, emotional desensitization to aggression and increased proclivity to aggress, particularly sexually aggress.”
Prof. Malamuth said the violence depicted by Mr. Couture is more extreme than that found in the pornography he has used in his research.
In the morning, the jury asked if the screening of Mr. Couture’s gory photos could be accelerated. The police officer going through the gallery of fake murder and mutilation had been showing the images on courtroom screens for about 10 seconds each; that time was cut in half.
Mr. Couture has pleaded not guilty. He maintains his work is a form of art that is protected by freedom of expression.
The trial before the seven-woman, five-man jury is scheduled to last two weeks.
Trial begins for Quebec gory film-maker, accused of corrupting morals
December 11, 2012
Macleans (Canadian Press)
MONTREAL – A jury trial kicked off Tuesday for a Quebec special-effects artist whose ability to create gory life-like images has prompted criminal charges against him.
Remy Couture is charged with corrupting morals through the distribution, possession and production of obscene materials in a case that will explore the boundaries of artistic expression.
At issue are nearly 20 photo sets and a pair of short videos that appeared on a website he hosted, dubbed “Inner Depravity.” The violent, sexually explicit, horror-inspired works were based on a serial-killer character he created.
After being arrested and charged, the 35-year-old filmmaker has waited three years to go to trial. He plans to argue that what the Crown calls obscene, he calls art.
The prosecution, however, will stress the risks associated with exposing such material.
“The Crown will show that publishing the material undermines fundamental values of Canadian society as expressed in the Constitution,” said Crown lawyer Michel Pennou.
He said the Crown intends to show that the material could push vulnerable members of society to act out what they see.
A jury began hearing testimony Tuesday and even saw some of the photos on Couture’s site.
The sets viewed in court included titles like “Hook” — which is a series of photos depicting a woman being tortured with hooks by a muscular, tattooed, masked man. Another picture set titled “Burn” involves a woman’s burned body being assaulted and mutilated.
Some of the work portrays scenes of necrophilia, simulated rape and extreme violence.
Couture uses a combination of fake blood, latex and silicone to weave disturbing tales of a serial killer who tortures, sexually assaults and murders his victims.
The court heard today that Interpol was first alerted to the images and videos in 2006 by an Internet user in Austria; the scenes were deemed so realistic that a pathologist in Europe couldn’t rule out that a homicide had actually been committed.
But the case only landed on a Montreal police investigator’s desk three years later.
Det.-Sgt. Christina Vlachos, an investigator with the police’s morality squad, said she got the case in January 2009. She said she never actually mistook the images for real-life slayings.
“I never thought they were real,” Vlachos testified Tuesday.
Vlachos said part of the reason the case moved slowly was that police had never dealt with such a case before.
Meanwhile, a senior detective told the court that police decided to be prudent when arresting Couture shortly before Halloween in 2009, given the contents of his website.
Det.-Sgt. Eric Lavallee testified that police decided to use an elaborate sting operation, with him posing as a client wanting to set up a gory photo shoot with his wife for Halloween. When Couture stepped out of his home, police swept in to arrest him.
“I judged it was necessary — for the security of the officers, it was the best way to do it,” Lavallee said.
Under attack from Couture’s lawyer, Lavallee defended the decision to go with the elaborate arrest tactic. He admitted, though, that police had determined that “(the material) probably wasn’t real.”
The court also heard that, after Interpol became aware of the case, two other police forces in Quebec were alerted: Quebec provincial police and police in Laval, Que., a suburb north of Montreal.
Neither force followed through with charges before the case was picked up by Montreal police.
Couture faces three charges. He pleaded not guilty to the charges in 2010 and told reporters that the state had no business defining what was art or infringing on his right to free expression.
At the time, he said that pleading guilty or settling out of court could set a dangerous precedent and raise questions about other kinds of work done by artists.
Two experts, one from the U.S. and one from Ontario, are expected to testify on behalf of the Crown in addition to three police witnesses. The defence has its own experts.
A seven-woman, five-man jury is hearing the case with Quebec Superior Court Justice Claude Champagne presiding.
The trial could last up to two weeks.
Gory film artist tests obscenity law
By Dario Ayala/Postmedia News
October 29, 2010
MONTREAL – Rémy Couture’s imagination is a twisted place, where serial killers mutilate and rape corpses and a child is fed a severed arm. But the special-effects artist does not think the horror films he created depicting that world should make him a criminal.
Mr. Couture, 33, will be in Quebec Court on Monday to learn his trial date for what will be a closely watched test of Canadian obscenity law. He faces three charges under the Criminal Code of producing, distributing and possessing obscene material after police arrested him and raided his east-end Montreal apartment and studio.
“Some might find it in bad taste, but it is still artistic, and freedom of expression should not be criminalized,” Mr. Couture’s lawyer, Dominic Bouchard, said in an interview.
What had been a fantasy world for Mr. Couture came crashing into reality last October when an undercover police officer posing as a potential client handcuffed him and placed him under arrest on suspicion of “corrupting morals.” Police say they acted on a tip that came through Interpol after someone in Germany became concerned that the films on Mr. Couture’s web site depicted actual violence.
Police turned his apartment upside down – they were likely intrigued by the full-size coffin that serves as living-room furniture -- but they found no evidence he had caused anyone physical harm. Instead the Crown will try to prove that his work, with its blend of sex and sadistic violence, is so disturbing that it could provoke anti-social behaviour among people who view it.
Interviewed this week in his basement studio, littered with the severed limbs, fetuses and disfigured faces he has sculpted, Mr. Couture said his 10-minute films are no more grotesque than such mainstream horror films as Saw and Hostel. Titled Inner Depravity I and II, they feature Mr. Couture in the role of a serial killer who hacksaws off limbs and is understood to be performing sex acts on his victims.
“I wanted to recreate this universe, which is truly disturbing, and make it as realistic as possible,” he said. “What caused a lot of the problem with my site were the sexual connotations, but 98% of serial killers are driven by a sexual perversion.”
Police also appear to have been alarmed by the fact that one film contains photos of a brutally murdered child while the other features a child as an apprentice to the killer. Mr. Couture stressed that the child, portrayed in both cases by the 10-year-old son of one of his friends, is fully clothed and never present during scenes with sexual content. “He had a lot of fun making these photos,” Mr. Couture said. “He never saw nudity and didn’t see the final result. We’re not crazy.”
Richard Jochelson, associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Winnipeg and co-author of a forthcoming book on Canadian obscenity law, said the Couture case will be an important legal test. In a 2005 ruling declaring swingers’ clubs legal, the Supreme Court of Canada essentially changed the definition of obscenity. “The major change was that the Crown now has to demonstrate evidence that there was some sort of harm as result of the speech,” Mr. Jochelson said. “There has not really been a high-level case that has looked at this requirement for the Crown to demonstrate a harmful effect.”
Since the participants in Mr. Couture’s films were not hurt, the prosecutor will try to show the material can lead viewers to imitate what they see. “It is hard for the Crown to somehow prove that viewing this material makes it more likely that you’re going to hold anti-social attitudes and then act on them. That’s basically the standard,” Mr. Jochelson said. But he noted that Canadian courts tend to be hardest on material combining sex and violence. “In Canada, we have a history of really being worried about the risk of these sorts of images,” he said.
Court documents show that the prosecutor has called on forensic psychiatrist Peter Collins to analyze the 5,000 photos and 179 videos found on Mr. Couture’s computer. Dr. Collins testified in a 2008 Ontario obscenity trial that led to the conviction of Donald Smith for making films depicting the murders of naked women.
Mr. Couture has drawn support from members of Quebec’s artistic community, who have accused police of practising state censorship. Ian Lafrenière, a spokesman for the Montreal police, said the content on Mr. Couture’s site was so sickening that it demanded intervention.
“Honestly, is this for a really weird type of people? It’s glorifying a kid being beaten up. It’s glorifying necrophilia,” he said. The court is expected to schedule the jury trial for next spring.
Rémy Couture’s violent videos are dumb, but that’s not illegal
Globe and Mail
Oct. 21, 2010
By Russell Smith
A court date has been set for the start of the latest challenge to Canada’s obscenity laws: This one concerns the work of one Rémy Couture, a Montreal-based special-effects artist, photographer and maker of short horror films. He has been charged under section 163 of the Criminal Code, which is the section that deals with child pornography.
You may have heard of this story because of the demonstration of “zombies” – young people in a lot of makeup – that occurred last week outside a Montreal courthouse in sympathy for Couture. The filmmaker has pleaded not guilty and plans to make his case about freedom of speech and the horror-film industry generally.
Couture’s life as an alleged criminal began when someone in Germany viewed his violent and bloody video clips on the Internet – probably on his site, innerdepravity.com – and thought they depicted real acts. Couture works with latex and fake blood on horror films and can create, especially with grainy, low-light video, the most astoundingly, horrifically real-looking mutilation. The upsetting videos depict a serial killer in the standard terrifying mask (it looks as if he’s played by Couture himself, who has your standard tattooed-mohawk-industrial-goth look) who is torturing young women and injecting drugs into himself. They are very graphic.
The fact that he fooled his audience is something he can use on his résumé. But he probably didn’t want it to go this far. The German viewer contacted police, who contacted Interpol, who found Couture in Montreal and notified the police there. They viewed the videos and determined that they were obscene, and arrested him outside his studio. His video website was also temporarily shut down. The videos are gone from it, but you can see photos of his at various other places, including his site remyfx.com, and photo sites artirritant and deviantart.
Couture seems surprised and genuinely indignant that his freedom of expression has been infringed. In interviews, he has pointed out that his imagery is no different from that in many mainstream horror films, and that if you shut him down, you’re going to have to shut down the whole industry.
He’s going to have a vigorous defence, for sure – probably one that will include screening some footage from Saw and Hostel and other blockbuster gore-fests – but it’s not going to be a simple case. The videos in question are difficult to watch, even, I would guess, for an objective expert. Couture has chosen a trial by jury. A jury is going to have normal human reactions to these films – that is to say, emotional rather than legal ones. It is hard to find sympathy, no matter what the legal argument, for a guy clearly so obsessed with the torture and dismemberment of women that he represents these over and over again. It’s possible that a jury might think “to hell with the niceties of the law – who needs this stuff?” Or even, “And if I could ban Saw and Hostel too, I would!”
And then there’s the child-porn aspect. There is certainly a sexual aspect to the assaults represented, and nudity. Couture is going to have to prove not only that all the actors he used were over the age of 18, but also that not one of them depicts anyone under that age. (It is worth noting, though, that not one of his actors has complained that she was harmed or coerced in any way.)
The prosecutors are probably going to have to talk about who was harmed by these films – and if they can’t prove it was the actors, then they are going to have to argue it’s the viewers, which is something notoriously difficult to prove. Also too bad for them is the genie-out-of-the-bottle problem: Sure, you can shut down a Canadian website, but the films are already viewable in several other places that they don’t control. These are the problems of censorship in the digital age.
Personally, I will be sad if the censorship is successful. Rémy Couture’s films’ greatest offence is that they are dull: They are repetitive, predictable, clichéd, lacking in story or characterization or any subtlety or insight of any kind. They’re just really dumb. A lot of art is dumb. But that’s not illegal yet.
Quebec man faces obscenity charge over gruesome horror films
By Marianne White
Montreal Gazette (Postmedia News)
October 15, 2010
Is making a gory, sexually explicit and very realistic horror movie about a serial killer preying on women a crime?
That's the unusual question a Quebec court will have to answer in the coming months after a special-effects artist was charged with production and distribution of obscene material for his hardcore works.
Montrealer Remy Couture pleaded not guilty to the charge, laid under Section 163 of the Criminal Code, this week and requested a jury trial.
The controversial material at issue includes two short films entitled "Inner Depravity" posted on a website of the same name alongside dozens of photos taken on the set.
The work of Couture, who uses the artist name RemyFX, is not for the faint-hearted. Described as hardcore horror, the videos are ripe with violence, nudity and sexual domination.
Couture says they are meant to depict the life of a psychopathic serial killer — assisted by a 10-year old apprentice — who, among other things, has sex with his dead female victims.
One Exorcist-inspired sequence shows a woman bleeding after a crucifix was shoved down her throat. Another graphic scene shows a character carving out a victim's organs.
Couture acknowledges the images can be shocking, but insists his work is totally fictitious and that the sexual scenes were simulated.
"Horror is my passion, but that doesn't make me a pervert or a nutcase," he said in an interview.
The makeup artist said his only crime is to be so good at what he does that his fake blood, latex and silicone effects are too realistic-looking.
But Montreal police — who arrested Couture in October 2009 — don't see it that way.
They began investigating Couture after Interpol, the international policing agency, forwarded them complaints about the gruesome content.
Montreal police said the plaintiffs thought the depicted events were real and showed a child being molested and killed. Couture said the performer is in fact a teenager and he stressed there are no scenes of rape.
Nonetheless, the sexual nature of the films is one of the elements that led to the obscenity charge — a rare indictment in connection with works from the horror genre.
Law professor Richard Moon said the case taps into the delicate question of freedom of expression, and is bound to be complicated.
He said the court will have to determine if exposure to Couture's work can be harmful.
"This is difficult and problematic. We don't have nice, simple, clear, empirical evidence about the impact of obscene imagery or violent imagery on viewers and there's a good reason for that: we are talking about humans who view it with whatever history they have, whatever set of values they have," said Moon, who teaches law at the University of Windsor.
Couture says the criminal charge is a violation of his freedom of expression as an artist and he doesn't understand why he was targeted.
"This is absurd," the 33-year-old said. "If they charge me, are they going to charge every other horror moviemaker out there?"
Horror fans have thrown their support behind Couture by signing an online petition. Several Quebec artists, including filmmaker Robert Morin, have written open letters to protest what they see as censorship and express their fear of repercussions the case could have on other artists.
Couture's website has been shut down by police.
He is due back in court on Nov. 1 to set a date for trial.
Gory film artist pleads not guilty to obscenity
'It's very graphic, but you have to know it's fictive': Rémy Couture
October 15, 2010
Montreal filmmaker Rémy Couture defended his craft of making gory films after pleading not guilty earlier this week to moral corruption and distributing obscene material online.
The court case is the latest to pit artistic freedom against Canada's obscenity laws.
Couture, a special effects artist for horror films, said in an interview with CBC News on Friday that such laws shouldn't apply to the movies.
His video in question shows a muscular, tattooed man in a mask, appearing to eat a victim's intestines. In another, a barely dressed, blood-drenched woman is strapped to a bed with a large crucifix lying across her.
The images are so realistic that an internet user in Germany alerted authorities.
"It's very graphic, but you have to know it's fictive. When we talk about sexual act, sexual connotations, everything is fake. There is no penetration," he said two days after his court appearance, where he also requested a jury trial.
Couture pointed out that scenes regularly appear on movie screens across Montreal that are just as shocking as the ones he has produced.
He said Montreal police posed as potential clients to lure him out of his apartment and arrest him.
"When I went on the street, a guy and a woman appear, and when I say, 'Yes, I am,' they just took my arms and said, 'You're under arrest for corruption of morals...," he said.
Police and Crown prosecutors say Couture has crossed the line in creating such graphic material.
Site shut down
Under the Criminal Code, it is illegal to publish or distribute materials that combine sex with horror, cruelty or violence. His website has been shut down.
Montreal police spokesman Ian Lafrenière said "we're talking in some scenes a mix of porn ... and what could be described as violence."
Couture's supporters say his right to freedom of expression is being violated.
A half-dozen men and women demonstrated outside the courtroom dressed as zombies and dripping in fake blood to protest the charges.
They say Couture's work is art and should be protected by freedom of expression.
Similar cases have tested Canada's obscenity legislation against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms at the Supreme Court level.
In one landmark case almost 20 years ago, the court decided Canada's obscenity laws were an infringement of the charter but a reasonable one.
Couture returns to court on Nov. 1.
With files from CBC reporter Justin Hayward
'Hardcore horror' artist faces charges
By BRIAN DALY
October 8, 2010
MONTREAL - Several Quebec artists are throwing their support behind special-effects creator Remy Couture, who faces criminal charges for graphic short films featured on his website remyfx.com.
The "hardcore horror" shorts are ripe with nudity and depict actors playing out nightmarish scenarios of children being killed and people interacting with mutilated corpses. His site also has still images showing actors made up to appear as though they are in various states of dismemberment.
One man is doused in blood and appears to be cutting off his own lip with a knife. Another image show a dismembered body nailed to a cross, while another depicts a bloodied fetus being held in the hand of a person wearing a rubber glove.
Montreal police arrested Couture and seized his computer last year after receiving complaints from people who thought the films depicted real events.
"People were sure that a child was molested and killed," said police spokesman Ian Lafreniere.
"In analyzing the file, we noted there were scenes of a sexual nature. It will be up to a judge to decide if this merits a (sentence)."
Couture, 33, was arrested in the fall of 2009 after a complaint was made to Interpol, the international crime-fighting organization. He's to appear in court in Montreal next Wednesday to face a charge of producing obscene material.
Couture says his work is all fake and that the charge is a violation of his freedom as an artist.
"All of the time they're spending on my file is time they're not spending on real crimes," Couture told QMI Agency. "It's shameful. They don't see the artistic merits. They say a psychologist concluded that it (my work) would harm society."
A group of artists from Quebec's film and special-effects industry wrote an open letter to media agencies in which they urged the Crown to drop the charges.
"This matter raises important questions about freedom of expression," the letter reads. "It discredits the justice system."
Couture plans to plead not-guilty, saying that his work is satisfying a demand for extreme images.
"There's a clientele for this type of horror (product), " he says. "I'm under stress for no good reason."
Horror films lead to obscenity charges
October 13, 2010
By Graham Hughes
Andrew Chung, Quebec Bureau
MONTREAL—Passersby could be forgiven for mistaking the zombie bride, the cadaver in a nun’s habit, and the butcher with a severed hand tucked in his bloody smock as part of a pre-Halloween stunt.
But in fact, this macabre cast stood in front of the Montreal courthouse along with a dozen others for a reason far more serious. Though little known outside the city, a criminal case is starting to take shape that touches directly and deeply on the idea of “art” and freedom of expression.
Last year, Montreal horror film makeup artist Rémy Couture was picked up by police, his house and computer searched, after Interpol levelled a complaint based on a couple of short films he made that can be classified, at the very least, as grotesque.
Entitled “Inner Depravity,” they attempt to show the mind of a heinous, drug-taking serial killer whose psychopathic tendencies lead him to also have sex with his dead female victims.
Art to some. Graphic obscenity to the Crown Prosecutors.
Couture made his first appearance in court Wednesday to face charges of producing and disseminating obscene material.
Police have previously alluded to the sexual nature of the films in choosing to lay charges.
Couture on Wednesday pled not guilty and chose to have his trial in front of a jury.
In an interview, he expressed disbelief that he was being pursued by the law, given all the “real crimes” going on.
“It’s absurd,” said Couture, dressed all in black, his Mohawk fashioned like a short rooster comb. “So many people spending so much time on my file and not on real violent crimes.”
As he spoke, his zombie supporters milled about behind him, carrying placards such as: “Real charges for fake blood!” and “To be a victim of his talent is completely ridiculous!”
Karine Fournier, a textile artist dressed as a zombie bride, felt compelled to support Couture. “To lose our freedom of expression,” she reasoned, “is death.”
Julie Delisle, who also works in the horror genre, said she was surprised by the charges and now feels like “we are being watched more closely.”
Couture, 33, intends to argue that there are many other gory films in circulation that haven’t been targeted as obscenity, and he wants to know why.
Couture’s lawyer Dominic Bouchard said the case could have repercussions on horror films generally. “We will expose other movies worse than this,” he promised.
Bouchard said it’s the first time obscenity charges have been laid in Canada related to works from the horror genre.
But obscenity charges are both controversial and complicated. The Supreme Court in 1992 recognized that demeaning and violent depictions of sex can do harm to society and especially women and established some tests in this regard.
Though the Montreal police said members of the public complained that the movies showed a child being molested and killed, Bouchard said they are in error; the films only depict an “adolescent” being killed, not sexually violated.
Couture pointed out that the sex in his film is all simulated, as opposed to pornography, in which the sex is real. “They know (my work) is all fiction,” he added.
Whether simulated or real sex makes a difference is something Bouchard agreed the judge will have to weigh.
The 10-minute films were available on Couture’s website until his arrest. They are still online on other sites. As if to cap the extraordinary violence of the first movie, these words appear on screen: “Mankind has become the master in the art of cruelty.”
No one is forced to watch, Couture explained through a smile. “It’s horror,” he said, “not a cartoon.”
Couture returns to court Nov. 1.