There are many hardworking, prolific independent filmmakers all over the world today, but there are probably very few whose oeuvre is as varied as Henrique Couto. Working out of Ohio, Couto established a following in the independent horror scene with his films BLEEDING THROUGH and BABYSITTER MASSACRE, but in the last few years he has branched out into family holiday movies (A BULLDOG FOR CHRISTMAS) and even made a western (CALAMITY JANE’S REVENGE) in addition to producing more horror films as well. In 2014, Couto ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for his film AWKWARD THANKSGIVING. Encouraged by that campaign’s success, he went back to Kickstarter in 2015 to fund a “romantic comedy” project (full disclosure: this reviewer did contribute to the campaign). It was similarly successful, and now MAKING OUT is set to make its world premiere at the By-Jo Theatre in Germantown, Ohio on February 5th, 2016.
Charlie (Titus Young Wolverton) is a struggling screenwriter who spends more time than he probably should going to the movies alone. He meets Erin (Erin R. Ryan), an actress who Charlie and cameraman Henrique (Henrique Couto) work with on a film shoot. The two seem to have an obvious attraction, but Charlie is too self-involved to make a move. While bonding over stories of romantic disappointments, Erin presents Charlie with an idea: they can create a perfect movie-style romance for themselves by scripting their dates modeled on clichés from the movies they love. With the condition that they only make out, of course, since the situation is purely platonic. Just like in the movies, though, things don’t quite go as planned.
Much like AWKWARD THANKSGIVING, MAKING OUT is an R-rated take on a familiar comic genre. It’s not quite Kevin Smith or Judd Apatow territory, but Couto’s ribbing of romantic comedy conventions is more profane and much weirder than the big studio rom-coms from which it takes cues. Couto uses the independent nature of the production to make jokes movies being vetted by the MPAAA would never let through (including one very inspired bit involving a biker gang member played by editor Eric Widing), but doesn’t go out of his way to make the film offensive for the sake of shock. It’s a fun tweak on familiar territory made for adults.
Couto regularly works with a number of actors who have become a reliable ensemble, and a few of them do some of their best work yet in MAKING OUT. Erin R. Ryan has repeatedly proven herself a solid lead actress in a wide range of roles, and she’s typically great here. Geoff Burkman has a very funny small role as the owner of the movie theater where Charlie is a regular, and Joni Durian appears in a small but memorable part. Much of the rest of the cast is made up of newer faces, including Titus Young Wolverton in the lead as Charlie. Wolverton appeared in Couto’s films SCAREWAVES and CALAMITY JANE’S REVENGE, but this is his first feature as a leading man. It’s tough to keep up with some of the more experienced players here, but Wolverton does his best.
MAKING OUT is a clever, fun take on the familiar romantic-comedy formula. Couto knows how to put minimal resources to maximum use, and his ingenuity shines through again here. Both Couto and his cast seemed to be having a great time making this movie, and that passion and enthusiasm is infectious. And lest any horror fans get too nervous about Couto straying from their favorite genre, his “found footage” horror film ALONE IN THE GHOST HOUSE will be out this Summer. In the meantime, we’ll be taking bets on what genre Couto tackles next!
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