--Interview by Nic Brown (photo above by
If you’ve read any
articles about horror recently in Fangoria, SFX, IGN or
L'Ecran Fantastique then you may have read some of her work.
She was on the cover of SCARS magazine’s April/May 2008
issue. When she wasn’t working on the special effects
make-up for the film you could see her on screen as a punk
and an infected victim in Neil
Marshall’s DOOMSDAY. But who is this talented writer and
actress? She’s Axelle Carolyn and with a new non-fiction
book on horror in the new millennium and a role in the
up-coming film THE DESCENT 2, she’s making a name for
herself in the horror industry. Axelle has taken a short
break from her writing and work on both sides of the camera
to share some of her unique views as an actress, journalist
and novelist on the horror genre today.
Axelle Carolyn: Writer, actress and horror fan.
Nic- Axelle, I understand that you are a featured
writer for a number of magazines and websites. Can you tell
us a little about who you write for and what you cover?
Axelle- I write set visits, interviews, reviews and opinion
SFX, a French mag called L'Ecran Fantastique and
specialize in horror movies; actually, it's the only genre I
cover. But lately I've had to put my article writing on the
back burner for a while to concentrate on other projects; I
only write the odd magazine piece, and my horror movie
column on IGN.
Nic- You've got experience writing for a number of
different types of media so what's your opinion about the
changes in technology and the rise of the web? Do you think
that traditional magazines are going to continue?
Axelle- I'm hoping magazines will survive. Websites are
great to get the latest news and reviews, but for more in
depth articles, set visits and opinion pieces, there's
nothing like a good old-fashioned magazine. For one thing,
their content isn't meant to be immediate; they're not just
looking for the latest news, since they know their readers
will already have read about them online. Also, it's so much
nicer to take the time to sit down and read something in
print than look at a computer screen. So the short answer
is, I think there's a place in the world for both....
Nic- In addition to your journalistic work, you're
also working on a nonfiction novel is that correct?
Axelle- I'm finishing a book about horror movies since 2000,
called "It Lives Again! Horror Movies in the New
Millennium." The popularity of the genre has increased
massively in the past few years, and I'm trying to determine
why, see what the main trends have been and if they can be
linked to some events that have happened in the world
recently, and see what the best and most interesting films
have been in the past 8 years. Added to all that, there are
hundreds of reviews and analyses and dozens of interviews
with filmmakers and stars. My publisher's in England, and
the book should hopefully be out by the end of the year.
Nic- That sounds like it will be a fascinating book.
Without giving too much away, can you highlight some of your
findings about the trends and why the genre has seen such a
strong revival in the last few years?
Axelle- There are obvious trends: the Asian wave and its
remakes, torture films, zombie films, the rise of European
(mostly British and French) horror, the triumph of the
independents…. But I think I'd rather answer that one in
more detail in a couple of months, once I'm finished. I'm
still too close to the material to be able to take a larger
look at it.
Axelle may be coming down with something in this
scene from DOOMSDAY
Nic-Have you done any works of fiction?
Axelle- I've started recently, and that's what I'm planning
to focus on once my non-fiction book is completed. So far
I've written a scary story for children -- think Goosebumps,
only scarier -- and I've collected a huge amount of notes
with ideas for novels and short stories of all sorts. But I
haven't been published yet; I haven't had the time to look
for publishers since I finished writing the children's book.
Nic- So you've written a scary story for children.
Do you think it's more challenging to write for the
children's market or for adults?
Axelle- Writing for kids means being concise, choosing
simple words and trying to remember what scared you as a
child. I think I did a pretty good job at it, but then
again, it fits my writing style. Children's books also tend
to be shorter than regular novels, so I thought it'd be a
good way to start. And there's a freshness, a simplicity to
their books that I love: find a great concept, write around
it, be scary. The story I wrote is incredibly simple: one
threat, one night, three kids. This being said, I haven't
started looking for a publisher yet; my horror 2000 book
hasn't left me the time to do so. I hear it's a really tough
market to crack...
Nic- I've also heard that you've started doing some
movie work. Is that true and if so, is that something you're
interested in pursuing further?
Axelle- Absolutely. I've always wanted to work in films, and
in the past, I've had office jobs in production companies,
I've been a script reader and I've done publicity on a
couple of films. Then last year I spent 3 months in South
Africa when my husband (at the time, boyfriend) was filming
DOOMSDAY, and I got the chance to not only work as an SFX
makeup artist with Paul Hyett, but also have a couple of
cameos in the film. I loved it. I've done a short film
recently, and I've just been cast in a small part for a big
horror production, so I guess you could say I've caught the
acting bug. I've always known I wanted to work in horror
movies in some capacity, but it's taken me some time to
decide what I wanted to do exactly. From now on, I see
myself as a writer and an actress.
Nic- Now that you've got the bug for acting, what
kind of roles are you looking for? I know some actresses
like to play the "villains" characters and some prefer the
"heroes". Do you have a preference?
Axelle- Villains would probably be more fun, I think
everyone agrees on that. I'd rather be a villain, given the
choice. But as long as it's horror, I'm happy!
Nic- Can you tell us anything about your next
Axelle- I can just as well tell you that the part I've been
cast for is a small role in THE DESCENT 2. I auditioned for
it mid-April, and only heard that I got it a few days ago. I
only have a few days on set, but it's exciting!
Nic- You currently live in the United Kingdom,
but you’re originally from Belgium. Do you see a big
difference between horror films or television made in Europe
and what we see made in the U.S.?
Axelle- Well, the obvious differences would be the budgets
and the amount of films produced… with a couple of
exceptions, we don't have studios here, and we don't really
know what a horror blockbuster is over here. Which could be
a good thing. Unfortunately, in the UK as in the rest of
Europe (with the possible exception of Spain, where they
even have a mini-studio, Filmax, whose main successes have
been genre films), the audience for local horror productions
is extremely limited. Saturday night crowds would rather pay
to see a big-budget American remake than a local horror
production, so there's only so much you can invest in an
English or French genre film without losing money. In
Belgium, where I come from, there's only been one notable
horror movie in the past ten years: Fabrice du Welz's
CALVAIRE. I recently wrote an article about the situation in
France for IGN, but I think the same applies, to various
degrees, to most European countries.
Although it's obvious that she could, Axelle
doesn't cut corners on her work
as a writer or as an actress and it shows! (photo
by Mike Manikowski)
Nic- Although none of them were "Blockbusters", do
you think the critical and, to some extent, financial
success of such films as SHAUN OF THE DEAD, PAN'S LABYRINTH,
and LE PACTE DES
LOUPS in the North American market is opening any doors
for horror filmmakers in Europe?
Axelle- Oh yes. Unfortunately, if it opened doors to
filmmakers, it didn't really open anything to their
films.... It allowed Alex Aja or Xavier Gens: they've been
offered the opportunity to direct video game adaptations or
remakes in the States, but the films that got them noticed,
HAUTE TENSION and FRONTIER(S), didn't get wide distribution
in the US. A lot of it comes down to the language; it's
obviously easier to get THE
DESCENT on 2,000 screens than a French-speaking movie.
In non-English-speaking countries, people are much more open
to subtitled (or sometimes dubbed) films. When I grew up, I
used to watch Hollywood movies with subtitles -- my first
language was French, a million years ago -- and that
obviously made me much more able to appreciate Asian,
Spanish or Italian cinema, since I don't mind subtitles. I
understand where US audiences are coming from, but at the
same time, it's sad that a little masterpiece like REC has
to be remade (into QUARANTINE) for the American market, just
because the original is in Spanish.
Nic- Do you think that the cultural differences
between the U.S. and European markets affect the trends in
horror filmmaking? For example, in the US it is considered
far more acceptable to show graphic violence than it is to
show nudity (especially male nudity), yet it seems to be the
opposite in most parts of Europe, particularly with what's
shown on Broadcast Television. For example: the recent
controversy in England over an episode of EASTENDERS that
featured someone being buried alive as opposed to the
infamous "nipple flash" by singer Janet Jackson during the
American Super Bowl broadcast a few years ago.
Axelle- I don't think censorship issues affects trends.
There isn't, to my knowledge, a strong European sub-genre of
horror defined by male nudity…. Social and political issues
affect trends: images of torture in Iraq inspire movies like
HOSTEL; riots in Paris inspire films like A
L'INTERIEUR/INSIDE. I do agree that there's a difference in
the way nudity seems to be perceived by rating boards on
each side of the pond, but it seems lately that difference
has somewhat been reduced. Look at the ending of HOSTEL:
PART II! There's a clear evolution there. Outside of horror,
I'm not quite sure how it works, to be honest. I watch very
little TV, and because of the kind of film that I grew up
watching, I don't tend to have a very European sensibility
when it comes to those issues...
Axelle gets ahead... or at
least a head, when she worked in front of and behind
the camera on Neil Marshall's DOOMSDAY.
Nic- Speaking of THE DESCENT, there is another trend
I’ve scene with some horror films, altered endings. Many
times it seems that when foreign horror films come into the
U.S. market (either as remakes or straight release) they are
given a “happy ending”. Do you have any thoughts on why that
is and do you see that trend changing?
Axelle- Like I said, in Europe, genre films are made for a
core audience, and horror fans are usually satisfied with a
darker or more mysterious ending. In the US, budgets are
bigger, the target audience is broader than just the horror
crowd; popcorn audiences need to be satisfied too, and they
usually want something light and uplifting. So, endings have
to be adapted to make sure they leave theaters with a smile.
Nic- Axelle, you’re obviously a fan of the horror
genre, that goes without saying. What is it that attracts
you to horror entertainment (print, film, etc.)?
Axelle- I like to watch weird and supernatural stories. I
like to see things that are different from reality, but not
so remote that I don't recognize the world I live in anymore
-- unlike sci-fi or fantasy, horror is anchored in reality.
And somehow, dark things seem to attract me.
Nic- We’ve talked about the way technology is
affecting print media. Since you're also someone who's
worked as an SFX makeup artist before, I wanted to get
you’re opinion about how computer technology is affecting
the horror film industry, specifically special effects. On a
related note, when it comes to monsters and gore FX, which
do you prefer traditional make-up/models or CGI?
Axelle- I can't predict where it's going. As you can
imagine, having worked on prosthetics, I like practical
effects better, but when CGI is well used, it also helps
create things that prosthetics simply can't achieve. It's
mostly in the way it's used, I guess.
Nic- What are some of your favorite horror movies
and what makes them your favorites?
In the short film I LOVE YOU Axelle shows
that sometimes love does indeed hurt.
RE-ANIMATOR, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD - because they're
crazy, and they're fun. In the 80s, there was a sense of
freedom, like, "we can do whatever we want with our movies,
they don't need to make sense". They're also some of my very
first memories of horror. WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?,
THE FLY - because they get very visceral reactions from me.
They're sad and terrifying at the same time. I can see a
common theme behind both, and it's something that affects
me. I also love
THE FOG, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, IN THE MOUTH OF
MADNESS, old Universal horror....
Nic- If I were to look around your home, what are
some of the books I might find on your bookshelf?
Axelle- A lot of non-fiction books about horror. Director
biographies (on Wes Craven, John Carpenter, Tim Burton, Paul
Verhoeven...), making-of books, reference books -- one of my
absolute favorites is David Skal's “The Monster Show”. It's
brilliant. I also have a few books on related subjects I'm
interested in: real-life exorcisms, Halloween,
Disneyland.... As far as fiction goes, I don't have super
original tastes. Stephen King and Clive Barker are the main
two. Recently, I loved Steve Niles's “Criminal Macabre”. And
for the classics: Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Guy de
Maupassant, Theophile Gauthier....