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--Interview by Nic Brown (photo above by Rebecca Wachtel)--

 

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 pieces for Fangoria, SFX, a French mag called L'Ecran Fantastique and IGN.com. I 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 role?


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.


Axelle- 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....



To Learn more about Axelle visit

one of these websites:

Her Myspace page: http://www.myspace.com/axellecarolyn

She's also writes for:

http://www.ign.com

http://www.fangoria.com



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