Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Interview with Journalist/Actress/Author Axelle Carolyn

Axelle Carolyn is a multi-talented horror journalist, author, actress, model and all around horror fan! She’s written for publications like Fangoria, IGN.com, L’Ecran Fantastique and SFX Magazine, appeared in numerous horror films (Doomsday, the upcoming The Descent 2, short films The Neon Killer and I Love You) and is now having her highly anticipated first book, It Lives Again! Horror Movies in the New Millennium, published!

I was lucky enough to interview the very gracious Axelle about her upcoming book, her career in the horror genre and about her love of horror!

Fatally Yours: First off, how and when did your love of horror begin? Were you exposed to a lot of horror films growing up in your native Belgium or did your love of horror develop later in life?

Axelle Carolyn: I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been attracted to the horror elements in all the cartoons I watched and all the stories I read as a kid. I remember being very impressed by the skeleton army in The Black Cauldron, and skeletons, ghosts and brains were the most fascinating things to me as a little girl. Around 8 or 9, I started reading my dad’s collection of Jean Ray short stories. And around 11-12, I discovered Stephen King…

Fatally Yours: What horror movie has affected you the most and why?

Axelle Carolyn: The Fly was one of the first that I remember getting obsessed with. My parents didn’t want me to watch horror films, but I’d seen stills from the movie and I had a teenage crush on Jeff Goldblum, so I couldn’t stop looking for ways to see that film behind my parents’ backs. When I turned 16 or 17, they gave me a lot more freedom to watch what I wanted, and I finally got to see The Fly. It exceeded all my expectations! I should also credit Re-Animator; I discovered it around the same time and loved it. And my crush shifted from Goldblum to Jeffrey Combs… J This being said, I started writing fiction recently, and the more I think about it, the more I realize that it’s really horror literature that shaped my love for the genre. Stephen King and Jean Ray of course, but also Clive Barker, Edgar Allan Poe, Theophile Gauthier, Guy de Maupassant…

Fatally Yours: When did you start writing about horror? How did you get involved with and start writing for different horror publications?

Axelle Carolyn: I conducted my first interview in 2004. I’d been going to the Brussels Fantastic Film Festival for years, and I asked Johnny Butane (now on Dreadcentral) and Ryan Rotten (now on Shocktilyoudrop), who at the time ran Creature-Corner, if they’d like a festival report. Ryan got me a press card, and I got to do a few interview, including my first interviewee ever, Stuart Gordon. Later that year I met Brian Yuzna, and he invited me to visit the set of his film in Madrid. When I left the set, he asked me if I wanted to cover the film for Fangoria, since I’d done some work for Creature-Corner. I said yes, wrote it, sent it to Fango; they liked it and next thing I knew, I was visiting Hostel in Prague.

Fatally Yours: Your first book, It Lives Again! Horror Movies in the New Millennium will be published soon! Congrats on that enormous accomplishment! Can you tell us what the book is about and what your goals were in writing it?

Axelle Carolyn: Thanks! The book covers the huge wave of horror films we’ve seen recently, from blockbusters to independents, Hollywood to Asia, looking at the main trends, the failures and successes, and whenever possible, the reasons behind these successes. There’s been so many good films this decade, and I’ve been privileged enough to meet a lot of these new filmmakers and count several amongst my close friends, so I thought it’d be good to collect quotes and interviews and give horror fans a complete panorama of what’s been made in the past 8 years. My inspiration originally came from a book I’d read a couple of years ago called The Monster Show, A Cultural History of Horror, by David J. Skal. It’s brilliantly written, and the parallel it establishes between the various trends in the genre and world events was fascinating. I tried to take the same approach in my book, and cover the one decade the book doesn’t cover.

Fatally Yours: What was the most exciting/gratifying aspect about writing a book?

Axelle Carolyn: The most exciting I’d say was the freedom the format gave me. When you write for a magazine, you have to follow a pre-established structure and conform to a certain style. Here, as long as I was coherent in my choices, I could do anything I wanted. I also loved being able to give an opinion rather than just compiling cold facts; I never liked writing reviews, but in the book, the thing I liked the most was to try to look for trends and common traits between movies, or links between socio-political events and box-office hits. Few people know this, but I actually graduated in law and specialized for several years in international law and politics, so I have a good understanding of current affairs. It was brilliant to be able to use that background, for once, and incorporate it into something horror-related.

Fatally Yours: Of all the “new” horror films that your book covers, which film is your favorite and why?

Axelle Carolyn: That’s a tough question! I thought about that when the time came to choose a cover… and I think my favorite is The Devil’s Backbone. I love ghosts, and this one has just the right blend of atmosphere and scares, with so many different layers. It’s touching, spooky and incredibly smart at the same time. And don’t even get me started on the photography… I couldn’t find the perfect still from the film though, but The Orphanage has largely the same qualities, so that picture of the little ghost was perfect. Horror fans talk a lot about France these days, but personally, it’s really Spain that impresses me the most. The evolution the genre has gone through there is amazing. Rec is another great example…

Fatally Yours: How would you try and explain to people outside of the genre, who don’t realize horror’s merits or positive aspects, that it truly is a worthwhile genre and not merely an exploitative one?

Axelle Carolyn: I’d show them The Devil’s Backbone. Better show something than argue for hours! I showed it to a couple of people who thought horror was all blood and guts with nothing behind it, and they loved it. Come to think of it, I guess The Fly would work well too, to show them how special effects and gore can be used to convey emotions.

Fatally Yours: What do you think horror films reveal about a society’s culture, values, etc.?

Axelle Carolyn: I think horror films reflect the concerns and fears of their time, whether the filmmakers intended it or not. It’s actually better when it’s an unconscious process, otherwise it often feels like the director is preaching or forcing a message down our throats.

Fatally Yours: As a woman in the male-dominated genre of horror, either as a journalist, author or actress, what are your thoughts on how women are portrayed in the genre?

Axelle Carolyn: I’m often asked gender-related questions, and to be honest, it’s not something I’ve ever given much thought to. I’ve never felt like I was treated differently as a horror fan because I’m a woman – or if I have, it probably mostly worked in my favor – so I haven’t really thought about those issues… I know there’s a general feeling that horror films depict women as victims and stereotypes, but when you look at it, there have been many, many wonderful roles for women, even lately. Look at May, High Tension, The Descent; or further in the past, Halloween, Geena Davis in The Fly, or my personal favorite, Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? There’s a lot of female characters out there that broke the stereotypes.

Fatally Yours: Though there have always been women horror fans, do you think that lately we’ve seen more women going to horror fans? Why?

Axelle Carolyn: More horror fans, I don’t know. I couldn’t say, really. But what is certain is that producers have been trying to target women specifically these past few years, and that’s a pretty unique phenomenon. All these Asian remakes are largely aimed at women, and it makes sense, because in Japan, there’s a huge amount of women amongst horror fans. Their ghost stories almost always have a woman in the lead and deal with themes related to the place of women in society; the clearest example is the single mother of Dark Water

Fatally Yours: Do you think that if more women begin to support horror that this will result in more women directing, writing, producing and so on?

Axelle Carolyn: I don’t think so. You know, if I noticed that a lot more – or a lot less – women were suddenly interested in horror, it wouldn’t change a single thing to my passion for the genre. And when you look at it, even outside horror, women rarely direct, write or produce; it’s mostly a male-dominated industry. Whatever the cause may be… Even chick flicks are more often than not made by guys.

Fatally Yours: You’ve been appearing in many horror films recently, with your cameos in Doomsday and small role in The Descent 2 to your roles in other short films like The Neon Killer and I Love You. Can you tell us how you got bit by the acting bug?

Axelle Carolyn: It’s a funny thing. I never thought I’d be interested in acting. But somehow, when I’d visit sets or met people, they’d often try to get me in front of the camera, and I’d almost always say no. But then I had this little cameo in Doomsday, mostly because I was working on SFX and I wanted to try the makeup on, and I loved it. After the shoot, I realized that writing alone wasn’t enough for me, and that because my husband travels a lot and I wanted to be able to go with him, I’d need to find something that would allow me to take time off easily to travel and write. I remembered the Doomsday experience and thought I could look into acting. A friend of mine, Leslie Simpson, had agreed around the same time to appear in a short film directed by SFX artist Tristan Versluis, and he suggested me to Tristan for the female lead. I got the part, loved it, and decided it’d be worth giving acting a serious shot. Now I’ve got an agent, I’m auditioning like crazy, and I’m learning little by little…

Fatally Yours: Can you tell us a little about your role in The Descent 2? How did filming for that go?

Axelle Carolyn: I play a character called Nurse Lambert. Originally I’d auditioned for that one because she had a gruesome death, but that scene was rewritten just before shooting started… so now sadly, not only do I not die, but my part is pretty small. But it was an awesome experience because I got to say my first lines on camera in a relaxed atmosphere, with friends and people I knew around me. It was great.

Fatally Yours: What projects do you have planned in the future? Will you be collaborating on more films with your husband, Neil Marshall? Do you have any planned books, screenplays, films or other projects?

Axelle Carolyn: From now on, I’d like to put journalism on the side (although I do keep a monthly column on IGN, and I have an article coming in the next issue of Fango), and concentrate on acting and writing fiction. I’ve auditioned for a couple of pretty big films and I’m anxiously awaiting a reply. This month I’ll also be working on Forest of the Damned 2; it’s a little cameo and the film has a tiny budget, but it should be good fun, because it’s a good team of people. As for working with Neil, it’s definitely part of the plan. He wrote a role for me in what should hopefully be his next film. But of course until I’ve auditioned for it and received the producers’ approval, I won’t know for sure if I can do it…

Fatally Yours: For those aspiring to be part of the horror genre, what advice would you give them to fulfill their dreams?

Axelle Carolyn: Grasp any opportunity. It doesn’t matter if it’s not exactly what you had in mind; the smallest thing can lead to the most unexpected places. Four years ago I was desperate to find a job on set, as a runner. I never found one, but journalism found me instead, and now it’s given me the opportunity to experiment and branch out into other things. So far, so good!

Buy It Lives Again! Horror Movies in the New Millennium on Amazon!

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