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Q&A: Director Axelle Carolyn talks “TALES OF HALLOWEEN”

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Truth be told, there are plenty of reasons why anthology filmmaking has returned in a big, bold way as of recent years. On one hand, there’s the economic practicality of it, as a saturated marketplace has made multi-tiered filmmaking a more practical gamble than flat-out original features. On another hand, there’s the promotional aspect of it all: with more filmmakers to promote the film and the natural discussion among horror hounds, anthologies have become less forgettable among the fray of fright films released every year. And then, in some cases, there’s a sense of camaraderie, community and celebration that comes when enthusiastic filmmakers come together in the name of the genre they love.

It’s certainly the latter case in which TALES OF HALLOWEEN was created, with SOULMATE filmmaker Axelle Carolyn serving as the ringleader for The October Society’s inaugural anthology. With the film circling the festival circuit and debuting in theaters and on VOD today, Carolyn spoke to FANGORIA about crafting and culling the visions of horror’s top talents for TALES OF HALLOWEEN…

FANGORIA: So how did you first come up with the concept for TALES OF HALLOWEEN?

AXELLE CAROLYN: Well, it was simply that I wanted to do something with all of those other [directors]. We were a group of filmmakers who hung out together, really like each other and really enjoy and support each other’s work. I just thought that it’s a shame that we only watch each other’s work and that we don’t work together, so we thought it’d be great if we pooled our talents together and make something that was bigger than the sum of its parts. That was really how the idea came up, and the natural step after that was to make an anthology movie because we could get so many more people involved.

So that was the selling point, and the idea of Halloween came up a little later when I thought, “[Halloween] is something we celebrate all of the time as a group together.” We go to so many festivals, theme parks like the Universal Halloween Horror Nights and Haunted Hayride, parties and horror movies, and Halloween is what it’s all about. Halloween is the one thing that the horror community and those who work in the genre can always celebrate together.

FANGORIA: Did everyone have an idea about what they wanted to do with their segments before production formally started in order to maintain a fluid tonal consistency?

CAROLYN: Yeah, and that was something we discussed very early on. My role as the wrangler of the group was that everything had to be handled by the filmmakers themselves, and so we reached out to find the motifs of each filmmaker and asked questions so that we could make sure everything was as good as possible and that the tone was cohesive. Everything needed to feel like it was part of the same universe, so that meant gathering opinions and making sure there was no repetition between the stories. So from the very beginning, we would gather around in my backyard and talk shop about what we were doing. So we were all aware of each other’s stories, which helped a lot when it came to making TALES OF HALLOWEEN cohesive.

FANGORIA: When it comes to your story in particular, “Grim Grinning Ghost”, was it important to you to do something more atmospheric and suspenseful as opposed to the bloodier, more “in-your-face” segments of the film?

CAROLYN: Well, I think that just came from my sensibilities since I’m more attracted to horror that is more creepy than “in-your-face.” That’s not to say one is better than the other, but as a filmmaker, I find the slow-burn scares more interesting, and when I talked to the other filmmakers and saw what they were doing with their segments, I thought it was essential to take mine in that direction. But the great thing about Halloween is that there’s a variety of scary things that we could achieve, and one of those things could definitely be a ghost story that could make you jump.

That was something that was very interesting to me, and though some of the other segments are really fun, I thought I could bring something to the film that could really scare people. And that was a lot of fun to play with because I could play with cliches and expectations, so for the scares, I’d make it so you’d expect something and then it doesn’t happen and then I’d get them. It was a lot of fun, and I’m actually writing something now that plays like that as well.

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FANGORIA: Were there any segments that you were particularly surprised by?

CAROLYN: Yeah, definitely, and I was involved with them all from the beginning when they were just scripts to make sure they linked and they were all in the same universe. So it was interesting to see how we played with chronology, as if when someone lives or someone dies and then they come back because these stories aren’t presented in chronological order. But if one character dies earlier in the evening and comes back in a segment that’s later in the evening, we had to work everything out so it makes sense.

So I was very, very familiar with the stories, but when you’d see everyone on set, everyone had different personalities and the things they came up with are different than what I had in mind when I read the script. So every segment was always a little surprising, and I remember Dave Parker’s SWEET TOOTH was very different than what I had in mind. But I was very pleased because that’s very wonderful and that’s the point of working with all of these guys who are bringing all these different things to the table.

There were points where I was reading some of the scripts where I was like, “I don’t get it, but I trust you,” and then it turns out to be something great. And other times, I’d read something and go, “I don’t know how the finished product is going to look, but I know there’s something special here.” Lucky McKee’s segment was like that, and when I saw it, Polyanna [McIntosh] and Marc Senter were so amazing. I knew the material was good, but when [Lucky] sent the first cut, I found that every cut brought something that was a little more weird and different, and that was exciting for me.

As the creator, I would always look at the scripts through the eyes of what I would bring to the projects as a filmmaker. But every filmmaker would bring their own sensibilities to the story, and that whole process was very exciting.

FANGORIA: TALES OF HALLOWEEN is, in its own way, a love letter to the L.A. horror community. Should there be a potential sequel in mind, would you be interested in reaching out to horror filmmakers outside of the L.A. horror community?

CAROLYN: That’s interesting because it would have to be a group decision for us to open up the doors of [our collective] The October Society. There are so many great filmmakers out there from over the world that I would love to have involved if a sequel were to come about. But even beyond Halloween, there are other holidays I would love to explore in the anthology format, so who knows? Maybe we could get a TALES outside of Halloween? We’ll see, because it all depends on how well this film is received.

TALES OF HALLOWEEN is now in select theaters and on VOD from Epic Pictures.

About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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