It’s only day 5 of shooting on the TALES OF HALLOWEEN set, and although it’s November at the time of this set visit, judging from all the decorations, costumes and general vibe on the shoot, it still feels very much like Halloween! The segment currently lensing is Neil Marshall’s BAD SEED. So while Marshall is concentrating on crafting his creepy, comedic tale of a killer pumpkin, I sat down with producer and contributing director Axelle Carolyn (SOULMATE) to get the full scoop on her segment GRIM GRINNING GHOST, as well as how this anthology pic came together, something that all the other filmmakers have attributed directly to her.
Blumhouse.com: How’d this all come together? What’s your side of the story?
Axelle Carolyn: The first time that I mentioned trying to do an anthology movie was years ago, actually! I wasn’t living here yet, but I said, “look, everyone here is a director! We need to pull our resources together and make something awesome together. Wouldn’t it be great to make an anthology movie?” But at the time, I didn’t live here. I only had one short and there hadn’t been a lot of anthology movies that were successful at that point. So the general reaction was “yeah, that would be fun.” And then it was forgotten. Despite being very talented, we’re all struggling to get films made, just like everybody else and it’s very frustrating. You can’t help thinking, if we each make something, even if it’s 10 minutes, we could make our own thing and it would be amazing. So it was that idea, and at some point I thought, you know what would be a great theme? Halloween night! Because obviously everyone here is obsessed with Halloween. I mentioned it to Neil and Mike in the car on the way to Monsterpalooza and he was like, “yeah, that’d be kind of cool, whatever.” (Laughs) And then we went to this party and I mentioned it to Andrew Kasch and Adam Giirasch and they were the ones that were like, “oh my God! That’s a great idea!” Adam Gierasch called me twice the next day and said “are we doing this?” And that was the enthusiasm that fueled us. It was after that party that everyone’s enthusiasm got us going. So it’s partly from being at this party and the trip to Monsterpalooza, but it’s been in the air for quite a long time. It was the Halloween theme that made it all gel together. Once we had that, the idea of it being on Halloween night in the same town, and have as many cross overs as possible, we knew we were on it.
BH: What’s Halloween mean to you, because you’re not from the States, so what was Halloween like in Belgium?
AC: I grew up in Belgium where no one had ever heard of Halloween. If you watched the movie HALLOWEEN, the beginning has the title card “Haddonfield. Halloween night.” For when we saw it, the translated version says, “Haddonfield. The Day Before All Saints Day.” That explains when the movie was set to us. So the whole movie when we saw it in Belgium doesn’t take place on Halloween, it takes place on The Day Before All Saints Day. Because no one knew what Halloween was. It was a foreign concept there, but when I was about 8, I’d heard about it and I would say to my parents “we need to celebrate Halloween! We need to do this!” So every year I would have my own little party and at first it was just my parents and my brothers and me and then it grew to inviting people. When I was in college, I’d invite about 10 people and we’d have a big dinner party. It grew into being a special thing, because I couldn’t just go to any store to buy stuff, I had to make Halloween stuff myself. We had to make the decorations and the costumes ourselves. You couldn’t even find a pumpkin in Belgium! Nobody would use it! It’s not exactly a nice vegetable to eat, so all you could find were slices of pre-cut pumpkins. So the first few years that’s what I used. As a horror fan since I was a kid, the idea of Halloween was very special to me. By the time I was a teenager, I feel like other people in Belgium started to catch up on the whole thing, but everyone knew me for celebrating Halloween.
BH: When was the first time you celebrated a legitimate Halloween? Was it here in America?
AC: Yeah, we were here about 5 years ago and I got to trick or treat and I was 28 or 29 or something. (Laughs) I went to the door and knocked and these people would answer and there I would be, a full grown woman trick or treating. Thankfully, they didn’t make it awkward, they just put candy in my bag. It was so awesome. We did that and went to the parade on Santa Monica Blvd that they do every year. It was great. Carving the pumpkins and watching IT’S A GREAT PUMPKIN, CHARLIE BROWN.
BH: Mike (Mendez) was telling me the project came together rather quickly. You have 11 filmmakers doing 10 films. How’d the writing process work to get everyone on the same page?
AC: The way it worked was that I kind of brought it upon myself to be the ego/creative wrangler. So people would send me the scripts and I would centralize them. And then if they were OK with getting notes from other people, then I would share it with the other directors for their feedback. So if people had notes they would send them to me. So my job was to present the filmmakers with everyone’s general thoughts and help push things in the right direction. But it was never my personal opinion, it was the consensus between the group. If I got notes from 3 different people saying this one thing doesn’t work, then I would pass that information to the filmmaker. We (the filmmakers) tried to meet twice a month to discuss the stories with everyone and discuss the through lines and how we were going to do this together. I did the draft of putting all the stories together to see where we could have cross overs. I’m not sure if that will be in the final script, but we hoped to include as many cross overs as possible.
BH: What about picking stories? There’s so many different perspectives and ways you could tell a Halloween themed story. Did you each have specific aspects or sides of the holiday you wanted to tell?
AC: I think we just let everyone do whatever they wanted, as long as it was Halloween. Halloween had to be central to the story and it had to be in the same suburban town and it had to work with the others, meaning one of them couldn’t have been a story that had a lot of rain or something. At one point, we thought about setting some of them in the past or have some segments be something on the TV that were watched in other segments but that would’ve been messy so we gave up on that. The great thing is everybody did in fact come up with something very different. We all have very different styles and people tried to do something that’s specifically theirs. Mike is doing something bloody and funny, which is what you’d expect from him. Neil on the other hand was going for something a bit goofy, which we’ve never seen from him, so that’s really cool. I’m trying to do something that’s scary. That’s a weird challenge. Everyone is doing something slightly different in tone, but also a different side of Halloween. Mine deals with grown ups. Other’s deal with children. It’s all a bit different.
BH: What’s the story behind your segment, GRIM GRINNING GHOST?
AC: I read about a lot of urban legends. There’s many rules that we don’t acknowledge anymore, for example, 100 years ago, a big thing was that girls could see their future husband in the mirror on Halloween night, which is kind of creepy. But when I was reading about those kind of things, I read one that said on Halloween night, if you hear footsteps behind you, don’t turn around because a ghost might be following you. So I built on that urban legend, and created who the ghost was, and then obviously we have this one person that’s coming home from a party. It’s the basic structure of the Disney SLEEPY HOLLOW thing, where they explain the ghost and then you go home by yourself and you think you hear the ghost. So it’s that basic idea and my attempt to scare people as much as possible. It’s a very scary challenge! For all of us. If Neil doesn’t get enough coverage, he still has a killer pumpkin and an amazing story and some gags that work great. If mine doesn’t get the coverage I need, I have a woman walking down the street and that’s that. It’s all in the execution.
BH: Whose segments are you most looking forward to?
AC: I’m really excited to see what everyone will do. Having had a hand in all the scripts, they’re all awesome and I can’t wait to see what everyone does. Darren Bousman’s segment THE NIGHT BILLY RAISE HELL, the script (written by Clint Sears) is just brilliant. He wasn’t at too many of the meetings because he was shooting THE DEVIL’S CARNIVAL 2, so he was away for a while. So he suddenly sent me this script, and it looks like it’s going in the same direction as one of the other short films, like as if it had the same twist, and actually it was completely different and completely brilliant! It took me by surprise and its super ambitious so I can’t wait to see how he does it. Mike’s is crazy. He’s got so many special FX to pull off in 2 days. I see his as an opera of blood. Neil’s is very funny and has this weird animatronic pumpkin, which cracks me up.
BH: Who’s starring in your segment?
AC: The main lead in mine is Alex Essoe from STARRY EYES, because she’s absolutely fantastic in that film. And I’ll have cameo’s from Lin Shaye, Barbara Crampton, Stuart Gordon, Lisa Marie, Mick Garris. Should be a lot of fun!
BH: How great is to not only get fun cameos with people we love and admire, but also having friends here? We’re on the set of Neil’s segment right now and we’ve got Adam Green and Graham Skipper here, as well as cameos from Greg McLean and Drew Stuzan.
AC: It’s like going to a Halloween party! You know everyone that’s there and everyone’s in costume and everybody’s having fun. When we stopped by on the set of Adam Gierasch’s segment TRICK, which he shot in his house where we attended a Halloween party a few months back, it felt like being right back at that party! Lots of people were in costume and the whole house was decorated. It was amazing. So I just feel like we’re having 10 Halloween parties this year, on top of the regular one.
TALES OF HALLOWEEN opens in select theaters and will be available on VOD October 16th.