It’s quite the golden age for horror anthologies and there’s no denying they are the perfect showcase for short film. Given their popularity of late it wasn’t going to be long before a new anthology franchise made its way out of the woodwork and now Epic Pictures Group, also responsible for the recent V/H/S Viral, is all set to unleash Tales of Halloween. The film serves up ten twisted segments from 11 of the most predominant genre directors of the moment which are all set on Halloween in a sleepy American suburb terrorised by ghouls, aliens and psycho killers.
With Tales of Halloween all set for release this 16th of October, SCREAM’s Howard Gorman caught up with director Axelle Carolyn who came up with the concept which has all the telltale signs of taking over cinemas during the witching season, particularly now that Paranormal Activity bids farewell…
SCREAM: A lot of recent anthology movies be been very hit and miss affairs. What was your inspiration for tackling an anthology and what were your hopes and fears?
Axelle Carolyn: Well in terms of this one it didn’t really come from us necessarily wanting to make an anthology film, it came from the fact that we wanted to work together. We are a bunch of friends who make horror movies for a living and we meet all the time and talk all about horror movies. At some point I just thought that instead of just talking about it it would be great if we made something together and we got to channel all our horror talk into something creative. So the fact that the idea to work together came first and then the anthology idea came second made it different to begin with because we knew this was about celebrating our friendship as opposed to sending money to a bunch of people and seeing what they came up with and how it gelled. Also, we didn’t have any kind of wraparound as we thought the shorts should all have this feel as if they all belonged in the same universe. They are all very different but they all loosely belong to the same place: they all take place in the same town, they all take place on the same night and they’ve got a unity in the way that they look and feel.
SCREAM: How did you decide exactly which of your director friends to go with?
Axelle Carolyn: Well the first thing was who do we hang out with most? If you meet the same filmmakers a lot then there’s almost a kind of shorthand, an understanding between us that makes it much easier to work. The second criterion was about having people to be excited about and who made films that we really like and admire. And then it was who was available and who was willing to do it. We wanted everyone to be on set at around the same time as we wanted everyone’s opinion on the film as a whole so it meant people had to be available for 6 months – not necessarily not working on anything else – but available and around every time we needed to discuss and meet. It was a big commitment and some people just couldn’t make that kind of a commitment. An example of that is Adam Green who has a recurring role in the film but doesn’t actually direct a segment and part of the reason for that was that he just wasn’t available.
SCREAM: So you laid all the cards on the table with the directors rather than leaving them all to their own devices?
Axelle Carolyn: The only guidelines we actually gave were that it needed to fit in the same universe so it had to be on Halloween night and in the same town and we described a little what the township would feel like. There had to be some kind of unity. It had to be an aspect of the holiday rather than directors just coming up with anything that takes place on Halloween night so one short is about candy, another is about trick-or-treating and another about pranks. As long as it was about a specific aspect of Halloween they could all go off and do whatever they wanted. But because we all worked on the project together and would pitch all the ideas together it meant that if more than one director had a similar idea we would be able to tell them that we needed them to work on something different.
SCREAM: Despite so many different directors it is true that there is a very homogeneous feel to the entire film. Was this all intentional or was it also a result of using a lot of the same equipment and crew?
Axelle Carolyn: It definitely was intentional but it was never forced. We really left it up to the filmmakers to come up with what they wanted but I think that because we all agreed on what we wanted to achieve in terms of the general feel of the anthology and our general understanding of Halloween for what it is I think that really helped to keep it all consistent.
It is true that we used the same equipment and we shot it all around the same time and around the same part of town and just having the same locations just really helped with that consistency. Some of the shorts had the same DP too. For example, Jan-Michael Losada worked on three of the shorts and he is so fantastic. Even in those shorts though, they all have their own sensibilities because of the different directors behind them. At the same time we were also respecting the fact that everybody has a different idea about what the style should be, what their unique personality is and how it should come across.
SCREAM: You have a great cast with a never-ending list of cameos. Did each director bring their own cast or was it more of a joint decision?
Axelle Carolyn: It was a mix of both. The filmmakers had their own sets of contacts who they reached out to. Everybody who is in my short is a friend so it was easy to reach out and get in touch with them. Some parts were a little bit more complicated than that though because sometimes we’d need a woman of a certain age or a child of a certain age so the first thing people would do in those cases was ask for recommendations. Alternatively we would also think that it would be cool to have certain people in the film so we would write something specifically with those people in mind. In my case the main cameo in my short is Lin Shaye. I had her in mind from the very beginning because I felt it was very important to have someone with that kind of charisma. What she does basically is explain the legend that will give birth to what will happen in the rest of the story so it had to be something that grabs you from the beginning. I thought Lin would be absolutely fantastic to do that and she is a very dear friend. It was all really great to be able to surround yourself with these people and to be able to acknowledge that we were real fans of them all and just how much influence they have had on us.
SCREAM: Can you tell us a little behind the inspiration for your short, “Grimm Grinning Ghost”?
Axelle Carolyn: I am a huge fan of Disney’s Haunted Mansion and I have a room full of memorabilia of the mansion. The pitch for my story is that on Halloween night if you hear footsteps behind you, you must not turn around or they might follow you home – a famous quote from the Haunted Mansion. I was actually inspired by the Disney version of Sleepy Hollow which I watch every Halloween. It’s a very short little piece but it has that same structure of someone telling the story and it might be a joke or it might be true and then this character will have to survive. It also has this classical feel that I grew up loving that I thought would be really cool to encapsulate here.
SCREAM: If the last bit of dialogue is anything to go by, could this become a regular Halloween franchise?
Axelle Carolyn: We’d love to do that. If there is a demand for it and people are excited about it then there are so many options that we can explore and so many directors that we’d love to work with. If people are excited and it becomes part of their Halloween tradition then that is a definite possibility.
We’d like to thank Axelle for talking to SCREAM and urge you to catch the film which is scheduled for a limited theatrical release and through video on demand on October 16, 2015, by Epic Pictures.
You can read our full review here and we’ll leave you with the trailer for the film:
Words: Howard Gorman (@HowardGorman)