Maniacs, monsters, demons, creepy kids, apocalyptic visions, phobias, heavy metal meltdown and snails - yes, it's the FrightFest International Short Film Showcase, an eclectic mix of worldwide cutting edge short films, which is once again being presented by Horror Channel. It will kick-off at 1pm on Sunday 26th August at the Empire Cinema in London's Leicester Square.
One of the pieces showing is The Halloween Kid, a touching and beautifully shot story from Axelle Carolyn. We chatted to Axelle about this and what advice she would give to others making horror movie shorts.
HC: Your piece, The Last Post was shown at FrightFest last year, how nervous were you before it was shown?
AC: I was anxious, but not terrified. Thankfully, although this was the first personal work I presented, I'd already been up on stage many times before for films I'd acted in, so that helped.
HC: It went down a storm, you must've been pleased with the audience's reaction?
AC: I was! It was such a great experience. Quite a few people confessed they'd had tears in their eyes at the end of the film, and I thought that was really sweet. Mission accomplished!
HC: This year your short The Halloween Kid has been chosen, you as nervous as last year?
AC: Yeah. Last year, I was scared of two things: that anything technical would go wrong, and that the audience wouldn't be interested in a story that's essentially slow-paced and lacking gore or blood. I have the same fears this year. They're pretty different pieces though; for one thing, the lead character of The Last Post was an elderly lady, and this one's an 8-year-old child...
HC: Where did the idea for The Halloween Kid come from?
AC: I've always loved the idea of finding comfort in the supernatural, ever since I was little. I had this image of a kid who went trick or treating with tons of ghost friends no one else could see...The story grew from that image.
HC: Did it take long to write?
AC: It took a while to find the right tone, and to get the rhymes right - I'd never written poetry. But otherwise, not really; I'm a fast writer.
HC: It has a feeling of Tim Burton to it, would you say he was an influence?
AC: Tim Burton is a bit of an influence on everything I do, I suspect, because of the films I grew up watching. For this one though, I was aware of the comparison because of the format of the story, so I made a conscious effort to avoid any further comparison. The visual style is quite different, and for the narration, my biggest reference was Edward Gorey, actually.
HC: Sir Derek Jacobi narrates the piece, what was he like to direct?
AC: Wonderful. We discussed the story for a bit and watched the film with the composer, Christian Henson, and then he recorded it in one take. We did a few tweaks, but he essentially got it right away. The story deals with childhood fears, and as a child, the film that traumatised me the most somehow was a Channel 4 production called Mister Pye, where the lead role was played by Derek Jacobi. So somehow, having my childhood bogeyman narrate the film brought it full circle!
HC: Julian Glover makes a cameo appearance, what was it like working with this legendary actor?
AC: Julian is fantastic! I'd met him once before, so I knew it would go well. He's very charming and has a very dry sense of humour. I think the kids were very impressed, too - he's quite a presence. We were really lucky with the whole cast really; Anna Walton, from Hellboy 2, plays the kid’s mother and her performance; Dave Legeno, from Harry Potter, is a scary baseball coach; and the kid himself, 7-year-old Leo Donnelly, was extremely intuitive and smart, despite the fact that this was his first film ever!
HC: The score is quite beautiful, how did you go about choosing the right person to compose this?
AC: Christian had composed The Last Post, so I knew we'd be on the same wavelength. He has an offbeat approach to things and likes to play with odd sounds and unusual instruments, I love that. I'm really hoping to work with him again very soon!
HC: What advice would you give to someone wanting to make a horror short?
AC: Mmmh, I think I'd like to say that the best thing is to make something that's personal to you, even if it's more difficult. My short films can't be put squarely in one genre, and it makes it harder to get them seen, because they're supernatural but not necessarily horror. But I'm happier telling these kinds of stories that are personal to me.
HC: So what projects are you working on at the moment?
AC: I'm trying to get my first feature off the ground. It's a ghost story, and we’re hoping to shoot it soon. It's been through a few ups and downs over time though, so I don't take anything for granted.
HC: Axelle Carolyn, thank you very much.