A strange fact about horror films is that for a genre so enticed by the prospect of blood and guts on the screen, there’s an undeniable trend of child actors excelling in the medium. Whether it’s films like Orphan, The Ring, The Shining, Poltergeist or The Devil’s Backbone¸ child actors tap into a relatable sense of imagination and innocence by which the fears of the film become heightened as the stakes raise as well when they are in danger. After all, there have been entire enterprises built on horror fare for children through varying degrees of intensity, whether it’s the lighter affairs of Goosebumps and Are You Afraid of the Dark? or the gothic brutality of the Grimm Brothers fairy tales or even, to an extent, select works from Stephen King.
On the lighter side of the spectrum, however, up-and-coming actress Athena Baumeister has been carving out a career for herself in the independent horror comedy scene, recently starring in the buzzworthy short film Little Reaper and going through a genre-twinged wringer in the upcoming comedy Monster and Me. However, Baumeister is more than just a child actress, also working diligently to get into filmmaking herself and sticking loyal to the independent roots to which she’s grown accustomed. Baumeister spoke to Diabolique about her upcoming projects and what may appear in her fright film friendly filmography…
DIABOLIQUE: You’ve built up a burgeoning career in family comedies that have genre elements to them, including your upcoming film Monster and Me. What can you tell us about that project?
ATHENA BAUMEISTER: Well, it’s more of a Christmas movie where I play this girl who is really rich, spoiled and pretty but is very ugly on the inside. So when Santa visits her, he decides she should be as ugly on the outside as she is on the inside, so she undergoes a transformation.
DIABOLIQUE: How did you join Monster and Me, specifically?
BAUMEISTER: It’s a funny story, actually. There were auditions, but I got the callbacks when I’d been vacationing with my parents. I was coming back from the Netherlands and I hadn’t slept in 24 hours, I was jetlagged and I hadn’t even gone home by the time I had to audition. I walked into the audition and they looked at my biography and some of the things I’d done, and they started talking to me about a different project. They said, “We have this other project that would be perfect for you and we want you to play the leading role.” I was so sure I wasn’t going to get that role because I was awake for so long.
DIABOLIQUE: Was there anything about the role that made you want to pursue this project?
BAUMEISTER: Well, I liked the character arc. She’s shallow and using people, but by the end, she’s more independent and nice. It’s a lovely story and I really liked the script.
DIABOLIQUE: According to your filmography, you’ve been working for a couple of years now and have appeared in several horror genre-related projects. Is horror a genre you’d like to explore as an actress?
BAUMEISTER: Oh yeah, horror is a lot of fun. Little Reaper is more of a horror comedy about the Grim Reaper’s difficult teenage daughter. That was so much fun to do.
DIABOLIQUE: As an actress that’s young and up-and-coming, you’ve been choosing a lot of horror-related roles that are based in comedy. Do you tend to enjoy horror more if with a dose of comedy?
BAUMEISTER: Yeah, I like drama, too, and horror. 79 is definitely not a comedy, at all, but I really like working on indie films and short films. Those are my favorite kind of shoots to work.
DIABOLIQUE: Is there any specific reason you prefer independent and short film shoots?
BAUMEISTER: Independent films seem to be more innovative. They’re doing new stuff rather than remaking old things. I grew up working on student films a lot and that’s how I got into acting. Also, I like having a certain amount of creative freedom in my process, and if I am to work on a studio or feature film project, I’m less likely to have that freedom to play around with my role and have my input be heard.
DIABOLIQUE: I’d assume your roles in Monster and Me and Little Reaper require a major make-up effects job. Did you have to go through that process for those projects? Would you ever take another make-up or effect heavy role again after your experience on Monster and Me?
BAUMEISTER: Yes, there was a lot of make-up for Monster and Me. I needed fake warts, stains on my teeth, a fake unibrow, etc. For Little Reaper, I had skull make-up on for the entire film. And yes, I would [take another effects role].
DIABOLIQUE: Your credits also list you as a writer of short films in the past, some of which have had genre elements to hem. Is writing an avenue you’d also like to pursue?
BAUMEISTER: Yes, I write all the time. I was just writing before this interview, actually! I want to go to film school and make my own films. I’ve made [short films] in the past, but I’d like to make bigger and better films on my own.
DIABOLIQUE: Do you approach your writing work differently than how you approach your acting work?
BAUMEISTER: Well, honestly, I think writing makes you a better actor and vice versa. I think both of those skills really feed into each other.
DIABOLIQUE: How did you enjoy making Little Reaper as a project?
BAUMEISTER: That was a super fun project and kind of crazy and a shock. For the whole film, I had this skull monster make-up on, which was kind of shocking. So there’s a part where she’s in the park on her cell phone, and we didn’t really reserve the park; they just sent a skeleton crew out and stole some shots in the park. But there were actually children in the playground and they were running to their parents, going, “Oh my Gosh, it’s a monster!”
DIABOLIQUE: From what I understand, Little Reaper is still in it’s current form as a short film. Should the filmmakers decide to expand upon that concept, would you want to return to the project if adapted into a feature?
BAUMEISTER: Definitely, yeah! I’ve been talking about that with the director. We’ll see.
DIABOLIQUE: As either a young writer or an actress, is there any project that you’ve yet to do that you would like to one day tackle?
BAUMEISTER: I don’t know. I’d love to play a crazy person, kind of like a Girl, Interrupted thing.
DIABOLIQUE: Do you have any prospects in the world of horror for the future? If so, would you want to stay in line with the horror comedy theme or do you want to try serious horror?
BAUMEISTER: Well, I did a horror film called 79, and I definitely want to do one again. I love horror and love watching horror films. I love Halloween and I’m into those kinds of projects, so definitely.
DIABOLIQUE: What projects do you have coming up? Do you have anything else awaiting release aside from Monster and Me?
BAUMEISTER: Right now, no, but I’m working on making more short films, hopefully. I want to make a horror film. I definitely would like to direct a horror film one day. It’s a dream of mine.
Monster and Me, starring Athena Baumeister, will hit select theaters on October 26th from Magic Elevator Productions. You can visit Athena’s official website here and you can watch Little Reaper in its entirety here. For more from Athena Baumeister, Monster and Me and 79, keep checking back here to DiaboliqueMagazine.com!
– By Ken W. Hanley