LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH KIM NEWMAN, HORROR GENRE WRITER EXTRAORDINAIRE!
By James Whittington, Tuesday 19th June 2007 Kim Newman is without doubt one of the UK’s leading genre writers with an impeccable track record of articles, books and DVD commentaries. We caught up with him to get his views on the state of horror in general and his plans for the future.
ZH: You’ve been a writer for quite some time, how did you get started in such a business?
KN: Seriously, I couldn’t get a job. I graduated (B.A. English, University of Sussex) in 1980, and spent three years applying for jobs and not getting anywhere. During that time, I did various homemade theatre projects, worked on fanzines, used a single contact with a regional film theatre to get a gig writing notes handed out at screenings and promotional booklets, kept copious notes on every film saw and sat in a bed-sit counting pennies. Eventually (1982), I sent sample reviews to the Monthly Film Bulletin and started getting a trickle of work from them – the MFB melded into Sight & Sound ten years later, and I still work for them. Then, I sent fanzine clippings and more samples to City Limits, which was a splinter magazine from Time Out, and they also gave me work (and, since it was a happening sort of place, a bit of a profile). Independent of this, I sold my first book (Nightmare Movies) to a peculiar publisher, who hired me to do more books (only the first appeared from them) before they collapsed owing everyone money. Meanwhile, I started working for other publications – with Neil Gaiman and Eugene Byrne, I wrote humour pieces for Knave and other girlie mags. My CV has a long list of odd publications I’ve written for – not to mention radio and TV gigs, which tend to come along after you’ve a print profile (these days, I do a lot of ‘talking head’ work – perhaps because there are a lot more channels with space to fill, and especially a lot more who need people to talk about the sort of things I’m interested in). I rarely think of myself as a journalist – very little of what I’ve written has been news-based. I think of myself as a reviewer and critic (different, overlapping things), at least in the non-fiction strand of my writing.
ZH: Which film or TV show grabbed your imagination that led you to be such an expert in the field you’re in?
KN: As a ‘60s kid, I was captivated by Doctor Who, Stingray, The Avengers, The Man From UNCLE, Adam Adamant Lives, The Outer Limits & the like. In 1970, I was allowed to stay up late to watch the 1931 Dracula on ITV on a Friday night, and I’ve been into horror, monsters, etc., ever since. For me, as for most of my generation, television was the way in – many of the films we liked were rated X so we couldn’t see them in cinemas, and this was well before off-air video recording, let alone commercially available videos, DVD, etc. The first film I was taken to at the cinema was First Men in the Moon, which probably set me on a route – I’m still interested in HG Wells and Nigel Kneale and Ray Harryhausen. In the ‘70s, I became an avid filmgoer, seeing horror films, art movies, mainstream cinema with growing interest. The first X certificate double bill I saw was The Wild Angels and Dr Phibes Rises Again.
ZH: What did you think of the Zone Horror CUT! Competition entries at last years Frightfest?
KN: The ones that made it through to public screening were pretty good. Short films aren’t easy to make (I know, I did one which played FrightFest one year). The ones that stand out are the ones with the freshest ideas, not necessarily the ones that are best made. And ideas are harder to come by than funding, which is saying a great deal.
ZH: Did many of the attendees approach you for a chat?
KN: Yes, indeedy. It’s hard to say this without sounding blathery, but one of the things I like most about this is getting to talk to folks about movies. Of course, the screenings I go to normally are often convivial – I have many friends on the circuit and we usually chat about what we’ve seen. This is just like that, only with hundreds of people around. FrightFest is a particularly friendly event. I’ve had people come up to me in the street and want to argue about a review I wrote fifteen years earlier – which is fine by me. I’m still mildly surprised anyone knows who I am – though the more TV I do, I suppose the more I get recognised.
ZH: Did you speak to any of the other guests?
KN: Again, yes. Some are folks I’ve known a while, and a few I’ve met after (or before) writing about their work. One British director was very friendly, though he pointed out that I’d slammed his last three films (even if I was more receptive to his most recent picture).
ZH: Are you a regular viewer of Zone Horror, if so which area of horror movies do you look out for in the schedules?
KN: I look through the schedules every month and mark the titles of films I’ve never seen – which I then try to watch (usually recording things in the middle of the night). I have a growing archive of reviews online and eventually my notes on the likes of Altered Species, The Beast of Bray Road, etc., will wind up there.
ZH: What’s your opinion on the spate of PG-13 movies?
KN: Oddly enough, I rarely even notice the certification of films. Once I turned eighteen, the rating of a film ceased to be of any interest whatsoever. Mark Kermode can get worked up about this, but I can’t. I don’t subscribe to the notion that you can’t make a good PG-13 horror film. Many of the X (18) rated horror films I saw in the 1970s were only rated that way because UK distributors begged for the certificate – because it was felt that a non-X horror wouldn’t attract the fans. I couldn’t offhand tell you what the certificate of most recent horror films was.
ZH: There’s been a huge rise in the “survival horror” theme of movies; do you like these?
KN: On a case by case basis, I think the Saw films have something going for them, but I was fairly down on Hostel. I don’t much care for the chained-to-a-chair-and-tortured brand of horror – mostly because it seems pointlessly mean-spirited. The law of diminishing returns has set in, and just now I could do without ever hearing the line ‘why are you doing this’ screamed or see some other person wake up in their underwear chained in a basement. I wasn’t taken with a couple of horrors in this mode that played FF (Broken, H9). Seen it before. Didn’t like it then. Don’t need to see it again.
ZH: You have worked with Alan Jones and Stephen Jones on a number of DVD commentary tracks recently on titles such as Halloween 3 and The Medusa Touch is this something you really enjoy and how much research do you have to do to prepare?
KN: I did a track with Alan for The Bird With the Crystal Plumage; with Steve, I’ve done Mark of the Vampire, I Walked with a Zombie, The Dead Zone, two Halloweens, two Amityville’s, Conan the Destroyer, Hands of the Ripper, Countess Dracula, The Old Dark House and The Medusa Touch. I certainly like doing these things – though Steve’s official line is that he hates it. I do a certain amount of research – often, I read the books a film is based on, and always I look at the film again, make some notes, etc. On BWtCP, I didn’t do any research since I was sitting next to someone who knew more about Argento and the film than I could hope to learn and my main job was to ask the right questions – which was the same on the tracks Steve and I did with Sarah Douglas, Angharad Rees and Jack Gold (with Ingrid Pitt, you don’t need to ask questions – she’s just like that all the time). I like using the commentary track to engage with the film, rather than just reciting stats and dates.
ZH: You write for many publications as well as authoring best selling books, how do you find the time to do so many different things?
KN: Sometimes, even I wonder. It does occasionally pose a challenge to juggle immediate commitments (deadlines coming up this week) with longer-term things (novels not needed for months). I also worry about spreading myself too thin – but I think that all my work, in various fields, ties in together somehow, and there’s not a section of it I could drop. There was once, but I dropped it – I don’t interview people any more because transcribing the tapes became too time-consuming, ill-paid and tedious.
ZH: What’s your favourite Friday night with a pizza movie?
KN: Frankly – Bye Bye Birdie. There are some films I like or admire, but which I’m not always in the mood to watch – a category that includes Ingmar Bergman and Last House on the Left. But I can always watch The Abominable Dr Phibes, box sets of The Avengers or Doctor Who (i.e. stuff I saw as a kid), Powell & Pressburger, Hammer and other ‘70s horrors, film noir, John Ford westerns, Homicide: Life on the Street, Let’s Scare Jessica to Death. Recent-ish films that always work for me are Topsy-Turvy, Metropolitan, Rushmore and X2. One thing I find rewarding these days is watching movies I regard as classics with friends who’ve never seen them – it helps you recapture your own feelings of discovery but also serves to confirm (or, occasionally, contradict) established wisdom. Recently, I’ve had good experiences sharing Laura, Three Women and I Know Where I’m Going with first-time viewers.
ZH: So what’s next for you?
KN: My next book is Secret Files of the Diogenes Club, a collection of pulp-ish short stories which will be coming out from MonkeyBrain this autumn. It’s a follow-up to The Man from the Diogenes Club, which is out now.
ZH: Kim Newman, thank you very much.
KN: Thank you
MORE INTERVIEWS Interview with Alexis Kendra, the writer and producer of The Cleaning Lady
Posted on Tuesday 15th June 2021
Ahead of Horror Channel's premiere of The Cleaning Lady on June 26, the film's star, writer and producer Alexis Kendra talks about playing a 'Goddess', coping with lockdown and why she can't watch horror films on her own.
HC: The Cleaning Lady is having its channel premiere on Horror Channel. Excited?
AK: I love you guys. Always have, always will. I'm honoured.
HC: It's a very disturbing film, dealing with abuse, addiction and hidden rage, yet the characters are sympathetic and have real depth. It's horror with a twisted heart. As a co-writer, alongside your director Jon Knautz, what were the main challenges in getting the balance right between acting and writing? <...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Jen and Sylvia Soska, directors of Rabid
Posted on Tuesday 1st June 2021
Ahead of Horror Channel's premiere of Rabid on June 12, Jen and Sylvia Soska reflect on the challenges of re-imagining Cronenberg's body horror classic, meeting the great man and their new monster movie, Bob.
HC: Rabid is having its channel premiere on Horror Channel. Excited?
SS: The Horror Channel has supported us and our work since the beginning, so it's a special treat to have the newest film premiere there!
Js: We are so excited. Having Rabid on Horror Channel feels like coming home. They've been very kind to us. We are happy to have so many of our films on there.
HC: We all, of course, remember that Rabid was one of David Cronenberg's earli...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Mickey Fisher, creator of sci-fi series Extant
Posted on Thursday 6th May 2021
Horror Channel will be continuing its commitment to bringing cult and classic sci-fi to its audience with Seasons 1 and 2 of the CBS Studios/Amblin Television production of Extant, starring Halle Berry as astronaut Molly Woods, who returns home to her family, inexplicably pregnant after 13 months in outer space on a solo mission.
The series begins on Horror May 11th so, we decided to chat to its creator, Mickey Fisher about how the series came to be produced and what it was like working with Hollywood royalty.
HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be a writer?
MF: From the time I was maybe five or six years old I wanted to be an actor. Going to see Star...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Gary J. Tunnicliffe, writer and director of Hellraiser: Judgement
Posted on Saturday 20th February 2021
Director and long-time Hellraiser franchise SFX artist Gary John Tunnicliffe has a new entry into the Hellraiser series for us all to enjoy, Hellraiser: Judgement. Here he chats about this gritty horror.
HC: Was there one person or film which inspired you to want to be in the effects industry?
GJT: I can't remember one film that directly inspired me to be in the effects industry, it would definitely have been around 1982 (when I was 14) when The Thing AND American Werewolf in London came out (as well as a mass of FX laden movies) but more than anything it was when s...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Chee Keong Cheung, director of Redcon-1
Posted on Wednesday 17th February 2021
Fast-paced British zombie thriller, Redcon-1 will be having its UK TV premiere on Horror on Saturday 20th February so we decided to chat with its writer and director Chee Keong Cheung about this acclaimed movie.
HC: Where did the idea for Redcon-1 come from and are you a fan of zombie movies?
CKC: I'm a huge fan of the zombie genre and in particular, Danny Boyle's '28 Days Later', Zak Snyder's 'Dawn of the Dead' and of course George Romero's original works which helped to pave the way for the genre and was a real inspiration for me growing up. I remember watching 'Saving Private Ryan' and 'Black Hawk Down' on TV and had always been drawn to the men on a m...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Scott Reiniger star of the original Dawn of the Dead
Posted on Sunday 15th November 2020
On the eve of a stunning new 4K box set of George A Romero's Dawn of the Dead from Second Sight Films, we chat to one of its stars, Scott Reiniger about this incredible film.
HC: How did you first become involved with Dawn of the Dead?
SR: Well, I was in New York, I was a stage actor in New York and I went to college with Christine Forrest, who later became George's wife and she asked me if I wanted to audition for this film called Dawn of the Dead, she wanted to know if I knew who George Romero was and I said, "Yeah, he was the guy who directed Night of the Living Dead". So, they sent the script over and I read it and it was pr...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Steve Speirs, star of Concrete Plans
Posted on Sunday 1st November 2020
Welsh, Scottish and Ukranian dialects clash in Concrete Plans, a stand-out movie from Will Jewell which has just been released by FrightFest Presents via Signature. Its a super and very dark thriller with an outstanding cast headed up by Steve Speirs. Here he chats about this amazing piece.
Be warned this interview contains some spoilers about the movie. If in doubt watch the movie before reading. You have been warned!
HC: Was there one actor of one film you saw when you were younger that made you want to be an actor?
SS: Oh, I've never been asked that actually. When I started to get into watching films, I'd always wanted to be an actor for as long as I can ...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Shayne Ward, star of The Ascent
Posted on Thursday 22nd October 2020
A special ops team on a mission in a war-torn country find themselves trapped on a never-ending staircase that they must climb - or they die! This is the premise for Tom Paton's superb, action-packed horror The Ascent which is having its UK TV premiere at 9pm on October 23rd. Here its star, Shayne Ward tells all about his career to date and how he became involved in this sci-fi shocker.
HC: How much did the X-Factor change your life?
SW: Oh, like anyone can say who has been on it, who has done well on the show, it does change your life because it catapults you into the limelight, into the public eye. One day you are relatively unknown...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Ryan Kruger, writer and director of Fried Barry
Posted on Sunday 11th October 2020
Anyone who as been to Grimmfest will know that the team behind the event try their very best to bring to their audience films that challenge and push as many envelopes as possible. Fried Barry from director Ryan Kruger is such a movie. Packed with mind-bending imagery and and emotional punch, this polarizing movie has to be seen just for its creativity and strong storytelling. Here, Ryan chats about this incredible movie.
HC: Where did Fried Barry come from?
RK: Fried Barry was born out of total frustration where I was in my career. I am known in South Africa as a music video director for doing narrative story telling within music vids and sharp visuals. Although I al...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Deiondre Teagle, star of Death Ranch
Posted on Sunday 11th October 2020
Grimmfest 2020 is packed with new talent and one actor that stands out is Deiondre Teagle who styars in Charlie Steeds' grindhouse homage, Death Ranch. Here Deiondre explains his role and what it was like being part of such a bold movie.
HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be an actor?
DT: I've definitely known my whole life I've wanted to be an actor. One of my favourite movies of all time is the original Men In Black. When I was little (about 3 or 4 years old), I would re-watch my VHS copy of that movie over and over and over again. I would re-enact every scene. Since then, my love for acting and film has just grown. I have such a love for the...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Faith Monique, star of Death Ranch
Posted on Sunday 11th October 2020
Grimmfest 2020 is packed with world premieres and none so bold as Charlie Steed's Death Ranch. We chatted to one of its main stars, Faith Monique about her role in this brutal and brilliant movie.
HC: Was there one person you saw at a young age who inspired you to want to become an actress?
FM: Funny fact, I grew up without a TV! So, at a young age, I never had an actor that inspired me and to this day I still don't. Acting did not become a dream of mine until 2016 and for inspiration, I like to dig deep into my own soul to find truth to bring into each character.
HC: Are you a big fan of horror movies and were you aware of grindhouse and e...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Charlie Steeds, writer and director of Death Ranch
Posted on Saturday 10th October 2020
Horror movies and controversy always go hand in hand but when they tackle serious issues by using extreme violence to hammer home a point they can be very worthy. Death Ranch from Charlie Steeds is having its world premiere at Grimmfest so we chatted to him about this very strong movie.
HC: What inspired you to write Death Ranch?
CS: I'd always wanted to try making a movie with a 70s Grindhouse/Exploitation style and was watching old Grindhouse trailers for inspiration. I came across the movie Brotherhood of Death, where black characters fight back against the KKK for some of the film (the tagline is 'Watch these brothers stick it to the Klan!') and that conce...SHARE: READ MORE Interviews Archive: 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 PICK OF THE WEEK
Monday 9th August
Thursday 5th August
Friday 13th August