ARTICLES

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 Airell Hayles writer and co-director of They're Outside
Posted on Saturday 1st August 2020
Airell Hayles

FrightFest is once again on the horizon but this time, due to global events the event has become a virtual experience with all films being accessed online. Horror is once again sponsoring the First Blood strand of the event. Here we chat to Airell Hayles whose movie They're Outside mixes found footage and pagan horror genres to great effect.

HC: Where did the idea for They're Outside come from?

AH: This idea for They're Outside came from a couple of things. I remember as a kid hearing that my uncle suffered mild agoraphobia, and when I learned what it was, I was fascinated by this idea of some people being kind of scared to leave their homes. Of course, the recent Covid-19 events h...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Fionn and Toby Watts, directors of Playhouse
Posted on Saturday 1st August 2020
Toby and Fionn Clapper 1

FrightFest is once again on the horizon but this time, due to global events the event has become a virtual experience with all films being accessed online. Horror is once again sponsoring the First Blood strand of the event. Here we chat to talented brothers Fionn and Toby Watts who have delivered a gothic, creepy piece named Playhouse.

HC: Was there one film or person who influenced or inspired you to become film makers?

FW: As a young boy I remember being absolutely blown away by the image of The Terminator's exo-skeleton rising from the flames. Around the same time I saw Candyman at a sleepover (rented by my friend's 'older' brother...) and it was such an i...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Tony and Ryan Smith co-writers of Volition.
Posted on Tuesday 7th July 2020
Volition

FrightFest 2019 delivered some amazing movies and one of the best was Volition from the talented brothers Tony and Ryan Smith. Now that the movie has been unleashed onto Apple TV, Prime Video and other Digital Platforms we chatted to them about this acclaimed movie and their plans for the future.

HC: You both hail from South Africa, what's the movie industry like in that country at the moment?

TDS: I believe the South African film industry is very healthy and it's a place Ryan and I would love to revisit and make a movie about. I have a number of filmmaker friends who film there and absolutely love the people, the scenery and the incredible crews.

HC: Did you know from an...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Adam Green, director of Victor Crowley
Posted on Wednesday 13th May 2020

Ahead of Horror Channel's UK TV premiere of Adam Green's Victor Crowley, the great director shares his personal tragedies, George Romero's inspirational words, the importance of genre comedy and hints that the Bayou Butcher may rise again...

HC: Adam, you're back on Horror Channel with your latest Hatchet instalment, Victor Crowley. Excited?

AG: I'm always thrilled to hear that another one of my films will be playing on the UK's Horror Channel! It's crazy to think that the US hasn't had a horror specific television channel in 6 years now, only horror themed subscription platforms like Shudder. Then again - look at the real life horror we're dealing with here as far as our current President goes...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Lukas Feigelfeld, director of Hagazussa
Posted on Friday 17th April 2020

The themes of witchcraft and the occult are making a bit of a come back at the moment. Movies such as The Witch and Midsommer have brought the genre back into focus and now Hagazussa from writer/director Lukas Feigelfeld takes the genre to another, even darker level. Here he chats about this incredibly atmospheric movie which is being released on May 11th thanks to Arrow Video.

HC: Where did the idea for Hagazussa come from and how long did it take to write?

LF: I had been living with the idea of doing something witch and folklore related for many years. Part of my family originates from this particular area in the Austrian Alps, and from a young age on I was greatly fascin...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with actor Nicholas Vince star of Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II
Posted on Monday 30th March 2020

Fridays in April on Horror will deliver to you three of the most viscous and acclaimed horror movies ever made, Hellraiser, Hellraiser II: Hellbound and Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth. One of the stars of the first two movies was Nicholas Vince who brought so much to the character of "Chatterer".

Here he, err, chats to Horror about how he become involved in such memorable movies and his plans for the future.

(Photo credit Dawson James Photography)

HC: When did you first meet Clive Barker?

NV: I met him at a party in May 1984. We got on well and he invited me to model for him; for his painted covers of the first UK hardback editions of his Books of Blood.

HC: What...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Jen and Sylvia Soska, directors of Vendetta
Posted on Thursday 19th March 2020
Vengeance Season on Horror contains the UK TV premiere of Vendetta, the superb all-male maelstrom of mayhem from Jen and Sylvia Soska. We chatted to these incredible talented creatives about this action-packed thriller and what they have planned for the future.

HC: Have you always been wrestling fans and if so, when growing up, who were your faves?

Sylvia: We got introduced to wrestling during the epic Kane brother storyline during the Undertaker and Heartbreak Kid feud that led to the first ever Hell in a Cell. I mean after that kind of an introduction; how doesn't the magic of wrestling have your heart for the rest of your life? If it isn't obvious, I'm a Shawn Michaels fan.

Jen: Und...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Julien Seri, director of Anderson Falls
Posted on Tuesday 18th February 2020

Ahead of the UK premiere of serial killer thriller Anderson Falls at Arrow Video FrightFest Glasgow 2020, director Julien Seri reflects on this, his first 'American' experience, challenging fight scenes and the importance of personal vision.

It has been five years since we premiered Night Fare at FrightFest London, what have you been up to since then?

JS: I worked on two, very singular, projects as a producer and/or director. I signed for both with Wild Bunch, but we've failed to produce them yet. So I keep fighting. And I did a lot of commercials, TV series and music videos.

When did you first hear about the Anderson Falls script and why did you think it was perfect for yo...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Adam Stovall, director of A Ghost Waits
Posted on Sunday 9th February 2020

Ahead of the World premiere of A Ghost Waits at Arrow Video FrightFest Glasgow 2020, director Adam Stovall reflects on getting through depression, creating paranormal romance and the influence of Tom Waits...

You have an interesting CV - from comedy theatre and film journalism to writing for The Hollywood Reporter and second assistant directing. Was all this a game plan to becoming a fully-fledged director?

AS: I've known since I was a little kid sitting in the basement watching the network TV premiere of Back To The Future while holding my Back To The Future storybook and waiting for them to premiere the first footage from Back To The Future 2 during a commercial br...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Simeon Halligan, director of Habit
Posted on Sunday 9th February 2020

Simeon Halligan is one of the busiest people working in the industry today. Writer, director, producer, director of celebrated film festival Grimmfest, in fact the list goes on.

His latest film is the neon tinged, blood-splattered masterpiece Habit which is showing on Horror February 14th so we thought we should get the story on how he brought this shocker to the big screen.

HC: When did you first become aware of the book by Stephen McGeagh to which Habit is based?

SH: I read the book a couple of years back and really liked it. A combination of gritty realism and dark fantasy; set within a very recognisable Manchester. There's a juxtaposition in the book; from a kind of soc...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Jackson Stewart, director of Beyond The Gates
Posted on Wednesday 22nd January 2020

Jack Stewart's sublime retro horror Beyond the Gates was recently shown on Horror. Jackson is one of the strongest creatives around at the moment but he took time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about this contemporary classic and his future movie plans.

HC: Was there one film that you saw growing up which gave you the idea that you wanted to work in the film industry?

JS: There were definitely a number of them; I think the ones that stick out strongest in my memory were Temple Of Doom, Batman '89, Nightmare On Elm Street 4, Raising Arizona, Back To The Future, Marnie, Army Of Darkness, The Frighteners and Dirty Harry. All of them had a big emotional impact on me. Dirty Har...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with acclaimed author Shaun Hutson
Posted on Friday 20th December 2019

The British horror legend Shaun Hutson is back with Testament, a new novel featuring one of his fans most loved characters, Sean Doyle so we decided to catch up with this talented chap about his acclaimed work.

HC: Was there one author who inspired you to become a writer?

SH: My inspirations were always and still are cinematic if I'm honest. Even when I first started writing my influences and inspirations came from things like Hammer films, from TV series like The Avengers (with Diana Rigg and Patrick Macnee) and from old Universal horror films. I read the Pan Books of Horror Stories when I was a kid and I think they were probably the first "literary" influences I ever had. I also read lo...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interviews Archive: 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006
PICK OF THE WEEK
Boo
BOO
Sunday 16th August
10.35 PM
The Unfolding
THE UNFOLDING
Thursday 13th August
10.50 PM
Annihilation Earth
ANNIHILATION EARTH
Saturday 15th August
6.40 PM