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 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
Interview with Tyler MacIntyre, director of Patchwork
Posted on Thursday 12th December 2019
On the eve of Horror Channel's UK TV premiere of Patchwork on December 14th, director Tyler MacIntyre reflects on body image issues. twisting audience expectations and his admiration for current female genre directors.

HC: Patchwork finally gets its UK TV premiere on Horror Channel. Excited or what?

TM: Relieved actually. It's been a long time coming. The third screening of the film ever happened at FrightFest in Glasgow and since then I've had people asking me when it was going to come out. The UK genre fans are among the most diehard in the world, so I'm very excited to finally have it available for them.

HC: You were in attendance when Patchwork, your directorial feature debut, rece...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with James Moran, writer of Tower Block
Posted on Monday 25th November 2019

Writer James Moran is about to do what few other writers have done in the past, the Horror Channel Triple! He is one of the few creatives who has had three of his movies play on the channel; Cockneys Vs Zombies, Severance and now Tower Block which is playing on November 29th. So, we decided to chat to this talented chap about this superior thriller and the rest of his career.

HC: Your first movie, Severance is a huge favourite with Horror Channel viewers, were you ever tempted to pen a sequel?

JM: Thank you, I'm really glad that people can still discover it with every new screening. Everybody wanted to do a sequel, we actually had several meetings about it. Nothing came of it, they carried on with...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Gary Dauberman, writer and director of Annabelle Comes Home
Posted on Saturday 23rd November 2019

Gary Dauberman has been the scriptwriter for some of the most successful horror movies of the last few years including IT: Parts 1 and 2, Annabelle and The Nun. His latest movie, Annabelle Comes Home which is also his directorial debut, has just been released onto DVD and Blu-ray. We caught up with this talented chap about his career to date.

HC: What was it about the horror genre that grabbed your imagination and made you want to become a writer?

GD: The earliest movie going experience I can remember was my parents taking me to Raiders of the Lost Ark and I was 4 or 5 or something and I had to sleep with them for a week, you know the opening up of The Ark and the face melting, a rea...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Cameron Macgowan, director of Red Letter Day
Posted on Friday 1st November 2019

FrightFest 2019 exposed a lot of new talent in the movie industry and one of the stand-out pieces was Red Letter Day from Cameron Macgowan.

HC: Where did the idea for Red Letter Day come from and did it take long to write?

CM: I have long been a fan of the 'Humans Hunting Humans' subgenre of film (Battle Royale, The Running Man, Hard Target, etc.) and was inspired to set one of these films in what many people consider the 'safe' location of the suburbs. Suburban communities feel like the perfect setting for a horror film as you can walk for miles without seeing a single soul all while knowing that you are surrounded by many people. This mixed with a desire to satirise the current socio-political climate ...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Carlo Mirabella-Davis, director of Swallow
Posted on Wednesday 30th October 2019

Ahead of the UK premiere of Swallow at Arrow Video FrightFest Halloween, director Carlo Mirabella-Davis reflects on the personal inspiration behind his feature debut, healing psychological wounds and his empathy for the genre.

HC: Swallow is your directorial debut. How difficult was it to get the project off the ground?

CMD: Getting a film made is a fascinating process. My late, great teacher at NYU, Bill Reilly, would always say "script is coin of the realm". The early stages involved perfecting the screenplay as much as I could, writing and rewriting until I felt confident sending it out. The sacred bond between the producer and the director is the catalyst that brings a film into being. I ...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Paul Davis, director of Uncanny Annie
Posted on Wednesday 16th October 2019

Ahead of the International premiere of Uncanny Annie at Arrow Video FrightFest Halloween 2019, director Paul Davis reflects on working for Blumhouse, bemoans attitudes to British genre film funding and reveals the movies that inspire him the most...

HC: Tell us how Uncanny Annie came about?

PD: Uncanny Annie is my second movie for Blumhouse as part of Hulu's Into The Dark movie series. I had the opportunity to actually kick off last October with a feature adaptation of my short film The Body (which had its world premiere at FF in 2013). The concept was to release a movie a month, for twelve months, with each revolving around a holiday or particular day for the month of its released. With The Bod...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Lars Klevberg, director of Child's Play (2019)
Posted on Thursday 10th October 2019
CHILDS_PLAY_Universal_2D_BD_Pakcshot_UKIt was the remake everyone was against! The interweb was ablaze with negativity but director Lars Klevberg and his team managed to pull off one of the best horror movies of 2019. Here he chats about the smart shocker, Child's Play.

HC: How nervous were you taking on a re-imagining of such a beloved concept and franchise?

LK: I was in fact very nervous the minute I signed on to do the movie. Before that, I worked relentlessly for weeks to get the job, but immediately after getting it my body had a very stressful reaction. I was fully aware of the legacy I was about to re-open so, I didn't sleep one minute that night.

HC: W...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interviews Archive: 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006
PICK OF THE WEEK
All Cheerleaders Die
ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE
Thursday 5th March
9.00 PM
Joy Ride
JOY RIDE
Sunday 1st March
9.00 PM
An American Haunting
AN AMERICAN HAUNTING
Monday 2nd March
9.00 PM