LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS Exclusive Interview With Shaun Hutson Author Of X The Unknown
By James Whittington, Tuesday 17th July 2012
Shaun Hutson is one of the very finest and most creative authors around. He has written over 50 best selling books (some under pseudonyms) touching on many genres but he'l always be associated with horror thanks to books such as Slugs, Relics and Deathday.
Here he chats about his second Hammer tie-in book, X The Unknown.
To try and win a copy of X The Unknown along with Hands Of The Ripper by Guy Adams click here.
HC: Can you recall the first Hammer movie you saw?
SH: I can certainly recall the first Hammer film I ever saw it was a double bill (anyone else remember those?) of The Phantom Of The Opera and Night Creatures. I was about six and my mum took me (no she wasn't a weirdo, I pestered her to see it and she buckled...) and it frightened the sh*t out of me. I had my first ever nightmare that night. So I’ll always have Hammer to thank for that. How could you not love a film company that gave you sleepless nights at such an early age?
HC: What was it about them that grabbed your attention?
SH: I was struck at the time by the imagery (the skeleton riders on skeletal horses in Night Creatures) but as I got older I was so impressed by the acting, the direction, the set design and everything about them to be honest. They were always done so elegantly and with complete sincerity by the cast. I grew up with Hammer films and I think they probably shaped my writing more than I ever realised. First and foremost though they were great entertainment. The fact that they were done on small budgets just makes them more impressive. I certainly think the plethora of horror films these days could learn something from Hammer as they had a style which modern horror films certainly don't have. That gothic feel that Hammer had was unique to them. I know other studios at the time like Amicus and Tigon tried it but no one could come close to Hammer.
HC: Do you have a favourite Hammer film?
SH: It's difficult to pick out one single Hammer film as a favourite. Obviously the first of the Dracula films with Christopher Lee was superb. I love Brides Of Dracula for all the reasons I've given before. Plague Of The Zombies is still tremendous and I recently saw Quatermass And The Pit on a big screen for the first time and was amazed how well the dialogue and plot had held up considering it was released in 1967. It's probably not one of their best but I also love Taste The Blood Of Dracula which has one of the best opening sequences in any Hammer film along with Kiss Of The Vampire. If you push me I'd have to say Brides Of Dracula. I saw it on an old black and white TV one Friday night when I was about ten and it made an indelible impression on me and my underwear! Some great set pieces and brilliant performances from Peter Cushing and David Peel.
HC: How did you approach your book, X The Unknown?
SH: The first thing with X The Unknown was deciding whether or not to leave it where it was originally set which was the 50s. I decided against that and tried to make it more relevant to a modern audience by moving it to modern day. I didn't do this because I thought I was improving on the original, I'd never be that presumptuous, but the fear of nuclear weapons and radiation which was very prevalent in the 50s isn't so strong now so I thought I'd better find a more contemporary menace. Some of the dialogue had to be changed too (to update it) and new characters were added just as they are in any novelisation (well, any that I do!). Other than that I stuck to the structure of the film because it worked fine as it was. The only other major change was shifting the location from Scotland to Buckinghamshire but that was never going to damage the story. With any novelisation I think the main consideration is the source material and you shouldn’t mess around with that if it’s fine to begin with. There was nothing wrong with X The Unknown so I didn't tamper with it!
HC: Why did you change certain elements (without giving too much away)?
SH: The parts I changed were changed for the reasons I've given earlier. Also, despite the fact that it's first and foremost a novelisation I suppose pure ego made me want to try and put my own stamp on it in some way shape or form. While always staying within the structure of the original I tried to put in what have, over the years, become the trademarks of my own writing. Some of my regular readers will probably be surprised that it isn't as violent as some of my own novels but I didn't feel the need to go over the top with the violence (which some will be mumbling makes a change...). Don’t get me wrong it's still pleasingly revolting in places (I hope) but it doesn't have the charnel house touch that some of my own books have because it wasn't necessary.
HC: Did you work through many drafts of the book?
SH: I've only ever done one draft of any novel. If there are things wrong and an editor points them out then I'll change those at a later date but I'm not the kind of writer who does one draft then goes through it all again picking bits out here and there. I work fast and hopefully this is reflected in the finished book and I certainly don't go over stuff time and again because it breaks my flow (sorry to sound pretentious there!). I do and always have done, one draft which is then changed accordingly (never major surgery unless I've really screwed things up) and that's it. Once one book is finished I hate going back to it. I never read anything I've written once it's past the proof stage. If I did I’d always find fault, find things I could have said differently or better and you have to let the bloody thing go eventually so why dwell on it? If I can't get it right the first time around then that's tough, that's one of the reasons I used to use such detailed notes and outlines. Once I started writing I knew everything that was going to happen and to whom and at what time so there was no need to deviate from that original story.
HC: How different is it writing a tie-in to an original piece? Which is harder?
SH: It's much harder writing an original story than it is a novelisation in my humble opinion. After all, with the novelisation all the characters, the plot and the story are there in front of you, you just have to make sure you bring it to life in a way that honours the original. I hate authors who try to be too clever with novelisations. Just follow the plot because fans of the film will have certain expectations and no one's got any right to mess around with those expectations. If I was asked to do the novelisation of Titanic I wouldn't feel the need to set it on a bloody spaceship! People who have seen X The Unknown will have certain ideas about what it should be like. People who like Hammer films will have ideas on how the book should be to reflect Hammer's very distinctive style. However, newcomers to the story will find that there is plenty there to surprise them too. It’s a fine line to tread but I hope I’ve done it without overbalancing too often.
HC: Would you consider writing a film script for the new Hammer?
SH: Would I consider writing a film script for the new Hammer? Where do I sign? I would love to do that. Considering how much their films meant to me when I was growing up I don't think it would be too much to say that to script a film for Hammer would be about as good as it got for me.
HC: What classic Hammer movie would you like to novelise next?
SH: To be honest, I'd love to have a crack at Frankenstein Created Woman. There is so much material there, especially in the character of Christina. I watched it again (on the Horror Channel strangely enough!) the other day and even then I was thinking how I'd do it. Plague Of The Zombies or Kiss Of The Vampire would be good to do as well. I think one of the first things I look for with a novelisation is how I can expand it and those all offer scope for that. I suppose the most logical one for me however would be Brides Of Dracula as it's my favourite Hammer film. Now that really would be fun.
HC: So what other projects are you working on?
SH: Next I'm doing the novelisation of The Revenge Of Frankenstein, in my opinion the best of the Hammer Frankenstein series. As with Twins Of Evil and X The Unknown I'll stick to the original structure of the films and it's then just a matter of finding some different angles and expanding the existing material here and there.
HC: Shaun Hutson, thank you very much.
SH: No problem.
To try and win a copy of X The Unknown and Hands Of The Ripper click here.
MORE INTERVIEWS Interview with Stewart Sparke, director of Book of Monsters
Posted on Friday 29th April 2022
A birthday bash becomes a bloodbath when monsters escape from a supernatural storybook, leaving a group of teenagers to fight for their lives and shut the party down in the UK TV premiere of Book of Monsters on May 16th on Horror. We chatted to its director, Stewart Sparke about this fun, retro-filled fright-fest.
HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be a film director?
SS: I remember first realising that I wanted to make films during one of many viewings of The Mummy (1999) on VHS in my bedroom on an old 15" TV. I became quite obsessed with the film and tried to make all my friends come over to watch it ...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Paul Hyett, director of Peripheral
Posted on Wednesday 16th February 2022
Paul Hyett is a multi-disciplined creative whose work is as inventive as it is imaginative. His latest movie is a dark sci-fi chiller named Peripheral and it will have its UK TV premiere on Horror, Friday 25th February at 11.05pm.
Here he chats about this incredible movie and his plans for the future.
HC: How did you become attached to Peripheral?
PH: The producer Craig Touhy and I had been friends for a while and had nearly done another movie together and he'd liked the claustrophobia and tension of The Seasoning House so we met up to discuss Peripheral. When he pitched it to me, very much a low budget, contained movie, in one apartment. I must say I was a little hesitant. I...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Abigail Blackmore, writer and director of Tales From The Lodge
Posted on Tuesday 14th December 2021
Ahead of Horror Channel's Xmas Day broadcast of her horror comedy feature Tales From The Lodge, director Abigail Blackmore recalls the brutal weather conditions, the challenges of casting and the joy of playing at FrightFest.
HC: Thanks to Horror Channel, Tales From The Lodge finally gets its UK TV premiere on British TV. Excited or what?
AB: So excited! I know a huge amount of people watch the Horror Channel so I'm hoping it opens TFTL up to a whole new audience.
HC: Looking back to its showcase screening at FrightFest in 2019, what are your abiding memories?
AB: It was a wonderful experience! FrightFest has long been one of the highlights of my ...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Barbara Crampton, star of chilling horror Sacrifice
Posted on Wednesday 8th December 2021
Barbara Crampton is a Horror Channel favourite. This much loved and much admired creative is starring in the UK TV premiere of Sacrifice, which is showing December 12th at 9pm on Horror so we chatted to her about this movie and her plans for the future.
Note that there are some spoilers for Sacrifice in the interview.
HC: Can you recall how you felt the first time you stepped onto a TV or film set?
BC: Yes, I remember the first time I was ever on a television set, it was for the soap opera, Days of Our Lives, and it was my very first job, and I had one line, "Hi. I'm your cousin Trista from Colorado". It was to the character Marlena Evans and subsequently I had w...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Michael Mayer and Guy Ayal from the acclaimed movie Happy Times
Posted on Saturday 16th October 2021
Happy Times, which is showing at Grimmfest Online, is a movie that takes the home invasion genre and turns it inside out! Directed by Michael Mayer and co-written with composer Guy Ayal, the movie is a bombastic, bloody and hilarious piece of cinema. I chatted to them both about this dinner party from hell.
HC: Where did the idea for Happy Times come from?
MM: The idea for the movie started forming when I was invited to a Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year's) dinner in Los Angeles. It was the first year of Trump's presidency and wherever you went all people wanted to talk about was politics. One thing to know about the Israeli expat com...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with D.M. Cunningham, writer and director of The Spore
Posted on Saturday 16th October 2021
If you like your horror with a huge lashing of gruesome effects and a strong story then The Spore is for. Showing at Grimmfest Online, the movie from D.M. Cunningham is a smart take on the body horror genre. Here he chats about this movie which is guaranteed to get under your skin.
HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be a director?
DM: I started out wanting to be a makeup effects artist. After seeing Night of the Living Dead and discovering Fangoria magazine I was hooked. Tom Savini was a huge influence on my trajectory toward becoming a filmmaker. It wasn't until later that I discovered that you could boss the monsters around on set being the director. That's...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Ben Charles Edwards, co-writer and director of Father of Flies
Posted on Saturday 16th October 2021
A vulnerable young boy finds his mother pushed out of the family home by a strange new woman in Father of Flies, and he must confront the terrifying supernatural forces that seem to move in with her. This intense and chilling movie is showing at Grimmfest Online Edition so we chatted to director and co-writer Ben Charles Edwards about this movie.
HC: Where did the idea for Father of Flies come from?
BE: It came from my childhood experiences. When my good friend and journalist Dominic Wells was talking to me about my next project, he told me to draw on real life experiences. So, I did. My own experiences were neither as heightened nor as traumatic as they may...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Marcel Sarmiento co-writer and director of Faceless
Posted on Friday 15th October 2021
Showing at Grimmfest Online Edition is the incredibly inventive horror/sci-fi hybrid Faceless. Here, co-writer and director Marcel Sarmiento speaks about this superb movie.
HC: Have you always been a big horror movie fan?
MS: Definitely as a kid. My first movies made with my Betamax were all about scaring one other and how gross we could push makeup effects. We mostly strangled, stabbed, and threw each other off buildings. I think as I got older, I appreciated what you could do with horror more than horror for horror's sake. I love that you can make characters do things that in any other genre you couldn't make them do and still come out the other end liking them and routi...SHARE: READ MORE Tom Paton, director of G-LOC chats about his passion for survival stories and being compared to Roger Corman
Posted on Tuesday 14th September 2021
Ahead of the Horror Channel premiere of his sci-fi action thriller G-LOC, director Tom Paton reflects on why making movies is like solving a puzzle, his passion for survival stories and being compared to Roger Corman.
Horror Channel will be broadcasting the UK TV premiere of your Sci-fi adventure G-LOC. Excited or what?
It's honesty so strange to me every time Horror Channel debuts one of my movies. The channel has been such a big part of my life growing up and informing my taste in films, that it's always a "pinch myself moment" when I see something that I've made appear on their TV listing. G-LOC is much more of a SCI-FI adventure than any ...SHARE: READ MORE 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 Interviews Archive: 2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 PICK OF THE WEEK
Friday 20th May
Tuesday 24th May
Friday 27th May