His credits include everything from Empire magazine to Sight and Sound, as well as Moviedrome and numerous commentaries on DVDs. He’s an accomplished author, winner of several literary awards, even having one of his short stories sent into space! But, perhaps Kim Newman is best known for his seminal look at horror movies from 1968 to 1988 in the classic book, Nightmare Movies. This year, it gets a long awaited update filling in the last 20 years, ensuring it’s an essential read all over again.
Kim Newman kindly took time out of his busy schedule to catch up with Dean Newman, no relation, to answer some questions about his influences, his writing and his film reviews.
Who or what have been your main influences/how were you bitten by the film and writing bug?
Carlos Clarens, William K Everson, David Pirie, Robin Wood, David Thomson, Philip Strick. I started making notes on films when I was about fifteen, and have kept it up ever since.
First ever published review?
Last House on the Left, in the Monthly Film Bulletin (1982).
Your quotes have often been used on DVD and video covers that may influence people to rent or buy – with such great power do you feel a great responsibility?
Not especially; I’m not one of those critics who puts in quotes for extraction on the publicity, though I do sometimes get solicitations from distributors for recommendations. I always find it hard to come up with strapline-sounding things, even for films I like.
Ever walked out of a film? What was the last one?
Since I’m paid to review, no. The least I can do is watch the thing. I don’t fast-forward tapes or DVDs either. And because anything I might watch I might write about, I stick with whatever I start. The last thing I remember walking out of was an Iranian film called The Cow in 1979, and that was because I wanted to get home in those pre-VCR days to see Nigel Kneale’s then-new Quatermass serial. I have never gone back and found out what happened in The Cow, though.
As a long term inmate of the Video Dungeon in Empire magazine – any personal recommendations or hidden gems that should remain so no more?
I was impressed with JT Petty’s The Burrowers. This month, I liked a German film called The Door.
Are there any guilty pleasures that you know you shouldn’t really like watching or enjoy but for some reason are drawn to?
I don’t buy into the guilty pleasure notion. I tend to divide films into interesting and dull rather than good or bad.
Who or what excites you in horror or sci-fi today.
Probably some filmmaker I’ve not heard of yet who’ll surprise me this year.
3D is back again – are you a fan and what do you think it means for film longterm?
Like a lot of folks, I’m getting a bit fed up with it – especially the ropey conversion jobs.
Favourite 3D film moment ever?
The bouncing ball in House of Wax. Reprised in Monsters vs Aliens.
Harry Potter or Twilight?
True Blood of The Walking Dead
True Blood, marginally.
Talking of vampires, what is your favourite version of Dracula?
Nosferatu (1922). I also like Dracula AD 1972.
Writing and Television
Any top tips for budding writers or reviewers?
Not really. Omit needless words is always good. Read a lot. Write every day. The usual, in fact.
How about in writing books or for screen – any pitfalls to avoid?
Feeling too pleased with yourself.
How do you deal with writers block?
I’ve never had it, so I suppose I deal by writing.
Have you a time for writing that is more productive than
When I’m not doing anything else. This sounds facetious, but it’s true.
According to IMDB you were once on Kilroy?
It was about horror. I’ve done a lot of TV stuff like that, mostly as an interviewee.
Talking of TV – Space Cadets – how was it for you? Especially with some of the famous guests?
I enjoyed it. I met Hattie Hayridge, who is a neighbour of mine, and we’re friends now. William Shatner was value for money. I had breakfast with Gareth Thomas. Angela Rippon was lovely. Bruce Dickinson was interesting. I’ve worked several times with Craig Charles. Oh, and I’m a semi-regular on Fred Macaulay’s Radio Scotland show off the back of it. Oddly, it wasn’t a particularly successful show.
Lots of sci-fi alumnus have appeared in the new Doctor Who, if offered a role would you? Or how about penning an episode?
No one’s ever asked me to be on or write Doctor Who. Steven Moffat did fetch me a drink at an awards ceremony last year, though. And I did write a Doctor Who novella.
You’ve won numerous awards, including the Bram Stoker Award and also had a short story sent to Mars, is there one that means the most to you and why?
Awards are nice, but I try not to take them too seriously. All systems of voting – jury, popular ballot, random name out of a hat – have fatal flaws.
For many people you are almost like the real life Peter Vincent, have you ever fancied your own Moviedrome style slot or documentary like the recent Mark Gatiss horror one on BBC 3?
I did do Moviedrome – a Mario Baya double bill. I’ve also written and fronted documentaries (for radio and TV). I’m not sure at the moment I’d have the time to make a commitment to a series.
What’s next for Kim Newman?
The Anno Dracula series is coming out again (from Titan) in expanded editions over the next few years, including the long-announced fourth volume, Johnny Alucard. Also from Titan, I’ve got The Hound of the d’ Ubervilles, a book about Professor Moriarty, due out this Autumn.
Also, can we expect to see another volume of Nightmare Movies covering the last 20-odd years since that very first influential instalment?
Yes, there is a new edition (essentially, the old book and a new one covering the last twenty years added on to it) out from Bloomsbury.
Nightmare Movies: Horror on Screen Since the 1960s is released on April 18th.