Tag Archives: Kim Newman

Master of Horror: Kim Newman

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.

 Film

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?

Neither.

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
another?

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.

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Pat’s Labyrinth II: The pitfalls and the pendulums of producing low budget horror in the UK

Dean Newman continues his exclusive interview with British horror auteur, Pat Higgins, and asks him about how he got started, and the ups and the downs that low budget filmmaking bring.

DN: Like many filmmakers were you bitten by the film bug at an early age.

PH: Film was what I’d always wanted to do; I’ve still got Super-8 footage that I filmed when I was little, unleashing stop-motion monsters on Essex, then life got in the way but the love of film never went away.

I worked in video shops, cinemas, anything to be near film. I then found myself stuck in a call centre during the dot-com boom, literally writing screenplays between calls.

I bought stock in it when it floated on the stock-market, borrowing cash from family and friends, watched the company rocket and then sold it off. I paid back everyone that very week, but more importantly had enough money for a broadcast quality camera and an edit suite. With that we made our first film, TrashHouse, which won the Best Screenplay award at the 2005 Tromafling Festival in Edinburgh, and was also runner-up for Best UK Feature.

DN: Obviously you are working with low budgets, what are the advantages and disadvantages?

PH: The idea of losing the writing freedom at the scripting stage is something I would find almost impossible to let go of and move up the budgetary scale. The worst limitation however is that if there is something you really want to do you can just find that you just don’t have the resources to realise it, which is something we certainly came across in TrashHouse.

Fear the Cheerleader!

In terms of KillerKiller we had this wonderful location, the former Warley Hospital near Brentwood (now largely converted into luxury flats) and we couldn’t shoot in it for nearly as long as we needed as it just cost too much, so it’s those kind of brick walls that you keep running into really that make you think, damn it, if only I had an extra few thousand pounds in the bank.

It is a very different creative process though not being able to just hose things with money and make them go away or appear. I’m very used to that way of thinking now and I just love the freedom that comes with it.

For The Devil’s Music we chose a digital release platform for it over here on indiemoviesonline.com, which has worked very well, and over in America have released it as a special edition DVD (released December 22nd 2009) in a way that just wouldn’t be possible here due to the high cost of getting each extra rated by the BBFC.

Working with low budgets you get to have the final say on absolutely everything from the script, casting, editing, to even the promotional campaign. We’ve occasionally tweaked things to make them that little bit more commercial but that has been our decision. Ultimately I’m answerable only to me and others in the company, me and my wife.

DN: Everyone has to answer to their wife though don’t they?

PH: This is very true (laughs).

DN: How would you describe the Devil’s Music?

PH: For a long time we tried avoiding to describe it at festivals but it’s a horror movie in the style of a rock documentary, which tells the tale of a very controversial musician who for one reason or another is no longer ‘around’ and it gradually pulls the viewer into her world and lets them piece together the story of what actually happened to her and those around her.

DN: I’ve never heard of the horror rock documentary before, what has the feedback been like?

PH: It’s been terrific; everybody has been very supportive all the way through. When it was playing festivals it got very good reactions and people really seem to enjoy it. It was a very conscious decision from us that we wanted to produce something very different than what was in the marketplace at the time.

DN: The Devil’s Music has gained quite a bit of coverage hasn’t it?

PH: Kim Newman really likes it and was very complementary about it in Empire a couple of months ago and had actually seen it a couple of months before and kindly sent me some very nice comments about it back then. He’s been a supporter of it now for quite a while, which we’ve been very grateful for.

DN: Has that been the film that has got the greatest amount of exposure to date?

PH: It’s difficult to say really. TrashHouse, our first film, was very well distributed on DVD over here and was available in the high street up and down the country, so the distribution side of things worked very well but we didn’t get so much press.

KillerKiller got the widest release globally, even gaining a cinema release in Germany and I’ve got DVDs of it dubbed into Russian, but alas not here in the UK.

Aisle be back!

HellBride was really just in the States and The Devil’s Music has been these two very different releases in the US and UK. Every release has been very different but one day they will all come together and we’ll have all these elements at the same time for one movie.

DN: Can we expect to see the Pat Higgins boxset as well I presume?

PH: When all the rights revert back to us from the various distribution companies that would be great to do a huge boxset.

DN: Would that be like the Planet of the Apes boxset with packaging in the shape of your head?

PH: It’s unlikely to be me and more likely to be something like a killer cheerleader. Everything since TrashHouse has been shot in High Definition so we have HD masters for everything so Blu-ray could be another avenue that we look to go down in the near future.

Next time: looking forward in fear with Pat’s Labyrinth III: The future of Horror