Tag Archives: Twilight

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.

Here be monsters: toons with bite

Twilight might be riding the zeitgeist at the moment in cinemas, churning out yet another sequel before all the fans disappear, but  for us people in our 30s the sight of folk with fangs and sprouting hairs at the first sign of a full moon were commonplace…in our Saturday morning cartoons.

Fangface

Beware the moon
Every 400 years, a baby werewolf is born into the Fangsworth family. And so when the moon shined on little Sherman Fangsworth, he changed into Fangface; (Ooowooo! Grrrrrr…) a werewolf. Only the sun can change him back to normal. And so little Fangs grew up and teamed up with three daring teenagers: Kim, Biff, and Puggsy. And together they find danger, excitement, and adventure. (Grrrrrr… Ooowooo!) (Ooh! Ooh! Grrrrrr!) Who can save the day? Who can wrong the rights, and right the wrongs? None other than Fangface! (Ooh! Ooh!)

So booms Mr Voiceover man at the beginning of each episode which practically combines the characters of Scooby Doo and Shaggy in one! The show even had its own ‘hip’ vehicle, the wolf buggy. Amusingly, Fangface, with his one large fang, can even turn all hairy at the mere sight of the moon, or anything resembling it!

The Funky Phantom

Essentially yet another riff on Scooby Doo and Co, The Funky Phantom featured three teenagers — Skip, April and Augie — and their dog Elmo. While trying to get out of a storm, they entered an old house where they found a clock telling the wrong time, which, .upon being set to midnight, released two ghosts: a Revolutionary War-era ghost named Jonathan Wellington “Mudsy” Muddlemore (who sounds exactly like Snagglepuss as he’s voiced by the same man) and his cat, Boo. The pair hid from the British inside the clock during the War, but then couldn’t get out and died inside – cheery! Ever since being freed, Mudsy and Boo have acompained them on mysteries, always giving an invisible helping hand…and of course they had some smart wheels as well.

The Real Ghostbusters

This series made more of a thing of Slimer, resulting in him turning up in the film sequel, the series actually featured good storylines and monsters that would have made a better starting point for a story than what we saw in Ghostbusters 2.

Interesting fact is that Bill Murray’s Peter Venkman role was voiced by the man who also did the voice of Garfield in the cartoon and that several years later Murray went onto voice the voice of Garfield in the film. Life imitating art imitating art or something like that.

Scooby Doo

The king of the carton crypt keepers is Mr Doo, even though these aren’t essentially monsters just men, generally janitors, are just men in monster outfits. The fun is in spotting the clues though and of course earning those all important Scooby Snacks. Always viewed better when he was part of the Mystery Machine team than when his pesky little nephew, Scrappy Doo, was with him. This scaredy cat dog has been being spooked since 1969.

The Drak Pack

Drak me to hell
Now this really was something and was great 70s kitsch which essentially cast those who had always been seen as villains as the heroes of the piece for a change.

The Drak Pack was made up of the teen-age descendants of Hollywood’s most popular monsters. Drak Jr. (a vampire), Frankie (a Frankenstein’s monster) and Howler (a wolfman) formed a crimefighting squad in order to atone for their forefathers’ misdeeds against humanity. To show that the teens had the blessing of the previous monsters, they usually received their assignments from Drak’s great-grandfather, Dracula himself (known as Big D to the Pack), who always ended up trapping his fingers in his coffin.

The gang’s nemesis was the evil Dr. Dred, who from his flying “Dredgible” would hatch many an evil scheme along with assistants Vampira, Mummy Man, a Peter Lorre-esque Toad, and Fly. In order to defeat them, the Drak Packers would clasp their hands together and shout, “Wacko!” a secret word which gave the teens the super powers to succeed.

Captain Caveman

Captain my Captain
Looking like a throwback from one of the Dingles, Captain Caveman (how the Captain came about is beyond me). This magic club flying(er, again clueless) crimefighter was the same every week as part way through he gave chase in the air and (what a surprise) his club would run out of power…and it was the same week in week out. He did have three nice young ladies helping him though, a sort of Caveman’s Angels so to speak. Caveman himself was clearly some sort of relative of the Slag Brothers from The Wacky Races, both coming from the Hannah Barbara stable of animation of course.

Casper

Was friendly and a ghost. Probably died of boredom. More of a wet blanket than a white sheet. Also, post Chucky, his “Hi, I’m Casper, can I be your friend?” was somewhat sinister in a you just know he wants to turn into those demons at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, you know he does, type way.

Count Duckula

Like Mork from Ork was a spin off from  Happy Days, our green feathered friend started out as a nemesis for none-other than Dangermouse, with both characters voiced by David Jason of course.

With a reincarnation ritual that replaces blood accidently with tomato ketchup, thank you Nanny, the latest in the long line of vampirac ducks is not a blood-sucking vampire, but a vegetarian one. He is more interested in juicy carrots than hunting for victims. Naturally, Igor is appalled at this and even worse, his “new” master is obsessed with pursuing wealth and fame as an entertainer.

The stories often centre around Duckula’s adventures in search of riches and fame, assisted by the castle’s ability teleport around the world. Another regular theme is Igor’s attempts to turn Duckula into a proper vampire. Some episodes feature Duckula’s nemesis Doctor Von Goosewing (an obvious play on Van Helsing).

Wish you Were-wolf Here?

With Twilight:New Moon leaping onto Bluray and DVD now is the perfect time to chronicle a werewolf encounter a little bit closer to home…

When you think of werewolves you most probably think of Eastern European forests, fantastic transformations or silver bullets. Whatever is at the top of your list you can bet your bottom dollar it isn’t kiss me quick hats and the seaside.

It turns out though that besides laying claim to the world’s longest pleasure pier and the home town of Helen Mirren it holds a more sinister side that might put the cast of EastEnders off one of their jollies, and that is that is home to a werewolf, well a reformed one anyway.

Such musings may seem hogwash but this is no shaggy dog story, welcome to the tale of The Southend Werewolf.

The story begins, as you might typically expect, near midnight on July 22, 1987, with the then 44 year old, Bill Ramsey, driving to Southend police station. His request, simple, he wanted them to lock up for his own safety and the safety of others.

The normally placid man’s reason for his request become violently clear when he turned from chatting man to changing man as he went into a raging attack like the police had never seen one man commit before. Like a scene from a movie, according to some he possessed snarling teeth and untold, superhuman strength, injuring several of the officers. The 5ft 7in man even managed to hurl a 6ft, 14stone policeman across a car park and unsurprisingly it took six men to restrain Bill and put him in a cell.

But this was just the beginning and even a cell could not keep The Southend Werewolf as the normally mild-mannered carpenter managed to force his arm and head through the small feeding grill in the cell door. Having taken on the police it was now the turn of the fire brigade who were there to free him. Wisely choosing not to approach Bill in his current state the fire service only set him free after he was sedated, and even that took a baffling three times the normal dose.

Eventually freed from his cell, Bill underwent a series of extensive tests in a
Psychiatric hospital for a month, but Doctors were unable to explain his behaviour. The episodes lessened but continued for another two years.

Just over two years since the original incident, on July 28th 1989, Bill was exorcised at a church in America, flanked with two guards armed with stun guns, just in case of course. Bill and his family still reside in the Southend area; he still recalls nothing of the events that moonlit July night and since his exorcism has lost his wild side.

Next time you find yourself in Southend and it’s a cloudless night and your gaze reaches skyward, heed the warning and beware the moon.