In conversation with FRIGHTFEST, Andy Nyman looks back on his first TV acting job, Nigel Kneale’s 1989 adaptation of Susan Hill’s novel THE WOMAN IN BLACK, describing this new Blu-Ray release as a rebirth of genuine dread. He also shares his thoughts on horror cinema of recent decades and how the original intention of cinema to dwarf the audience has been lost.


FRIGHTFEST: Why storytelling as a means of creative expression? Was there an inspirational or defining moment for you personally?


Andy Nyman: Yeah, seeing JAWS at the pictures - it absolutely changed my life! Not only of course was the film extraordinary and was the first proper big scare at the cinema I’d ever experienced, but seeing Richard Dreyfuss up there: a short curly haired Jewish guy wearing glasses on the big screen, and there I was, a short curly haired Jewish kid wearing glasses looking up, thinking, ‘Oh my God, that’s amazing. I could be in that world. You don’t have to look like a movie star.’


I was already into drama, but from that second it was a massive awakening, and one that meant film and storytelling were a big part of who I wanted to be. I can’t believe I actually get to do that, it’s just an amazing gift.


FF: Since those moments that first scared you in JAWS, why has horror continued to fascinate you?


AN: It’s something that was at the heart of GHOST STORIES - the opening lines of the film were, “Why are you here? Why would you come to something that you are hoping will keep you awake at night?”


There is something really satisfying about prodding that corpse, and when it reacts, it’s very exciting because you’re really looking at stuff you shouldn’t be looking at. But you’re doing it safely, even though you know you’re going to pay a little price for it.


When I’m at FrightFest, every film I’m watching I’ll be thinking, ‘Please let this scare me.’ And the rare ones that do, I’ll be sitting there thinking, ‘Why the fuck am I watching this? What’s wrong with me? This is horrible.’ I’m not just talking about blood and guts, I’m talking about those moments when you go cold, and you think, ‘Why did I want that?’ But it’s brilliant.


Watching THE WOMAN IN BLACK back when we were doing the commentary, one of the things that’s amazing is that it really achieves something that you don’t experience that often, which is that genuine sense of dread, that genuine sense of, ‘Oh God.’ And when those key moments deliver scares, my God, they deliver them 100%.


One of the great joys of horror cinema and TV is when they deliver, and it’s literally like burning an image in your mind that you can’t shake off. So to have seen this rebirth of THE WOMAN IN BLACK that looks so beautiful, and to have those moments look as good as they do, it’s thrilling.


FF: If we consider that we are immersed in the world of the characters while simultaneously aware that we are watching a film, would you agree that film is the closest thing to an out of body experience?


AN: Yeah I would, and don’t forget that cinema is designed that you are dwarfed by the image. There’s a weird thing that’s happened where we’re supposed to sit at the back looking at it, but originally you were lower than the image, and this thing is above you swallowing you into it. So it is an out of body feeling.


FF: From 1989 when the WOMAN IN BLACK first aired to now, what are your feelings on this period of horror cinema?


AN: Oh, I think we’ve been in a golden period of horror for the past 20 plus years. Year after year there has always been at least one brilliant horror film, or certainly one film that delivers phenomenal moments. You look at the rise of absolute classics from NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET through to the birth of the Blumhouse, and it’s just endless. BABADOOK, GET OUT, HEREDITARY, whether you like the whole film itself, there are moments within those films that you think, ‘Holy shit!’


At FrightFest you’ll sit through 98% of it that’s shit, and that’s part of the joy. Then every now and then you get one that you think, ‘That’s why I’m here.’ BIG BAD WOLVES - that’s why I’m here. WOLF CREEK - that’s why I’m here. Or whatever it happens to be that year, you’ll see one that you think is amazing, like AUDITION.


THE WOMAN IN BLACK Blu-Ray is available exclusively from the Network web site.


Paul Risker.


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