Those of us who have been obsessed with horror since the early days of the internet have known “Rotten” Ryan Turek for years. He was even influential in the creation of Dread Central, so we consider him family. These days, he’s best known as the Director of Development at Blumhouse and a producer of the box-office smash Halloween, which reunited original Laurie Strode actress (and icon) Jamie Lee Curtis with original Michael Myers actor Nick Castle.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Turek last month for an extensive sit-down that covered a vast spectrum of topics. Of course, we talked about Halloween at length, but we also discussed his career path from horror blogger to industry insider, including his popular Shockwaves horror podcast and his documentary Still Screaming: The Ultimate Scary Movie Retrospective.
Enjoy Part 1 of our exclusive interview below and check back for Part 2 next Friday, when we’ll take a deep dive into what it was like being an integral component of one of 2018’s hottest horror success story.
Ryan Turek: Yeah, what would you like to know?
DC: Just give us an overview. Those of us in journalism have known you for years but now there are all these Halloween fans getting to know you for the first time.
RT: The overview, let’s see. I moved out to Los Angeles in 1999. The whole goal was to be a screenwriter. I would say that my two biggest inspirations were Kevin Williamson [Scream screenwriter] and Andrew Kevin Walker [Se7en screenwriter]. And I moved out here and realized real quick that I needed a part-time job just to make some money and cover the incredibly expensive cost of living. Especially since my screenwriting career didn’t flourish as quickly as I had hoped. So, I took a part-time job, but I was always very vocal on horror message boards, trading VHS tapes and talking to people about movies. And then I would review movies on message boards or talk about some of the gossip I’d hear in Los Angeles. And basically, my writing career as a horror journalist/horror blogger began with creature-corner.com, which no longer exists. I did that for a while; I was writing alongside others like Johnny Butane and going under the name “Rotten Ryan”.
Then we had met Steve Barton, Dread Central’s “Uncle Creepy” himself, and we had gone down some paths with him under a company called The Horror Channel (short-lived). But along the way, Dread Central was born out of this partnership. So, Dread Central continued on and we created a name for the website. But, as a blogger or horror journalist, when you’re working part-time, you hope to get out of that and make your writing your full-time career. At the time, no one was getting paid at Dread Central, so I left to work for Fangoria for a couple years along with doing some stuff for Rue Morgue Magazine. Then I heard about a company run my Coming Soon Media and they were going to do an offshoot horror website and they wanted me to be the Editor and Chief. They offered me a full-time position with a salary and benefits, and it was music to my ears; I thought, “Now I’ve made it! I’m my own boss! I can work from home in my underwear and do whatever I want!” Finally, I’d made running a horror website my living. But, boy, have things changed since then!
DC: I was going to ask if your transition from horror journalist to industry insider was something you did intentionally or if was it something that just kind of happened, but it sounds like going into blogging was always an offshoot of your desire to be a screenwriter. Is that correct?
RT: That is correct. When you’re a spec screenwriter you’re not being paid; your stuff is just floating around town and you’re hoping for that one person who’s going to read it and make it. I’m more of an instant gratification kind of guy (or, I was). I really wanted people to read my writing, so this was an opportunity for people to hear my voice and hear what I had to say about the horror genre. So, it was an extension of it, and I think over the 14 years I did it, there was a desire to explore getting into the industry: Being more creative and producing.
But there was a shift in focus, and that was from being a screenwriter to being a producer instead. That was mostly because of the contacts I had built since moving to Los Angeles. When you live in Los Angeles, you become part of the horror community and, let’s just say my Rolodex got a lot larger. I knew that I could apply those contacts and the talent I was meeting into film.
DC: While your main gig is with Blumhouse as Director of Development, you’re also one of the co-hosts of the hugely successful Shockwaves podcast. Can you give us a brief overview of Shockwaves, how it started, and where you guys are headed in the future?
RT: Shockwaves began when I was running ShockTillYouDrop.com and it was myself and Lawrence Raffel over at FearNet. Podcasting still wasn’t necessarily a big thing and we just recorded it in my dining room. We did that for a little bit and it was a fun experience. I was also doing The BloodCast with Clarke Wolfe while the Killer POV team (Rob Galluzzo, Rebekah McKendry, and Elric Kane) were doing their thing. So, when I started here at Blumhouse, I kind of barraged [Jason] Blum and the company with all of these ideas: “We should do this, we should do a book, we should do that…”
I had all these ideas and podcasting was one of them. They were, like, “Oh, it’s low-cost? Sure, play around with it and do what you want; see what you can come up with.” I said, “I know a trio of people who might be willing to jump over here.” So, I asked Rebekah, Elric, and Rob to do a then-untitled podcast; as we talked about ideas for a name we came back to Shockwaves and adopted that. Now, it’s just one of those things that’s an extension of the Blumhouse brand and we hope to see it grow. It’s a very fan-oriented podcast but our television department is working on unscripted podcasts and exploring true crime stuff—even a political podcast.
RT: I’d say around 2009 and 2010 we were seeing the likes of the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street documentaries [Crystal Lake Memories and Never Sleep Again] that were being made, being made well, and actually offering insights into these beloved franchises. I was thinking about doing one myself and somewhere along the way I teamed up with Anthony Masi and we made a Scream Trilogy documentary.
Scream was always near and dear to my heart, obviously, because I was so inspired by Kevin Williamson while I was in film school. And Scream always just made a mark on me when I saw it opening night in 1996. And with Scream 4 coming out, it felt like the right time to do a documentary, something that would get everyone up to speed on the franchise and how it was created. I wrote and directed Still Screaming and it was a labor of love that came from our own pockets. We sold the digital rights to FearNet and then we shared it with Miramax and they included it in their Blu-ray box set.
It was a lot of fun, but I look back on it now and see all of the production warts of it all. It’s a little rough! But what people connected to was the ambition and the obvious love I have for the Scream franchise. We did all sorts of kooky stuff; we had little animations and an opening sequence where someone is actually commenting on horror documentaries. It was fun, and I played Ghostface, so now I look back and just think, “How goofy was that?” But it was fun.
DC: Awesome! Now, let’s talk about Halloween…
Check back next week for Part 2 of our exclusive interview with Ryan Turek where we discuss his role in the production, what it was like working with John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis, and even addresses those “Cult of Thorn” subplot rumors.
If you missed Halloween when it was in theaters, you’ll be able to own it on Blu-ray/DVD on January 15th, 2019. In the meantime, you can check out the synopsis and trailer below.
It’s been 40 years since Laurie Strode survived a vicious attack from crazed killer Michael Myers on Halloween night. Locked up in an institution, Myers manages to escape when his bus transfer goes horribly wrong. Laurie now faces a terrifying showdown when the masked madman returns to Haddonfield, Ill. — but this time, she’s ready for him.