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 an industry insider, including his popular Shockwaves horror podcast and his documentary Still Screaming: The Ultimate Scary Movie Retrospective. Check out Part 1 of our interview in the link below.
Today, it’s all about Halloween! Below, find out how Turek’s efforts took the new Halloween movie from an idea to the top-grossing slasher film in history!
Dread Central: I saw Halloween at Fantastic Fest in September. In the Q&A that followed, Jason Blum gave you this incredible shout out, stating that you were integral to the film’s success. Can you tell us about your role in making Halloween? Being a producer doesn’t necessarily mean you’re hands-on in the day-to-day mechanics of filmmaking, but in this case, you certainly were.
Ryan Turek: It was very kind of Jason to say and it’s always unexpected when people do that. Halloween was always one of those movies that was very close to my heart for various reasons. But basically, the story is: I had heard Dimension Films was going to do a third Halloween and it was in production, according to certain websites. So, I did a bit of digging and I found out it was not shooting. I continued to dig and found out Dimension no longer had the rights. I reached out to Jason and I said, “Jason, if there’s any franchise we should get involved in, Halloween should be it. Do your thing. Do what you do, talk to the rights holders, get involved, and I think this would be a great investment for the company.”
Cut to many months later and we’re working with all parties and—yeah, the whole thing was a labor of love. From finding the right director and screenwriter to developing it and being on set. I flew out to South Carolina and I lived in Charleston for two months, away from my family. But being there every day was an incredible experience. I was there for the wardrobe fittings and saw James Jude Courtney wearing the jumpsuit for the first time. I saw Jamie Lee Curtis coming out as Laurie Strode for the first time. I was there for everything! I was there every day, whether people wanted me or not, just to help out or lend guidance or offer input or whatever.
But honestly, this movie wouldn’t have been a success if it wasn’t for David Gordon Green and Danny McBride and Jeff Bradley—these guys knew exactly what the franchise needed and what the movie needed. The fact that we got Jamie back was just the cherry on top. And her enthusiasm and dedication—her energy brought life to the set every day. It was just an incredible experience.
DC: It sounds like you assembled a dream team.
RT: Yeah, we absolutely did. You talk about those movies that are just perfect fits all around… everybody on set from our props master to our makeup effects guy to wardrobe, everybody was just so into bringing Haddonfield and these characters to life. There was this arthouse theater in Charleston and, just before principal photography began, we rented it out to show the original Halloween. Everyone came out and got really pumped up. We knew we were making history!
DC: Is it true that there was a Cult of Thorn subplot that was edited out in the final cut?
RT: No [laughs]. No, no. Look, the first draft of the script was different than the final incarnation, but that’s always the case. Characters will shift, their motivations will shift. But it was always something that took place 40 years later.
DC: Before it even went before the cameras, John Carpenter stated that this would be the last Halloween movie ever. But now that the film is enjoying record-breaking success, a sequel seems like a foregone conclusion. Are you hoping to convince Carpenter to return again?
RT: Never say never about anything! And it’s way too early to talk about it now. But we all know how things work. If everything falls into place just right, etc., etc. We’ll see. Never say never.
DC: As a blogger, you were able to celebrate horror movies as finished products without dealing with the nuts and bolts and nightmares of filmmaking. Now that you’re in the thick of it, has it changed the way you look at and appreciate horror movies? Has going behind the curtain diminished your pure love of experiencing cinema?
RT: Well look, I’m 42-years-old and many things that have challenged my love for horror, especially when you live here and you’re looking behind the curtain. You’re meeting all your heroes, you’re meeting all these people who are making the cinematic magic happen. There was a period when I had moved out of Los Angeles just to distance myself from it. And during that time, I really reflected on what I wanted to do with my life. I was like, “Well, do I want to continue blogging or pursue my creative career?” You don’t want to do anything that robs you of the love for the genre, that love we grew up on.
So, I took a couple years to kind of recalibrate and then I realized, “No, I have to be in the thick of it. I need to work and I want to find an opportunity to get in the industry again and be part of it.” I came back to L.A. just after Dread Central got started and I had made some sacrifices. I put a lot on my credit card and I even ended a relationship. I put everything into moving back to Los Angeles to do exactly what I want to do
So, as an older horror fan, of course, my perception of the genre is going to change, but that love never goes away. It’s just about how… how can I put this… Being on set [for Halloween] and being part of the production only amplified my love of the genre. I think what I look for in horror now is much different than what I looked for when I was 13. I think when you’re in your teens you don’t have a whole lot of life experience. You’re getting that experience through horror movies and you’re seeing the world in a certain way.
I’m constantly dissecting my love for the genre and analyzing it. Right now, I wake up every day super pumped about it whereas, when I was a blogger, I would wake up and go, “Ok, what are the horror movies that are getting me excited and how do I evoke that in my writing?” It was draining because it became less about that enthusiasm I had in my early days of journalism and more about numbers and traffic. It bummed me out because I would look at my past articles and be like, “Wow, look at how pumped I was back then!” But I’ve been at Blumhouse now for four years, on this side of the business, and that feeling hasn’t disappeared at all. I still wake up every morning going, “What fucking horror movies can we make, what projects can I help push along, and which directors will I get to work with next?” It’s a lot of fun.
I’ve run into a lot of people who aren’t focused and don’t know what they want to do with their life. I think I realized about halfway through my journalism career that I’m a really good producer; I have an eye for movies that I’d like to see that will also do really well. Once you put out that energy and position yourself in the right way, will people look you different. Some people were, like, “No, you’re going to The Dark Side!” But I was, like, “No, I’m going to be creative!” Then of course, when you get to this side, you meet with executives and agents and they’re, like, “Oh, we pulled you over from The Dark Side.” So which side is The Dark Side? Being a producer or being a journalist?
RT: Fantasy Island and a couple of other new projects. Besides than that, I’m just tinkering away: Looking at new scripts, looking for new properties, looking for new stuff and playing around with that.
DC: Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers before I let you go?
RT: We’re living in turbulent times but a really cool time for the genre. As a journalist, there are a lot of cool things to write about right now. I’m actually on my way to see Suspiria.
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.