There are few horror journalists out there that have made the impact that Ryan Turek has. He has co-created or written for almost every major horror publication in the community and continues to inspire his fans and peers alike. As managing editor for ShockTillYouDrop.com he can often be found at community events and it isn’t uncommon to see him hosting the latest film Q and A after a screening. Ryan did, however, take time from his busy schedule to sit for a cup of java and discuss…The 13 Question Marks of Horror…
1. You’ve been at this game for a long time. What movie or experience first got you in to horror?
My dad was a big book collector. He always bought Clive Barker, Stephen King; this was like the early 80s. He’d buy tons of first editions and stuff. Then one day he left behind the table copy of Cycle of the Werewolf. I think I was in elementary school. I sat down and started thumbing through it, and all of these great Bernie Wrightson pictures started popping out at me. You know, photos of like, the werewolf clawing the sheriff’s face, or like the werewolf on top of the truck, and I just remember all those vivid images of the werewolf, I was like man this is really cool. And also, with the book, he got this really great collector’s shirt, and I always wanted to wear it and he was like no, you’re not going to wear it. I still wear it to this day, I have it now. It’s like kind of a baseball tee, but that was my first experience with horror per se, I didn’t know what it was, I just knew it was something cool. I also liked the aesthetic of the illustrations. I just kept gravitating towards the artwork and since I was too young to read the book I didn’t catch up with it till years later. As far as movies go, Fright Night was my first experience. My dad took me and told me straight up that this is a horror movie, it’s gonna be scary, but you can deal with it. We were in the car with my grandmother because she wanted to see it. We stopped in the middle of town and he says, I want don’t want to hear no crying, if you don’t think you’re ready for this, you know the way home, you can walk home. And I was like no, I got this. So I went and yeah, that was it, greatest thing ever. I was laughing, I had fun with it, I wanted my teenage experience to be like those guys. Just elements, and the sexuality, I was like ooh what is this? So yes, Fright Night, and a year later, The Fly and Aliens.
2. Growing up were you one of the weird kids in school or one of the cool ones?
I was neither, I straddled the line. I was neither cool nor excommunicated, you know, seen like a misfit. Because I knew how to juggle those worlds, actually I knew how to juggle all clicks. I was a chameleon. The cool kids were sort of fascinated by the fact that, I love to illustrate, I don’t do it so much now, but back in the day, so like in art school, people were like, whoa what is that? But like the non-cool kids, the horror crowd, I’ve brought them all the cool stuff to show. I introduced two movies to my high school graduating year, Reservoir dogs and Dead Alive. Once I brought Reservoir Dogs that thing went everywhere. From the cool kids to the rejects, that thing saw so much use because nobody knew what it was. And then Dead Alive came along and everyone was like what is this crazy ass movie? So it became, hay Turek, what you got? So I introduced them to Evil dead, Evil Dead 2 and when Army of Darkness came along we got a group together to go see that so it was fun.
3. Your first film experience was on Jeepers’ Creepers 2. What can you tell me about that time?
Alright, this is my experience on that. When I first moved out here, I was going to be a screenwriter, that’s what I set out to do. I dabbled a bit in postproduction and, you know, just took day jobs. Then I met this guy, Jared, still my best friend to this day. He was the assistant on the first Jeepers Creepers, and then when part two came along he was like; “we’re looking for an assistant, what do you think?” I ended up doing that and it was an interesting experience, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. For me it was all about work, it was all about a job. I got a firsthand account of how film works, how crews work, how the development process works, I was they’re from the minute they said go on this project to the very end …and it was one of the most interesting experiences of my life. I got to spend a couple of hours with Francis Ford Coppola’, chaperoning him around the set because he was visiting and I even got to pitch, kinda hold court at MGM back when MGM was MGM. They were trying to market Jeepers Creepers as a merchandising property. I went in, my boss was like; you run the meeting, this is you, you know this stuff. So I brought in comics, toys, masks, and was like, this is everything that you can do with the Creeper. You can do this this, that, and the other, and in the end, turn into a property that can be sold. I was like, I have no experience, I was like wow, but it was cool, it was a very cool experience. I spent a lot of time hanging out with the actresses, I spent a lot of time hanging out with the crew, and it was a good, good time. It was a lot of fun. In fact, one of my best friends on that production was the storyboard artist, Brad. His artwork was amazing and like in my closet somewhere I have the whole movie storyboarded and bound. It was really good experience.
4. How do you jump from a director’s assistant on Jeepers Creepers II to a producer on the Nightmare Collection a year later?
So after Jeepers Creepers 2, I was in a relationship at the time were I just need a break, I needed to move out of town. My going belief at the time was to remedy the exhaustion of LA by moving to Northern Michigan. At the time I was also juggling running a site called Creature Corner, which was a division of Chud.com, it was CreatureCorner.com. My partner at the time, Johnny Butane understood that I need a break and was like; “You to run a website from anywhere”, so I did that. And while I was settling, trying to make a life out there, we decided to try and brand Creature Corner like a header for a DVD line and I forgot the filmmaker’s name, but he approached us about it. He was like; “Look, this is the deal, we’re gonna take a bunch of short films at home and put them on DVD and call it the Nightmare Collection. We’ll have a girl who will be our wrap-around girl and just show off a bunch of short films.” I watched tons of short films and judged or just really determine which were the best ones and in the meantime we are developing her (the hostess), I think the character was Necro-Nancy or something like that. She was a hot blonde with big tits, kinda goulish and whatever and she was gonna be our host. I know it was released, I never got a copy. It was good to have that kind of exposure for Creature Corner at the time and also got a credit under my name.
5. You’ve written for most of the major horror sites over the years. How did that come about?
When I was living in Michigan there was turmoil in my life, there were a lot of changes. I was still relatively young so, I got out of the relationship I was in and was determined to move back to Los Angeles and continue what I had set out to do. I found that I had to do it by myself. I was also working as an NBC local news producer, I was a six o’clock news producer up there, running Creature Corner on the side, and then around 2004 or 2005 we met this guy named Uncle Creepy. Uncle Creepy approached me and Johnny Butane and said; “Hey there’s this great endeavor going on called The Horror Channel and they’re gonna get their asses in gear and put a new channel on the networks and on TV and you guys should get in on this.” We weren’t getting paid for Creature Corner, we thought that there might be some payment around the corner with this new endeavor so we hopped ship. We started working for The Horror Channel on their website running that and then the guys behind The Horror Channel decided to well, I forgot the series of events but Dread Central was born of that, so it was me, Johnny butane, and Uncle Creepy, creating Dread Central. So we left the Horror Channel. Dread Central was okay, I moved back to Los Angeles and took a day job while balancing everything. Once I got back to LA I was back in the groove. “Get the horror team together!, Horror, horror, horror, all the time. We would get directors together and do movie nights. We had this thing called fright club where it was like aspiring horror directors, seasoned horror directors, up and comers like James wan, all these guys, Adam Green, and Joe Lynch and just go out. We made it a point, Friday nights; go see a horror movie opening-night. Support the genre, go have dinner and drinks, it was a great thing. It was a great endeavor. While we were doing that, Dread Central is coming along and I wasn’t getting paid, so you know I really want to quit my day job and make this like a day job and Tony Timpone approached me, and he was like; “Hey, do you want to write for Fangoria?, because you’re already doing a little bit of freelance for the magazine anyway. Why don’t you come aboard and be exclusive to us?” And I said “Will it include more work and will it be older do stuff on the site to?” And he said “yeah” so, I hop ship from dread Central and I took the paying gig writing for the magazine and writing for the website, but I still kind of have to do the day job thing because it wasn’t paying all the bills. It was the greatest time man, 2006, 2006 was the year. That was the shit. I was writing for Fangoria and I was working all the time. Interviewing, you know, the greatest feeling was to see your story on the cover. I was like “that’s my cover story this, this is great!” 2006 to 2007 was a great year and it was like a great time for horror in general, it was kind of a little bit of a resurgence. It was like Hostel, Hills Have Eyes, just boom, boom, boom, boom…a lot of good stuff came out.
6. How did shock to drop come into existence?
My time at Fangoria was short lived, it was like about a year and a half. And then ComingSoon.net put up an ad saying that they were looking for writers, they were looking for someone to spearhead a new or website and just be the managing editor, you know, provide content and run it and you’ll be in on the ground floor. So I submitted my resume and they were like; “yeah dude you’re in”. I was like great, “Can I quit my job?” “And they were like yeah, you’ve got a full-time position with us.” So I turned to my work the next day and was like “I quit, I’m out.” “They were like winter last day?” “Like, tomorrow. I got a start working on this site.” 2007 was the birth of Shock Till You Drop.
7. I read your opening letter for Shock Till You Drop. Where did Rotton come from and why did you switch back?
My thing called The Rotten Truth? Well the Rotten truth came about because I was still writing under the pen name Ryan Rotten. The whole reason Ryan Rotten came about is because when I started writing for Creature Corner it was better to have an alias out here in LA when you are trying to sneak into screenings and stuff because I get on the test screening list and say Ryan Turek and they would say okay. But what I wrote my review I wrote it under an alias. Granted it’s not the most conspicuous alias ever because it’s like Ryan Turek, Ryan rotten. So that’s how the alias came about. And then I decided a couple years ago to just do it in and start using my real name. Which doesn’t realize because I still get text messages from friends who are like hey Rotten what’s up?
8. About the same time you started shock you also started acting. Is that something you’d like to do more of?
Dark House, well Darren Scott was a friend of mine and he was looking for someone to come out and be a day player and be a zombie. So was like “Can I get paid?” He was like “yeah”. Two days I was a zombie for him. I’m also in Night of the Demons. When they came back here for re-shoots, here in LA, Adam Gierasch is a friend of mine and I’ve spent a lot of time on set when we were down in New Orleans. He was like; “look the actor can’t come back, you have this same body build and structure. Can you just go under makeup for a few hours and do some shots?” “I was like yeah”. So there are select scenes that I’m not to pick out, but I know that one specifically is me fighting Edward Furlong in a tunnel.
The Crystal Lake Massacre thing, that was just like bonus material. It’s like they did bonus content on the Paramount Special Edition Friday the 13th DVDs they put out. Not the boxed set but the single special editions and I’m just like an angry person because they’re doing like this “man on the street interview” and I come out and say “why don’t you leave Crystal Lake alone and stop talking about Jason!”
And then the “King in a box thing” that’s on there is Adam Green’s short film and this was back in the heyday when all or guys were hanging out and he did a short film and he was like “We need someone tall to play Jack from Jack-in-the-Box and you’re gonna be wearing a bighead… “Have you seen it yet? It’s fucking hilarious. It’s like Jack and his hot wife at home and he has like a deed to Burger King and the King shows up and beats the shit out of Jack. I had to ware like a giant fucking Jack-in-the-Box head, and then my buddy has a place in Beverly Hills, I’m running around small hallways, bumping my head, it’s so funny it was so much fun. Then I have to do the voice, like to emulate the Jack-in-the-Box voice. It was fun. It’s on YouTube and on Adam Green’s site.
9. From a fan perspective what has been the worst experience you’ve had as a journalist?
I’ve never had any horror stories of like meeting anybody, sometimes there are embarrassing moments you know, like when you’re not on you’re a-Game or somebody misconstrues something you might of said. And I don’t know if this is so much embarrassing it was funny but when we were at Creature Corner we did an April fool’s joke that said that Ryan Philippe was going to be cast as leather face in the remake and Empire Magazine picked it up and then other mainstream outlets did, not realizing it was April fool’s joke so I had to call Ryan Philippe’s representation at the time and I was like “I apologize. I’m sorry it’s just an April fool’s joke if you click on the photo it says April fools. Can I give a statement” and she was like “It’s okay. We’re just gonna brush this under the carpet.”
10. When meeting new people, what is the biggest misconception that you have to deal with because of who you are and what you do for a living?
It comes into the blogger thing, you know. Things were a lot easier 10 or 12 years ago than they are now because everybody is so protected now, everyone’s very guarded. So when I do meet a new filmmaker or a new writer or anybody in the industry, walls are up and they don’t want talk to me about anything new because they’re afraid that you’re gonna just run with it. So it’s my job to give them a sense of security and go look, yes it’s my job to report on things, but I won’t do anything until there’s a certain level of comfort between us and I always ask permission unless it’s a random piece of information that I get through certain channels or whatever. For the most part I do keep quiet on a lot of stuff because I’m trying to protect relationships within the industry. So when I meet new people the common misconception is that you’re a blogger and you’re also just a fan boy and that’s not the case.
11. Do you find it easier or harder interviewing horror stars that you grew up with because they’ve been so many questions so many times?
Oh absolutely. When I did my choice cuts with John Carpenter, it was like the toughest thing ever. It was like; “man, I’ve read every interviewing every book about him. I’ve read all this stuff so all I could do was bring it for personal angle and also focus on the now.” Get to the root of what’s appealing to him now and getting him excited now and what pisses him off now. I think for most part we got something on it from him. So absolutely it’s really tough. But you know what the thing is too, that’s their job. They agreed to sit down and interview in the chair it’s their job to sometimes rehash stuff or sometimes there are really excited about it.
12. In 2011 you wrote and directed the documentary Still Screaming. Can you tell me about the genesis in the filming of that project?
That came about because I met Anthony Masi, the co-producer of “His Name Was Jason”, when they were doing that. It was him, Dan Behrens and they brought me in to interview me and talk about the Friday the 13th franchise. I had already known them and after “His Name was Jason came out Anthony and Dan kinda went their separate ways to work on other projects. Anthony was trying to get something going and we were already talking about doing a documentary. We were gonna do Hellraiser. So we started work on the Hellraiser franchise documentary and Scream 4 had been coming out and I said; “There’s only three movies right now? Why don’t we do a little retrospective? A feature-length retrospective.” Those were the movies when I was in college, those movies where the shit for me. I love those movies. That’s how it all came about. We put Hellraiser on hold and just went out on our own and interviewing everybody, just trying to track everybody down, while talking to Miramax, talking to dimension, talking about Weinstein. We did our due diligence and made it happen and it turned out great I think.
13. You got your fingers in a lot of pies. Can horror fans look forward to you directing a feature film in the future?
No, I’m not a director. I won’t direct but I’m trying to produce. I don’t want to get stuck doing retrospectives and DVD special features and stuff. There are a couple of features right now that may take off early next year, some other stuff that I’m circling and want to do. If someone said take it and do it I might, probably would. But I haven’t been behind the camera since film school, or, since the Scream documentary, because we did shoot that little fictional opening the lead you into the documentary. That was fun. No writing, I don’t want to write. I’m a good idea man. I’ve got good ideas but there are far better writers out here that are far more talented than I am and certain directors too. So I would rather use the connections I have, doing what I do, to find the right guys and just put them all together.