Friend of Rue Morgue Ryan Turek (a.k.a. Ryan Rotten) has been keeping himself busy. Besides editing the horror news website ShockTillYouDrop.com, Turek has written and directed Still Screaming, a documentary about the Scream film franchise. Scheduled to be released around the same time as Scream 4 (release date: April 12, 2010), Still Screaming serves as an overview to the Wes Craven-directed film franchise which redefined horror, for better or worse, towards the end of the last millennium. Turek is also hard at work on a Hellraiser franchise doc.
How did this project come about?
Producer Anthony Masi and I were working alongside each other on an exhaustive Hellraiser retrospective at the beginning of the year. At the time, Stefan Hutchinson [Halloween: 25 Years of Terror] was directing the project, so I was looking at potential film franchises I could cover that have not already been dissected, like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th or Halloween. Phantasm was one series I considered and so was Child’s Play, but in terms of impact on the genre, Scream just stood out, and with the fourth film on the way, the time was right to look back at the original trilogy. I pitched the idea to Anthony and he, in turn, took the idea to our distributor who responded to the project, and we’ve been at work on it ever since.
What was the response like from those involved in the series? Were they eager to talk about their experiences on the films?
So far, they’ve been terrific. The biggest hurdle was ensuring Dimension Films was cool with the project. Anthony and I flew out to New York, while we were doing a few interviews out there, and met with Bob Weinstein. He understood what we were doing, got it and gave his blessing. Once that happened, we started reaching out to everyone involved in the three films, and I mean, everyone. I won’t say it has been easy locking everyone down. Everyone involved in the trilogy still works and they have incredibly busy schedules, but we’ve been very successful getting who we want. I was thrilled that Wes Craven made time during his post-production schedule on Scream 4 to talk with us. On one hand, most of our interviewees are amazed a retrospective is being done because maybe they feel it may be “too soon,” however, it only takes them a few minutes to realize we’re approaching the 15th anniversary of the first film’s release.
To what do you attribute the success of the Scream films so far?
I think their success has a lot to do with their clever nature – which has much to do with writer Kevin Williamson – their cast and Wes being in prime form. Horror in the ‘90s needed to be reinvigorated and this perfect storm rolled in that was a combination of wits, scares, a villain with an iconic visage and a pretty risky message about horror films and their audience.
Part two, I think, played to all of that while commenting on pop culture, the media and the success the franchise itself was experiencing. All three films were a juggling act. Part 3 started to show signs of strain and had too many cooks in the kitchen, but it’s not without some merit. The thing is all three films approached the slasher genre with a unique angle but relied on archetypes we’ve seen plenty of times in the past, especially during the ‘80s slasher boom. They were a breezy blend of new and old.
Scream was criticized for deconstructing the tropes of the slasher film and inspiring a wave of post-modern horror films which were not scary. Was its success a boon to horror or destructive?
It may have been destructive in the sense that Hollywood tends to cannibalize itself once a certain film has hit big. Everyone wants something just like it. You had studios green lighting teen slasher films with quick-witted banter and you had independent filmmakers doing “self aware” horror projects, trying to mimic what Hollywood was doing when they should have been more forward thinking. But you can’t knock Scream for the actions of creativity-deprived executives. Every so often, a time has to come when a film does deconstruct the genre and Scream did that packing plenty of smarts. It was a risky move on behalf of everyone involved and to [even] release it during the Christmas holiday, but it paid off.
Which is your favourite Scream film and why?
The first film, for all of the reasons I mention above. It’s a breath of fresh air, and while, sure, some of the references – not to horror films, but to pop culture in general – might feel a bit out of date, the tension still resonates and that ending packs a punch.
I will vouch for Scream 2, however. I think so much of it works, and there’s a certain giallo-esque nature that’s more prevalent in that film than the first one. It’s a slick piece of work.
Do you have high hopes for Scream 4? If so why?
I’m curious, that’s for sure. The problem I always had with part 3 is that it showed up too late to the party that Scream kicked off. Some of that had to do with indecision behind-the-scenes, some of it had to do with the change in writers, and a big portion of it had to do with the Columbine shootings.
By the time it hit theatres in 2000, it felt like Scream’s time had passed, but they had to finish up Sidney Prescott’s journey. With that door closed, I’m not sure where they could go or what they could do. There have been hints that the sequel will comment on horror films in the last ten years…like I said, I’m curious.
What can you tell us about the Hellraiser documentary you are working on?
Hellraiser is still trucking along, and we’ve had a few surprises thrown at us. Since we began production, Dimension Films shot another direct-to-DVD sequel and hired a writing-directing team for a remake, so the scope of our documentary has expanded to make room for those. The structure of this one is incredibly experimental and unlike Scream. Our previous director Stef Hutchinson has backed out, so I’ve been strapped with carrying on the vision of the project that we started with.
I don’t think it’s any secret that Clive Barker has created a new Cenobite for us. This is a Cenobite for a new millennium and is unlike anything you’ve seen in the films and comic books. The Cenobite will factor into an original Hellraiser-inspired fictional story that will weave in and out of the documentary.
That’s another thing, too, that I wanted to do for Scream. That documentary is going to open with a unique title sequence that pays homage to the Scream film “opening kills” and finds time to comment on all of these retrospectives that are being made. I’m shooting that here in L.A. very soon.
As for Hellraiser, I’ll be bowing down to Leviathan and returning to Hell’s work shortly after we wrap Still Screaming. That project is going to be a beast since we cover all eight, wait, nine films!