Blumhouse Executive Reveals How Exorcist: Believer Rewrites Franchise Canon
“Is it directly connected to Exorcist II? Exorcist III? The prequels? In my heart, I don't connect Believer to those,” Ryan Turek tells Inverse.
Ryan Turek may be the most influential person in horror cinema you’ve never heard of. Since as early as 2017’s Happy Death Day, he’s been a producer at Blumhouse, hired by Jason Blum himself for his “horror encyclopedic brain.” Since then, Turek’s credits have included everything from M3GAN to Blackphone, along with serving as “boots-on-the-ground producer” for Blumhouse’s Halloween trilogy, and now, The Exorcist: Believer.
But Turek’s horror roots go deeper than that. He came up as a horror blogger and journalist during the era of Ain’t It Cool News and wrote for Fangoria. One of his first interviews was with Mick Garris, the cult filmmaker known for his collaborations with Stephen King. Then came Blumhouse.
“Over the course of all of that, there was this guy named Jason Blum who was coming up in the world of horror and it was obviously someone that I was paying attention to,” Turek tells Inverse.
So with Halloween in the rearview mirror and The Exorcist making a comeback, there’s never been a better time to check in with Blumhouse’s encyclopedic horror brain on the state of the studio and the genre in general. Inverse spoke to Turek about what Exorcist: Believer means for the franchise’s complicated canon (short answer: it’s a “direct sequel to William Friedkin's original film”), writer-director David Gordon Green’s vision for the movie, and the return of horror icon Chris MacNeil.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
I think the biggest question people have going into this, as Blumhouse takes on another storied horror franchise, is: What are we doing to the canon of The Exorcist franchise? Is this a reboot? A requel? Or a straight-up sequel to everything that came before?
The agreement we all had was this is a direct sequel to William Friedkin's original film. But obviously, we're living in a post-Scream 5 world and talking about requels and stuff like that. So is it a requel? Sure you can call it that because it's both a sequel and kind of a reinvigoration of the franchise.
Is it directly connected to Exorcist II? Exorcist III? The prequels? In my heart, I don't connect Believer to those. However, I'm sure if you spoke to David Gordon Green, he’d say that The Exorcist II was a very interesting movie and you never know whether it was connected or not because he's playful like that. But no, I feel this very much sits as a companion piece to William Friedkin's film.
Speaking of the original, it's definitely a movie about faith. That's a major theme in The Exorcist. Do you see Believer as having a similar theme? What would you say is maybe the core message or concept that's driving this movie?
The core message of this movie very clearly is unity. And no matter what walk of faith you want to tread, no what your belief is, no matter what you entrust to higher powers and spirituality and all of that fun stuff, whatever you believe in, unity is key. When David's vision for this project first came along, it was super refreshing to see that it wasn't a purely Catholic story and he was welcoming everyone into this fold. You just need to really come together to take on evil.
That is a very strong message that Chris MacNeil conveys in the movie, and love that David wanted to see that for her character. I almost envision a story out there that's just about Chris MacNeil traveling the world and sitting in on exorcisms and being a witness to the unknown forces in this world.
Ellen Burstyn is amazing in this and that sounds like the pitch for a TV show that I would love to watch. We only get a few scenes with her in The Exorcist: Believer, though. I'm curious, was that intentional or was there just a limit to how much time she could give the movie?
I honestly think it was just what was organic to the story. It's funny because we were just recording our audio commentary about this and I was kind of grilling David and Peter Sattler the writer about it, and they were like: Look, this movie is about these children and their two families that need to come together to take on this evil. And it just organically happened that Chris would eventually cross their paths.
David wanted to ground it in as much reality as possible. So if you are suddenly afflicted with a possessed child, you're definitely going to go down some YouTube and Reddit rabbit holes to see if there's anybody out there in the world like you. But the story’s real estate just dictated when Chris should come into play.
I know that there's a trilogy that's been discussed and The Exorcist: Deceiver is out there in the ether. Can you tell me anything about the status of the next movie and where you might be in the process?
I can't just yet, man. I'm sorry. I spoke out of turn. I started flapping my lips and I got a little smack on my hand about it, so we got to keep that one under wraps for now. Blum can make those mistakes. I can't.
Fair enough. Speaking more broadly, are there any classic horror franchises that you would consider to be the dream project you’d want to bring back with Blumhouse?
Jason [Blum] and I are definitely in agreement that Friday the 13th is the thing we would love to get our hands on. I really want to go back to the basics. You don't need too many ingredients for a Friday the 13th film. You need summer camp, you need campers, and you need Jason Vorhees in a mask.
Listen, I've gone on the record saying Halloween is the ultimate slasher film for me. That's my favorite slasher film of all time. But Friday the 13th as a franchise is one that I just bow down to. I just love everything about it. And if we were able to live in both worlds, like we do with Halloween, then to be able to live at Crystal Lake for a while would be so incredible.
I’m right there with you! Alright, one more question. Can you tell me anything about M3GAN 2? Because I personally cannot wait for that movie.
Oh, that's good. I'm glad. M3GAN is a beloved character here, at Blumhouse, and I know that 50 floors down in the subbasement of Blumhouse in the tech lab there are some gears turning on M3GAN 2, but I can't really say much more than that.