Festival Programming Director and Podcaster Karis Turk Interview [Women in Horror Month 2024]

Festival Programming Director and Podcaster Karis Turk:

To start, please introduce yourself:
Hi boils and ghouls! My name is Karis Turk, and I’m one of two Programming Directors for the Eerie Horror Fest located in Erie, Pennsylvania. I’m also the co-host of a horror film podcast with two of my closest friends called Shaggy’s House of Horrors.  

That all sounds very professional though – who I actually am is a vaguely functional meatsuit with a serious passion for the horror genre.

What is horror to you, what makes a work of art one in the horror genre?  
By definition, horror is an intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust. When I talk to people about the genre (that aren’t already deeply entrenched), I sometimes forget just how narrowly it’s still viewed in comparison to that definition. Someone says horror and society thinks of Freddy, or Jason or a final girl running in fear.  

Horror is so much more than that to me! It’s the chill that you get when something feels slightly off in a room you walked into. The book you read when you were a teenager that burned itself into your brain. A film that upsets you in a way you didn’t know you could be upset. To be a work of horror, I only think that a piece of art has to unsettle us in some way, even if just for a moment.  

What made you want to work in horror?  
I’ve been absolutely obsessed with horror for as long as I can remember. One of the most vivid memories I have from childhood is peaking around the corner of our living room, seeing a scene from the IT mini-series and the absolute terror I felt. I’ve been chasing that exact same rush ever since.  

When I was close to finishing high school, new neighbors moved in that changed the entire trajectory of my engagement with horror. They had horror movie stickers on their car, and my wonderful mother (who is NOT a horror fan) thought that we might get along. Suffice to say that we certainly did, and they are the reason I originally got involved in the Eerie Horror Fest as a volunteer. It’s absolutely surreal that 18 years later, I’m now a programming director for that same festival and I get to help curate horror for others to enjoy. I don’t think there’s a lot of ways in the world that we can connect with the things that scare us, or things that are taboo, and explore those feelings in a safe way. Horror is one of the best that I’ve found.  

I choose to keep working on horror projects because I genuinely believe that it’s a genre that everyone, at every age and stage of their life, can connect to in some way. I’ve also met some of the best friends in my life because of my love of the genre. Not everyone gets that chance to share the things that they’re passionate about, and I am thankful every day. If I convince so much as one person that horror as a genre is worth engaging with that may not have before, then I’ve succeeded.  

And at the end of the day, I continue to want to work in horror for the horror obsessed goth teenage me who could have never imagined getting to do the things I’m doing right now.  

Where do you get your inspiration?  
Well that’s a question. I wish I had an answer that I thought was better, but the truth of the matter is that I get my inspiration from the people that I surround myself with. The team that I’m on from the horror fest who give their everything to show others the most fun, interesting and worthwhile works that the genre has to give. My best friend who was never into horror and now can do horror trivia with me. My podcast co hosts who care enough to hear what I have to say about horror to listen to me ramble on every week. ALL of these people are such an incredible inspiration to me and I couldn’t do what I’m doing without them.  

I would be remiss if I didn’t also say that I’m inspired by my small human. I’ve got an 8-year-old daughter who shows me everyday just how much ass a girl can kick, and I try to show her right back.  

Otherwise, I’m simply inspired by everyone that came before me, in every aspect of the genre. I have my favorite directors, my favorite movies, writers, so on and so forth. But ultimately, it’s the existence of the genre itself that I’m inspired by.  

What would you like your legacy to be in the genre (or elsewhere)?  
The template that I’m helping create for what a horror community can look like in a smaller town is what I hope endures. When I was younger, I was convinced that the only way I would ever get to write about, talk about, or program these types of movies was if I moved away. It never occurred to me that I could create the space that I wanted the whole time, and if I pass that along, then I’ve done something right. There are incredible, creative pieces of horror art coming from every corner of the world and the most exciting thing I can ever do is be an avenue for people to discover those.  

What is Women in Horror Month to you and why is it still important this many years later?
Women in Horror Month to me is an opportunity to scream from the rooftops WE ARE HERE! I was a weird horror girl growing up (some things never change), and there were no other weird horror girls. I thought I was so out-of-place, because horror felt like such a male-dominated space. Over the years, I’ve found so many other women that love horror just like I do, both locally as friends, and more broadly through engaging with their art. Women In Horror Month is important because somewhere out there, there’s another horror girl that deserves to know so much sooner than I did that she’s not alone, and that it’s valid to love the spooky, goopy, gory, scary things that she does.  

Who are some of the Women in Horror who you look up to and who do you want to bring attention to in your field or others?
Foremost on this list are the other women that power the Eerie Horror Fest. From our Festival Director Margaret Dieudonne to my co-director of programming Aimee Thomas and on, I am surrounded by incredible people absolutely busting their asses every day to show our community how amazing horror is and they deserve as much recognition as I do in this endeavor.  

As far as other women in the horror industry, I have massive respect for Kier-La Janisse, Andrea Subissati, Robin R. Means Coleman, and Alexandra West. The Faculty of Horror podcast, Horror Noire, Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched, House of Psychotic Women and so many more are texts that have taught me how to appreciate the genre more deeply every day. Each of these is written by a female writer that is analyzing horror and the themes within, and constantly reminding me how expansive and inclusive the genre really can be.  

Finally, the incredible film journalist that asked me to do this interview. I went to school for journalism, and I think sometimes that people forget just how important it is, even in a place like the film industry. Sharing thoughts, reviews, opinions, and analysis leads to a broader appreciation of every type of horror and that happens through media writers like her.  

What are you currently working on that you can tell us about?
Does being a mom count? It is scary sometimes…Joking aside, all of my creative energy is going to the Eerie Horror Fest, and to Shaggy’s House of Horrors.  

Shaggy’s House of Horrors is the newest project I’m part of. Back in 2022 I joked that I got thrown to the wolves to do some interviews for the horror fest since I’m well-versed in both the festival and horror itself. One of those interviews was with Shaggy’s House of Horrors, a genre podcast created and hosted by local DJ Michael Ligget. Little did I know that I was going to meet one of my best friends for the first time that day. Now, a little under two years later, I am a permanent co-host on that same podcast, along with another of our closest female friends, Chelsea Corby. It is ostensibly a horror film review podcast, but we also discuss source material, analysis and any other interesting information on horror that we stumble across. You can find us on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, ect and on Facebook at Shaggy’s House of Horrors, where we post our new episodes and extra content.  

The Eerie Horror Fest is a multi-day festival that happens at the historic Warner Theater in Erie, PA each year. It is also my baby, as I’ve been involved with it in one way or another since 2007. We accept submissions from around the world, as well as do special screenings and organize industry events. More broadly we’re part of the Film Society of Northwestern PA, whose mission is to help the film industry thrive locally. This event is powered by super passionate and amazing volunteers and the more recognition it receives, the better. You can find us at Eerie Horror Fest on all the normal socials and I hope that you do!