Jeff Ritchie - Founder Scaryminds

Jeff Ritchie established way back in the dim dark ages of last century when dinosaurs and Michael Jackson roamed the earth. Describing himself as a horror fanatic Jeff has worked extensively in reviewing horror in both print and film, and helping to define just what it is about the genre that keeps us coming back for more. He has a number of short stories to his credit and is currently working on a definitive guide to the slasher sub genre to be published here at

We thought we might dust off an old interview he did for one of the U.S horror sites, add a few different questions, and see where he thinks this site should head.

Q - The original scaryminds site was very successful, what went wrong and why was the decision to abandon it taken?

A - A number of factors were involved. Basically our own technical inabilities spelt doom for the site as it was back then. We were using an early version of the Invision forum software and every time we upgraded for no apparent reason we would lose the member table from the database. It was getting frustrating for both ourselves and the members, one day we would have a thousand or so members the next we would have none. There was also a general feeling amongst staff that even though we covered a hell of a lot of independant productions end of day we were simply another U.S site clone. The final straw I guess was when we came to the attention of spammers and were spending most of our time fighting off that scum. People simply didn't have the time or juice to keep going so we shut up shop for a number of years.

Q - Is it truly viable to have a site that only covers Down Under horror?

A - Of course it is! We may not have the traditions that either the Americans or Brits can boast about but we have some pretty good novels, stories, and movies in the credit column. There's been an upsurge in the dark genre over the past few years, which has been built on the foundations laid by people working in the genre through the 1970s and 1980s, it's all pretty vibrant currently and there's no sign of things slowing down.

Q - Where did the name "Scary Minds" come from?

A - Way back when we were looking for a name that didn't include either "horror" or "dvd" in it, but which still conjured up the idea of what we were going to be covering, we started playing around with word combinations. Several people felt that using traditional horror terms might limit our future ability to cover areas that might not have been apparent at the time, the continued mixing of genres being a concern. We liked the word "scary" and then sort of added "minds" to reference the Writers and Directors working in the horror genre. There's some very scary minds out there, and god bless everyone of them.

Q - What are the major problems facing the horror movie genre Down Under?

A - Basically getting coin to make genre product. Not sure of the situation across the ditch but here in Oz Film Australia are throwing good money at poorly performing movies and ignoring the ones that make a profit. There's a constant financing of movies that simply wont attract an audience, with your movie maker aiming for the average punter missing out. You have to go in to this whole thing with at least a eye to getting some cash return, Film Australia appear to be working as a closed workshop with no idea of financial realities.

We have the talent we need the investment, and in order to get the big productions happening we may need something of a revolution or a cull of the head honchos squandering limited resources on crap like [i]Jindabyne[/i] and [i]MacBeth[/i] over at Film Australia. The Government isn't going to keep handing them money endlessly and the public quite frankly deserve more than the mid movie style of outing currently being financed.

Q - Down Under remakes are being made, a good or bad thing?

A - Well I'm only aware of Long Weekend getting remade but mate there are some worrying signs. I note the foreign press is rolling out the reviews on the remake but no one locally is. This points out to me that the remake is complete crap and the Producers are after some favourable soundbites from the studio larkies running sites overseas as sure as hell they aren't going to get them locally. No doubt we'll get the quote whores out in full force, both here and overseas, vying for a byline on the poster and DVD cover.

End of day remakes are a bad idea as they very seldomly match the original and take resources from the new visions.

Q - With the talent drain from both NZ and Oz to Hollywood is the local industry in trouble?

A - Nope no issues, new talent is coming out of the wood at an increasing rate. We have something like eight genre movies near release that are the work of new comers. It's looking pretty promising from where I sit.

Q - Is the Down Under horror print world in good shape? A - You know six months ago I would have said we were in terrible shape. Since then I've been out and about digging into various sources to see what's being published. We may not have the rivers of horror novels coming out that the yanks enjoy but there's a steady stream to keep us all entertained. The short story on the other hand is in great shape with a lot of excellent tales being produced seemingly on a weekly bases. I know I've got a hell of a lot of books to get through this year so put me in the happy camper category

The major problem as I see it is a fundamental lack of advertising on the part of Publishers and Distributors. Horror fans will not choice to pick up a local book if they are unaware it exists. Besides working as a sort of resource for horror in this part of the world, we are hoping to get some promotion happening both at home and abroad.

Q - We understand the other review sections but "Ring In" talk us through it? A - Well basically we will be covering New Zealand and Australian horror in depth, but we all thought we should have some where additional to cover foreign movies with a huge Down Under input. So if the movie is directed by an Aussie, or the writer is a Kiwi, or at least one major actor is from down here then we will highlight that movie and the fact that locals are kicking goals OS. We will indicate why an OS movie is being covered in the movie's review, so don't worry we're not trying to pull the wool over anyone's eyes here.

Q - Is there a horror tradition Downunder? A - I would love to claim there is one but in reality there really isn't. We never had the whole black and white era thing happening or studios like Hammer or Amicus dedicated to the genre. Besides the odd shot in anger previous to the 1970s the horror genre never really got going till that decade which saw an explosion in the genre Down Under. We haven't looked back but still don't really have a tradition as such. Currently we are compiling timelines for both Australian and Kiwi horror movies, so guess that will give you a clearer picture of the genre in this part of the world.

Q - Horror is having a great year, yet in Australia a lot of releases from the U.S and Britian aren't showing in our cinemas, why? A - Generally horror of any description is a hard sell Down Under, Distributors will play it safe and go with rom-coms and the like over taking a risk. For the most part foreign horror is held out of our cinemas till well after release in North America, and if a horror flick tanks in that market it gets pulled from our release schedule. The Ruins for example from last year. The Aussie market is pretty much sans risk hence the safe option leading to some pretty bland genre product being shown. I believe the kiwis are getting the better deal at the moment, but I do note a few surprised releases penciled in this year for Aussie consumption.

Q - Thoughts on Australia's first horror conference being held down in Melbourne? A - Initially I thought why Melbourne, but then figured why the hell not. No interest on my part as it looks pretty much like it is following the pattern of U.S conventions without any decent local input. Why the heck I would want to pay $30 dollars for Robert Englund's autograph is beyond me, though I suppose the teen sites will be all excited and have various tossers photographed with yank actors. So yeah end of day just not that interested.

Q - How many horror movies would you watch in a typical week? A - Probably around the six mark, I work long hours and have a family and house to look after so limited time. Generally I try and catch a Down Under flick at least once a week and a few from OS to see what other nations are currently up to.

Q - How many horror books would you read in a week? A - For me a horror novel or short story collection is a contract between the Author and the Reader. I try to dial into a new book each week but am not happy if the Author lets me down with a seriously flawed work. It can really get me through a tough week if I'm reading that great book however.

Q - Finally will we be seeing any Jeff Ritchie short stories at Scaryminds? A - Seriously I would be hard press to find any of the old ones I wrote when I decided Australia really did need it's very own Stephen King. I've pretty much put away the pen on the fiction writing as I was never terribly good at it, and there's a lot better Authors available to read. So no there wont be any short stories from me, either old or new. Though I do have this idea for a zombie story that I think is pretty unique, maybe I can hand pass it to someone to mull over and do something with.

Scaryminds would like to thank Outlander for use of the original review materials and Jeff for topping up with the new answers. Our interviewee declined to nominate additional sites he is involved in as he writes extensively for Scaryminds and considers this place home.