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How John Carpenter Was Lured to TV for Peacock's Suburban Screams

Sandy King Carpenter reveals how Peacock's John Carpenter's Suburban Screams tells real stories of every day horror. 

By Tara Bennett

Don't mention "retirement" to Sandy King Carpenter and John Carpenter, because they don't believe in it. "We're storytellers," King Carpenter told SYFY WIRE definitively in a recent Zoom. "Really in our business, you just drop dead. You don't retire."

The duo have been making stories together for 40 years, going back to their first collaboration, Starman (1984), and they've never stopped, including their new Peacock show, John Carpenter's Suburban Screams, which debuts October 13. Whether it's working together on films, or growing their own horror imprint, Storm King Comics (which turns 10 this year), the Carpenters are always working on something, even when the pandemic made that more of a challenge.

"Between COVID and the strikes, you just wind up doing your other creative things," she said of how they've pivoted the last few years. "We have the comics. We have the music. Whatever it is, we're creative people. Like, the comics went from being an interesting thing to start, to over 100 comics. And that to me is just a really fun outlet."

RELATED: John Carpenter Returns with Chilling Trailer for Peacock Series Suburban Screams

In that time, John has only gotten more prolific as a composer, working with his son Cody Carpenter and his godson Daniel Davies. "John has always done music, but he's now scoring other people's movies," she said. "He's scoring for gaming, and doing all that stuff. So, I can't think of a good reason to stop."

John Carpenter's Suburban Screams, their latest collab, will be their first anthology streaming series. The standalone episodes cover real-life tales of terror, from extreme stalking cases to regional urban legends, which are told with a mix of interviews featuring those directly affected and dramatic recreations of their stories. 

Executive Producer Sandy King Carpenter Talks Making John Carpenter's Suburban Screams

A film crew follows an actor wearing a "bunny ear" mask through a tunnel in John Carpenter's Suburban Screams 104.wres

King Carpenter said the series idea was brought to them and they were immediately taken with the idea of focusing on the survivors left behind after a life-altering event impacts their lives. "When we found the hook — which is, you're never the same after either watching, experiencing, or being the victim — how does that affect you forever?" she explained. "That to us was more interesting than just true crime or murder. That act is given too much weight."

RELATED: 7 Things You Might Not Know About John Carpenter's The Thing

With an overabundance of chilling, real-stories to choose from, King Carpenter said for Season 1, they purposefully curated ones that had compelling on-camera stories to tell and that were grounded. "There was a lot of excitement at the network, with the showrunner, and with the production company over what they wanted, but we said no to a whole lot of them," she admitted. "We didn't want a bunch of supernatural [stories] and that kind of stuff. We said, 'Okay, then, let's keep this as real as possible.'"

Sandy King Carpenter on a Possible Season 2 of John Carpenter's Suburban Screams

A frightened man holds a small knife as a scared woman follows closely behind in John Carpenter's Suburban Screams 106

As with any network project, King Carpenter admits that there were a lot of voices who had some say over Season 1. But she said they learned a lot about the process that will help them determine directions to pursue in the future. "It would be nice if we get a second shot at it, to be in on the very first round of story selection to find the stories that we've actually encountered when people come up and tell us their stories."

For example, she brought up working on the set of John Carpenter's Vampires in 1997 and hearing a story that stayed with her. "I was sitting up all night, out in the desert with a sheriff while Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith) was crawling across the top of a train," she remembered. "The sheriff was telling me that the week before, a guy had shot his son because he was a demon. Those are the kinds of things that I remember actually happening, and so I'm thinking, 'I wonder if we could do that story some time?'"

Sandy Carpenter and a crew member look at a monitor behind the scenes of John Carpenter's Suburban Screams 106

Of course, a big part of what makes John Carpenter's Suburban Screams so compelling is the authenticity of the primary interviews. Those who lived these stories are still obviously moved by what happened to them, which King Carpenter said has to be part of any future seasons too.

Asked if it was easy to find people who were so moving on camera, she offered, "You know, I read a real interesting thing the other day about the point in which belief becomes fact," she said. "I think that you have to really be careful when you're interviewing these people to try and get to the kernel of truth because they are so emotionally affected. These were pretty long interviews that we went through to try and be as factual as possible. But there's no denying what their emotional truths were."

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All six episodes of John Carpenter's Suburban Screams drop, appropriately enough, tomorrow, Friday the 13th of October. King Carpenter hopes audiences respond so they can make more. "I think that it would be really fun to see how deep we can go and how many weird things really happen," she said of a potential Season 2. 

Check back tomorrow for Part II of Sandy King Carpenter's interview where she gets specific about how John Carpenter remote-directed the episode "Beth" while she field produced, and some stories about the episode, "Bunny Man."

John Carpenter's Suburban Screams arrives October 13 on Peacock. In the meantime, some of his other great work can be seen on the streamer, including The ThingThey Live, and Prince of Darkness.