After Blumhouse Productions‘ WonderCon panel this weekend, members of the press got the chance to sit down with founder and CEO Jason Blum to have a more direct conversation about studio happenings and his views on the horror genre. From his favorite scary movie to reviving Blumhouse of Horrors to his love of the supernatural, the man behind your nightmares opens up on these topics and more.
Blumhouse Productions on one side of the coin has Dark Skies, The Bay, and this year’s The Lazarus Effect which stand on their own, and on the other side you have your Paranormal Activity movies, The Purge series, the Inisidious chapters, and this year Sinister receives a sequel. In the grand scheme of things Jason Blum enjoys both. But with that said, he’s very enthusiastic to see Unfriended turn into a franchise:
“I love to do both because you use different parts of your creative mind. If I could only make sequels that would be a bummer, but I hope we get to make a second Unfriended.”
Paranormal Activity, Sinister, Jessabelle, Ouija, Oculus, among others, most of Blumhouse’s filmography consist of supernatural horror rather than torture porn, slashers, or any other types of ghoulies in the horror genre. So why supernatural?
“I think it’s scarier generally. That’s what I’m always scared of. But I’m also scared of what happens when you die, is there anything after when you die, and is there something out there that we don’t understand? I think that, to me, is scarier than a person coming in. Also you can do more with it because no one knows. Like people we see true crime and all that stuff everyday, and you can be more inventive with supernatural.”
“I guess I’m also scared of a person coming into my house. That’s real,” he adds.
In a previous round table interview that same evening, we spoke earlier with writer/director Leigh Whannell on Insidious: Chapter 3 what his inspiration was for the film. To which Whannell replied, The Shining. Hearing that, Blum insists that it’s the scariest movie he’s ever seen.
“The Shining might be the scariest movie ever. I think about that movie all the time. I think his performance [Jack Nicholson] is so riveting that you can’t take your eyes off him, so you stop thinking about anything else, and that draws you into the movie in such an amazing way. I think scary movies work when you’re not thinking about them as a scary movie. When you stop thinking, ‘Am I liking this? Am I not liking this? Am I scared? Am I not scared? But you’re just in it, that’s when they’re so effecitve, and that movie you’re never out of.”
So how does Blumhouse Productions approach the horror genre with their micro-budget filmmaking?
“The movies we do [at Blumhouse]are low-tech, and I think that’s scary. The more expensive they get the more generic and kind of soft they become. The more produced and polished a horror movie is, for me, the less scary it is. To me the more scary stuff is more gritty, dark, and out of focus.”
When a reporter asked him what’s next to elevate the genre, show the world something different, jokingly he states:
“I mean, I got the computer movie!”
Earlier during the panel, a fan asked whether or not he would revive his Blumhouse of Horrors Haunted House experience. Admittedly, Jason explained that the company lost some money on that venture, but would be open to rekindling the idea if there was a way to break even. During the Q&A Jason continued his thoughts on the matter:
“I want to do a virtual reality haunted house. That would be cool, to do Blumhouse of Horrors Virtual Reality.”
There are a lot of techniques agencies use to market horror films these days. For instance, Warner Bros. advertised full scenes for both The Conjuring and Annabelle followed by a clip montage for their trailers. In the trailer for Unfriended, there is a pretty graphic scene that I was surprised was able to make the cut. So I asked the prolific producer where he stands on how genre movies should be sold to audiences.
“I think by selling the story more than the shock and the scare. When we’re working with the companies making the trailers of our movies I always push, ‘tell the story, tell the story, tell the story.’ And if we get people interested in the story as oppose to just showing scare after scare after scare we can pique their interest. Then when we get them in the theater that’s when we’ll scare you. It’s very hard to get scared from a trailer, I think.”
Does he believe it is harder to scare people now than ten years ago? No, but he believes that it’s harder to make a scary movie good.
“I don’t think horror has changed that much. There’s always been a lot of horror movies. A lot of them are not good. And that makes people cynical about the genre. So it’s very hard to make a good scary movie.”
Paranormal Activity, of course, started a whirlwind trend of found footage horror and expects that if Unfriended takes off we may see a rise in shared screen stories from other studios. Blum is definitely a trendsetter and garnered a lot of attention with his recently produced and Academy Award winning film Whiplash. Will he continue to go back to Oscar caliber filmmaking?
“We see a lot of material [at Blumhouse]and every so often someone that we know makes something that’s amazing, like Ryan Murphy’s who asked us to produce [The Normal Heart] after he saw The Town that Dreaded Sundown. We’re in a great position to get behind those things and do them. But I’m not interested in changing the focus of the company. I really am interested in continuing to do genre movies and if other ones come along every now and then, great, but I really want to stay focused on genre.”
And with that said, I was able to sneak in the final question to follow up on the Oscar conversation as to whether or not horror can generate another Academy Award winner like The Silence of the Lambs.
“I hope we don’t. That’s why I love horror movies because they’re outside of that system. The reason why I love horror is because we’re like second class citizens in Hollywood. I think that I like being the underdog.”
Unfriended hits theaters on April 17, 2015. Insidious: Chapter 3 arrives on June 5, 2015. And Jem and the Holograms will find its way to the big screen October 23, 2015.
You can find more coverage from WonderCon 2015 here.