Pro­ducer Ja­son Blum — the king of low-bud­get hor­ror — on his great­est hits

Empire (Australasia) - - CONTENTS - WORDS CHRIS HE­WITT

The low-bud­get hor­ror su­per-pro­ducer talks us through his great­est hits.

BLUMHOUSE PRO­DUC­TIONS, run by the in­de­fati­ga­ble Ja­son Blum, has be­come one of the big­gest suc­cess sto­ries in Hol­ly­wood by stick­ing to one sim­ple rule: mak­ing a suc­ces­sion of hor­ror movies with the em­pha­sis on low bud­gets and big prof­its. We asked Blum to talk us through its stand­outs. PARA­NOR­MAL AC­TIV­ITY

__ (2007) Oren Peli’s mi­cro-bud­get (it cost just $15,000), su­per­nat­u­ral home-in­va­sion story was look­ing for a dis­trib­u­tor when Blum first saw it. “I didn’t think it was the great­est movie ever made, but I def­i­nitely thought it was ef­fec­tive.” Blum hooked up with Peli and screened the film at his house mul­ti­ple times be­fore he sold it to Para­mount. “It took three years,” he laughs.

“It was a wild ride.” But one that led to five se­quels and a to­tal gross of $887 mil­lion, be­fore bow­ing out with Para­nor­mal Ac­tiv­ity: The Ghost Di­men­sion in 2015. Was Blum quit­ting while he was ahead? “That’s gen­er­ous,” he laughs.

“We might have quit one ear­lier!” IN­SID­I­OUS

__ (2010)

Still thrum­ming from the suc­cess of Para­nor­mal Ac­tiv­ity, Blum re­calls get­ting a pitch in his “lit­tle of­fice” from the guys who had made Saw, di­rec­tor James Wan and screen­writer Leigh Whan­nell. Their idea: a haunted-house movie that goes full-on berserk by the end. “James said the third act was go­ing to be very David Lynch, which scared a lot of peo­ple,” re­calls Blum. “Most

ex­ec­u­tives don’t like scary movies. Hap­pily, I love them.” Blum said yes to Wan, as long as he could make it for $1 mil­lion. He did. And so far the se­ries — three and count­ing, with Whan­nell now di­rect­ing — has made over $350 mil­lion world­wide. SIN­IS­TER

__ (2012)

Blum went to col­lege with Ethan Hawke, so when he was look­ing for a name to an­chor Scott Der­rick­son’s de­monic thriller, he knew just the guy to call. “Ethan doesn’t like hor­ror movies!” laughs Blum. “One of the rea­sons he didn’t want to do one was that he thought act­ing in a hor­ror movie would be scary. But he loved this idea that it was about a guy choos­ing his ca­reer over his fam­ily, and that we could use genre as a way to de­liver drama.” THE PURGE

__ (2013)

Hawke en­joyed his first dal­liance with the hor­ror genre so much, he im­me­di­ately signed

on to star in dystopian home-in­va­sion movie The Purge. And, with Blumhouse aim­ing to bring all orig­i­nal movies in for $5 mil­lion, Hawke agreed to help keep costs down in an un­ortho­dox fash­ion. “He stayed on our sofa,” laughs Blum. “He ac­tu­ally did.” Blum is proud of the suc­cess of his for­mula, with big-name ac­tors work­ing for scale in the hope of big per­cent­ages com­ing their way fur­ther down the line. “We’ve paid out a lot of money to peo­ple,” ad­mits the pro­ducer. “I put the cheque in the mail and film my­self putting it through the post of­fice.” WHIPLASH

__ (2014)

At first glance, Damien Chazelle’s drama about the bat­tle between a young jazz drum­mer and his tyran­ni­cal teacher is the out­lier in the pro­ducer’s re­cent out­put. Not just be­cause it won three Os­cars, but it’s not a scary movie. Blum dis­agrees. “It’s a Sun­dance ver­sion of

a hor­ror movie,” he says. “Es­pe­cially in terms of its themes and tone.” Blum also pro­duced the orig­i­nal short that was a proof of con­cept for the movie, which cost around $3 mil­lion to make, but then strug­gled to sell the full-length fea­ture. “We did a pretty crummy deal with

Sony Clas­sics, but it’s a great re­minder: keep your head down and do your thing. If you lis­ten to the noise, you won’t do any­thing.” THE GIFT

__ (2015)

An­other Blumhouse maxim: the di­rec­tor is in con­trol. And that ex­tends to first-time di­rec­tors and ac­tors-turned-di­rec­tors. In the case of Joel Edger­ton, he was both when he pitched the dark psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller (ini­tially called Weirdo) that is now recog­nised as one of Blumhouse’s very best. “I feel a movie ei­ther works or doesn’t work be­cause of per­for­mance,” says Blum. “Who bet­ter to deal with that than ac­tors? I’ll hope­fully do an­other movie with Joel.”


__ (2016) When it comes to se­quels, Blum loosens the purse strings a bit. “If you have a movie that works, the risk goes down ex­po­nen­tially,” he ex­plains. “The Purge: Elec­tion Year was

$10 mil­lion. That’s still in­cred­i­bly cheap by Hol­ly­wood stan­dards, but by Blumhouse stan­dards it wasn’t.” The Purge se­ries bloomed — or Blumed — from that first house-bound hor­ror, with writer-di­rec­tor James De­monaco in­tro­duc­ing more char­ac­ters, big­ger ac­tion, and a po­lit­i­cal streak a mile wide. Re­leas­ing a movie about a dystopian Amer­ica in 2016, and call­ing it Elec­tion Year, takes some co­jones. “We were very cog­nisant that it was an elec­tion year, and we wanted to make the third one more po­lit­i­cal for sure,” says Blum. “I think James has a crys­tal ball. He saw into the fu­ture.”


Clock­wise from main: The Purge: Elec­tion Year; Whiplash; In­sid­i­ous; Sin­is­ter. Inset: Ja­son Blum.

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