As our mothers told us, first impressions are lasting impressions. When Universal opened “Get Out” on Feb. 24, it was marketed as a horror movie. Now that the film is available for streaming, on HBO and on awards screeners (sent out Nov. 6), some industry folk are making a startling discovery: “Get Out” is NOT a horror movie.
That was a good marketing hook, but the film, written and directed by Jordan Peele, is too original to pigeonhole: It’s a little Alfred Hitchcock, a little Mike Nichols, a little Rod Serling, but not really like any of them. It’s a deadpan social satire mixed with suspense. This week, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. agreed to consider it as a comedy for the Golden Globes; that was a good choice, because they don’t have a Too Complex To Label category.
The film was made by Blumhouse Prods. and Jason Blum says his company has two criteria: “Is it a good story, and does it feel new? If there’s nothing to compare it to, then we pursue it. That’s what happened with ‘Get Out.’”
Blum laughs, “The tone of the script was impossible, and the central notion is outlandish. There were one thousand ways this could go wrong and one way it could go right. The fun is taking that chance. The reason the movie works is because Jordan got the tone right.”
Blum began producing with “Kicking and Screaming” in 1995. He started Blumhouse Prods. in 2002 and the company hit the big time with the success of the micro-budgeted “Paranormal Activity” in 2009. In the years since, the company has made 80-plus films, including such scary franchises as “The Purge,” “Insidious” and “Sinister.”
Because of these, Blumhouse is often considered the house of horrors — first impressions, at work again!
However, the company has also produced HBO’s “The Normal Heart,” the docu miniseries “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” Oscar best-pic nominee “Whiplash” and a Peabody-winning docu about autistic teens, “How to Dance in Ohio.”
Upcoming projects include adaptations of “The Loudest Voice in the Room,” Gabriel Sherman’s bio of Roger Ailes; and John Edward Williams’ 1965 novel “Stoner,” which Blum grins is “an impossible movie to do.” Joe Wright will direct the latter.
Blum is not slumming in genre films to fund his passion projects. They are ALL his passion projects. He simply appreciates talent.
“I grew up in a world of art,” he says. His mother is a retired art-history professor and his father is an art dealer. From 1958-67, Irving Blum ran the influential Ferus gallery in Los Angeles; he championed Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, among others, at a time when their pop-art works were a laughingstock.
Similarly, Jason Blum appreciates the beauty and artistry in projects that other people dismiss. “I bristle at the notion of high art versus low art,” he says with a smile.
“Growing up, it was very normal to spend time with artists. That’s one of the reasons I like what I do. I wouldn’t have Blumhouse if it weren’t for my upbringing.”
Blum freely admits that horror has gotten a bad rap because there is so much schlock out there. “People look at genre movies as joke and not real art. Some of our movies are better than others. But I’m very invested in everything I do. I don’t want to make something unless I’m in love with it.”
And if there’s something extra, all the better. “It makes things more exciting if there’s a message underneath.” Though the company’s films seem unconnected, Blum says there’s a common theme: Injustice, which certainly applies to “Get Out.”
Meanwhile, Blum is proud to keep audiences going to movies at a time when “serious” artists are migrating to TV. “One of our goals at Blumhouse is to keep the moviegoing experience vibrant,” he says.
Interestingly, at a time when “serious” films are having a hard time at the box-office, horror is a key element of keeping the industry vibrant, with such hits as “It,” “Get Out” and Blumhouse’s “Split.” And, in terms of profitability, these titles are even more impressive than the top-grossing CGI extravaganzas. Many in Hollywood proclaim that they don’t like the horror genre, but if they DO like a film (“Psycho,” “Jaws,” “The Silence of the Lambs”), they label it as suspense or thriller, rather than “horror.”
It took a long time for the public to appreciate Warhol and Lichtenstein. Similarly, future audiences will appreciate the fact that “Get Out” addresses issues of 2017 more directly than most “serious” films.
But why wait? Watch it this week, and you’ll realize that first impressions are sometimes wrong, which Mom forgot to tell us.