Jason Blum is one of the most successful producers in the horror business.
His list of credits ranges from “The Purge” to “Insidious” to last year’s Oscar-winning “Get Out.” But there’s one recent horror smash that doesn’t carry Blum’s imprimatur, and it’s a film that the producer admits he never could have made.
“I could not have pulled it off,” admitted Blum during a recent interview with Variety. “I would have loved to produce the movie, but I don’t think we would have done it as well as they did it, because it’s a totally different space that we operate in. It’s a big movie.”
The film was instead produced by Platinum Dunes, “Transformers” director Michael Bay’s shingle, and had a more robust price tag than Blum’s micro-budget offerings. Blumhouse films that aren’t part of a pre-existing franchise have budgets under $5 million. The costs do climb in each subsequent installment, sometimes reaching $10 million or above for sequels. Part of that belt-tightening is attributable to a financial model in which actors and directors take a lower upfront fee in exchange for a percentage of the profits. It’s also because there aren’t a lot of special effects. Much of the budget on “A Quiet Place” was spent crafting its terrifying and tentacled creatures.
“The effects in that movie were spectacular,” said Blum. “Effects in horror movies are almost impossible to do well and that’s why you rarely see them in our movies.”
He noted that “A Quiet Place” was confident enough in its creature creations that it showed them extensively.
“You get a good look at the monster, which is usually a real no-no in horror,” said Blum. “It’s a no-no, because every time you get a look at it, it’s often much less scary than what you could have imagined. That’s not true in this movie, and that’s to their credit.”
Instead, Blum is gearing up for “The First Purge,” a prequel that will explain the series’ central premise — a portrait of a dystopian society that suspends laws for one day every year. The film hits theaters on July 4, and Blum says it will deal with racial tensions in America. All of the films in the series have a political slant, he argues. For instance, 2013’s “The Purge” was primarily a parable about gun control, while 2016’s “The Purge: Election Year” grappled with class warfare, something that was eerily prescient when Donald Trump captured the White House a few months later on a populist message.
“Horror does incredible things,” said Blum. “It reaches an audience in which politics may not be front of mind and it makes politics front of mind. ‘The Purge’ reaches an audience that isn’t thinking of gun control every day and might start thinking of gun control.”
Nor is the grim future it imagines different from our current, politically divided present, Blum argues.
“If every time there’s a shooting in the United States, the government’s answer is put more guns in people’s hands then what ‘The Purge’ is showing doesn’t seem all that crazy,” he said. “Donald Trump keeps saying ‘give teachers guns.’ I could see him saying, ‘let people shoot whoever they want to for 12 hours a year.'”
Blum’s dance card is full. This summer sees the release of HBO’s “Sharp Objects,” a twisty thriller he produced, and he’s also prepping for a reboot of “Halloween” with Jamie Lee Curtis returning to the role of Laurie Strode. That’s due out in October, just in time for the titular holiday. Also on deck are the Hulu series “Into the Dark,” a sequel to “Happy Death Day,” and “Glass,” a mashup of “Split” and “Unbreakable.”
And even the snootier set is taking notice. “Get Out” represented a rare brush with legitimacy for the horror genre. The film earned critical raves and picked up four Oscar nods, including a best picture nomination, something that’s nearly unheard of for a scary movie. “Get Out” was written and directed by Jordan Peele and hit a nerve with its portrait of race and socioeconomics, a critique it delivered while also being extremely scary. It’s a tough act to follow, but Blum isn’t ruling out a “Get Out 2.”
“If Jordan wants to do a sequel, I’ll do it in a second, but it has to come from Jordan Peele,” said Blum. “I think he’s flirting with the idea.”