Amazon’s ‘Welcome to Blumhouse’ Production Crews on How They Built Tension in Eight Thrillers

Sarita Choudhury Evil Eye Welcome to Blumhouse
Courtesy of Alfonso Bresciani/Amazon Studios

Welcome to Blumhouse” is an anthology of eight horror thrillers executive produced by Jason Blum; each tells a different story, with different casts and crews. The first two films, “Black Box” and “The Lie,” bowed on Amazon Prime on Oct. 6, with the next two, “Nocturne” and “Evil Eye,” dropping Oct. 13. The final four movies will debut next year.

Below, members of the crews break down how they built the tension that drives the action.

Hilda Mercado, cinematographer, “Black Box”

Summary: A man undergoes a painful experimental treatment to try to regain his memory after a car accident in which his wife died.

“‘Black Box’ called for a lot of practical effects, especially when it came to [space] transitions. It’s a psychological movie — one that doesn’t take the audience for granted. When our character, Nolan [Mamoudou Athie], was with his daughter [Ava, played by Amanda Christine], we wanted to be intimate with the camera, so we used a handheld and kept the camera static where needed. For other moments, especially when we were trying to show fear, we’d follow the character and shoot around in 360. 

The black box is a headset, a virtual pathway to Nolan’s memories, but that’s his safe space, so the changes there are subtle; we used a wider lens but kept closer to him. However, the camera movement is shaky. When he’s in the box, we show his memories. We moved left if he moved right, and vice versa. It was a subtle transition, but it tells the audience something is off about what he remembers. 

Philip Fowler, editor, “The Lie”

Summary: A father and a daughter spot the girl’s best friend on the side of the road and offer her a ride. When the friend doesn’t return after a rest stop, the family is thrown into chaos.

“When you’re watching people do terrible things, you still need the audience to feel their humanity and to understand why they’re doing them. With Kayla [Joey King], it was understanding where she’s coming from, because a lot of her actions could be perceived as psychotic or abnormal behavior. 

What we realized in the editing process was that we needed to ground the family story with a vision of what things looked like when they were a cohesive unit, before the trauma. The home video section that opens the film wasn’t scripted and hadn’t been shot; it came together in the editing room. We used home videos from each of the actors individually, and the challenge was to cut them together with the use of voiceover and to make it seem like all three characters [Kayla; her father, played by Peter Sarsgaard; and her mother, played by Mireille Enos] are in the same place. It was fun to manipulate footage and completely repurpose it.”

Carmen Cabana, cinematographer, “Nocturne”

Summary: A pianist studying at a classical music institute sells her soul to be more gifted than her sister.

“With ‘Nocturne,’ everything was very composed and set to represent the oppressive nature of the school and make it feel like a prison. Through the sporadic use of color, I wanted to highlight Juliet’s [Sydney Sweeney] moments of deliberation and the things that represent her passion. That contrasted with the pale life she was living. 

The party scene was challenging. We shot it outside, and it was this black hole at nighttime because there was no natural light source. When Juliet runs into the cave, there was nowhere to put the lighting, so you have to think outside the box. We had her run with a flashlight, with a crew member running with a light card ahead of her [so that the light bounced off and lit her]. That’s a trick that I read years ago, when Darius Khondji was working on ‘Seven,’ and he used that technique for a scene.” 

Ronit Kirchman, composer, “Evil Eye”

Summary: A superstitious mother is convinced her daughter’s new boyfriend isn’t who he claims to be.

“One of the overriding goals, when we started to spot the film, was to make sure that the mother-daughter drama was deeply felt, without giving too much away. We wanted to calibrate the sense of tension and unease from the beginning. 

The aim was to create a contemporary thriller score characterized by dramatic themes that embody the different worlds of different generations. The daughter’s world was a lighter vocabulary with guitars. There was a little bit of an Indian music influence peeking through. But as the mother’s experience becomes more central to the storytelling, those Indian music influences become richer and come to the fore. There’s a host of Indian instrumentation for the sound palette. The flutes took on a role akin to a voice.”