How 'Halloween' and 'Get Out' Producer Jason Blum Helped Bring Horror Back to the Big Screen
Been enjoying the recent resurgence in big-screen scary movies? You have this guy to thank.
It's a great time to be a horror film fan. Get Out won an Oscar earlier this year, scary franchises — such as Insidious, The Purge and Unfriended — keep piling up the sequels and movies like Truth or Dare and Upgrade hit the big screen almost every month. And, of course, this October has seen iconic slasher franchise Halloween return with its 11th instalment — and it's a welcome return to form.
That's because the film's producer, Jason Blum, is experienced in this kind of stuff — in fact, he's the person to thank for the current big-screen scary movie revival. Since he worked on 2007's surprise found-footage hit Paranormal Activity, Blum's name has been attached to many of the genre's big hits, including everything that we've just mentioned. The Joel Edgerton-directed thriller The Gift is also on his resume, and not-so obvious efforts like TV series The Jinx, Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman and Whiplash (which, Blum jokes is the "Sundance version of a horror movie").
During a recent trip to Australia to promote Halloween's release, we chatted to the prolific producer about different types of horror, helping to bring the genre back to prominence and restoring the Halloween series to its former glory — and what he'd like to revive next as well.
BRINGING BACK HALLOWEEN 40 YEARS AFTER THE ORIGINAL
"The first movie was one of the great horror movies of all time, and there've been nine sequels — some better than others, none too great. We make movies in a very specific way at Blumhouse, and I wanted to see if our system would work on this intellectual property that's been around for so long, and produced one spectacular movie and nine less spectacular movies. I wanted to see if we could make something great, so that was kind of a challenge that I was excited about.
And in terms of now, I think because the first movie was so good, there's just been a desire from fans to try to see another Halloween that is as good as that one. I don't think ours is better than the first movie — I think no one's going to beat John [Carpenter, the writer and director of 1978's Halloween]. But I think ours is definitely second, and that's obviously very satisfying to me."
AND BRINGING BACK JOHN CARPENTER AND JAMIE LEE CURTIS
"I didn't want to do the movie unless John would agree to executive produce it. That was the only requirement for me — that I wasn't going to go forward unless John agreed to do the movie. I really don't believe that you can make successful sequels to movies without the person who made the success in the first place involved. And I went to John, and we had a meeting, and I got him to say yes — he initially said no, for quite a while, but I'm very convincing and persuasive so I twisted his arm and got him to agree.
When he came on board, we hired David [Gordon Green, Halloween 2018's director and co-writer] and Danny [McBride, Halloween 2018's co-writer]. And they came up with the idea for what the movie is, which is this continuation of the story from 40 years ago. Then David met with Jamie Lee Curtis, and Jamie also was kind of reticent to join us. But I think it was the combination of John being back, and of her really responding to David's take on the movie, and that her godson in Jake Gyllenhaal — and Jake had just done Stronger, which David had directed, and Jake gave it very very high marks. It was all those things that got Jamie involved in the movie."
FINDING THE RIGHT APPROACH TO MAKING THE 11TH FILM IN THE FRANCHISE
"The storytelling is a continuation to the first movie, but there's a lot of nods in the movie to the other nine movies. I think the trick with making a sequel is making it feel original and entertaining to fans who've never seen a Halloween movie before, but also having it share enough DNA with the first movie so there's a reason to call it Halloween, and so that fans who've seen all other ten movies are also satisfied.
The way that we approached that was to get John and Jamie involved — Jamie not just as an actress, but as an executive producer. So getting them involved as creative sources in the mix — and then add the new generation, which is David and Danny, who are very super talented guys in their own right but have never done a Halloween movie before. I really thought that by mixing those four creative forces together, you really get the best of both worlds. And I really think that they achieved it, so I'm very proud of that."
WHERE BLUM FINDS HIS SCARES
"I like to define the work that Blumhouse Productions does through the lens of what scares us. Clearly, mostly that's horror movies, but that isn't all that scares us. There's nothing scarier, certainly to me, than the Klu Klux Klan, and that's what BlacKkKlansman is about. Sharp Objects is not horror, but it's a clearly super dark-themed subject matter about a psychotic, overbearing mother.
And even Whiplash — to me, these movies squarely fit under the umbrella of what scares us. That's what I look for — first and foremost, things that are great, but I like them to fit under the moniker of what's scary to us, and what's scary to me."
HIS PART IN RESTORING HORROR TO GREATER MAINSTREAM PROMINENCE
"I think our approach to the way that we make these movies has resulted in horror being more in vogue. I think there are directors who would have never done horror movies, who are now looking at horror as a way to reach young people through movies in a movie theatre — and to get what they want to say out to younger audience.
But I think the thing that did the most for it was kind of the Academy's recognition of Get Out. That changed people's idea of what horror can be currently. Horror goes in and out of fashion, and has since the beginning of cinema, but I think right now it's getting more and more in fashion — and if I think there's one biggest reason, I would say it is because of Get Out."
"I think we kind of have a unique way that we approach filmmaking, and I think it pays off. I think that cynical people approach horror movies by reverse engineering — they think about what should the scares be, and then figure out the story after that. We do it the opposite way. I really impress upon the executives at the company and the filmmakers we work with to be storytellers first and scary movie makers second, and I think as a result of that the movies are much more scary."
SO, DOES HE HAVE PLANS TO RESURRECT OTHER HORROR ICONS?
"I'd love to resurrect Friday the 13th. I have a pretty specific idea about it, but I haven't tried yet. I'm waiting for Halloween to come out, but after Halloween comes out I'm going to talk to the rights holders of Friday the 13th and see if I can talk them into it."
Halloween is in cinemas now. Read our full review here.
Top image: Alex J. Berliner, ABImages.
Published on October 31, 2018 by Sarah Ward