Blumhouse. The name has become synonymous with horror over the last decade. From macro-budget success stories to projects that make other production houses tremble, Blumhouse has proven itself repeatedly, with hits that include the Insidious, Sinister, and The Purge franchises. What makes the company thrive is the tenacity and foresight from CEO and owner Jason Blum. While the company was founded in 2000, its fortunes changed forever with a tiny film that was made for $15,000 and turned a profit of over $190 million.
That film was Paranormal Activity (released in 2009), and Blumhouse has been making waves in the industry ever since. Their latest release comes with the company name up front — Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare — showing the power of the brand. Here are just a few ways that Blumhouse and Jason Blum have changed the face of horror.
Jason Blum isn’t the only horror producer to make money hand over fist. He is often compared to Roger Corman, who has produced over 400 films since 1954. Scrapping together whatever money he could find, Corman would make inexpensive productions that turned into success stories. That idea lines up with the trajectory that Blumhouse has taken. A Blumhouse film has never had a budget higher than $10 million, making the success stories more exciting while making the flops easy to write off without breaking the bank. This strategy led to Blumhouse producing 12 films in 2017, including Get Out, Split, and Happy Death Day.
Interviews about Blumhouse usually reference directors’ freedom. Blum has confidence in the directors he hires. That was the case for one of Blumhouse’s longest running franchises, Insidious. Director James Wan had six years of middling films following his breakout hit, Saw. Making Insidious allowed Wan “the luxury to make a film with lots of creepy, bizarre moments that a studio might not get.” That freedom gave Wan a successful film that has inspired four sequels and remains one of Blumhouse’s biggest hits.
James Wan is only one director who has become tied to Blumhouse. M. Night Shyamalan had a string of poorly received films before working with Blum to make The Visit in 2015, which turned a profit of over $90 million on a minuscule budget of $5 million. That was only a preview of the magic Blum and Shyamalan would concoct. Shyamalan then made Split, which allowed him to achieve what he had talked about for years, a sequel to his cult hit Unbreakable. Now he is working on another title for Blum in that same universe. Another alliance success has been with director James DeMonaco, who directed the first three The Purge features, another lucrative franchise (it’s made Blumhouse over $200 million in returns). That’s big business for films that look like run-of-the-mill horror features.
One constant in Blumhouse Productions is the essence of fear. The Oscar-winning film Whiplash isn’t a typical horror movie, but the sheer intensity of an abusive teacher makes it a perfect fit for the house of horror. This flexibility has allowed Blumhouse to venture into other mediums. Their television branch has five upcoming projects, including series for both The Purge and Tremors. Besides producing the hit HBO documentary The Jinx: The Life and Death of Robert Durst, Blumhouse has two more slated for 2018. They have even dipped their toes into publishing podcasting. Nothing is outside the realm of possibility for Blumhouse.
No one could’ve imagined the cultural effect Get Out would have on the world. Even Jason Blum doesn’t have that kind of foresight. But Jordan Peele decided to take his idea of a horror movie that addresses racial tensions to Blumhouse. Get Out had a modest budget of $4.5 million but made more than $250 million at the box office and earned four Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. It became a landmark film for many reasons, but Blum wasn’t sure it would reach much more than the typical horror crowd. It was pivotal that Get Out got the push from Sundance and the incredible word of mouth that followed.
Horror Movies Are Great
Blumhouse isn’t afraid of the perception of horror movies. Get Out became the first “horror” movie nominated for Best Picture since The Silence for the Lambs (1991), and Blum isn’t about to change the company’s formula anytime soon. This runs counter to the public perception of horror, where there is often a rush to re-categorize successful horror films into a different, more respectable-sounding genre. But Blum doesn’t care about that perception. Making horror movies is what Blumhouse does, and they do it damn well.
Not content to sit on his laurels, Blum has also turned to reinvigorating franchises. Halloween is being rebooted once again, but there is a different air about it from the Rob Zombie-directed films. Director David Gordon Green and Danny McBride came to Blumhouse with an idea and a script, and Blumhouse’s support was enough to convince series creator John Carpenter and original star Jamie Lee Curtis back into the fold. There is excitement around the new Halloween (due this October) that hasn’t been in the franchise for many years, thanks largely to the house that Blum built.