BLUM

Fright Nights: A Q&A with Horror Movie Master Jason Blum

Jason Blum, the CEO of Blumhouse Productions,  has made a mint on micro-budget horror flicks (not one has cost over $5M), including “Paranormal Activity” and its three sequels, “Sinister,” “Dark Skies,” chapter 1 and 2 of “Insidious,” and this summer’s surprise hit “The Purge.”  What’s really scary is that all nine of his films have cost less than $30M combined, yet have scared up a ludicrous $1.1B worldwide.

Sort of goes to show you, that if you’re not making horror flicks like Blum these days, quite frankly, you’re not doing it right.

While his name may not be synonymous with Wes Craven or John Carpenter just yet, give it a couple years as it certainly looks like that may be his destiny. When asked about the horror heavyweights comparison, Blum called it “a huge compliment to be included with those guys.”

With dozens of chill pills and cheap thrills in various states of production, and an obvious love for live theatrics, including his live Purge house of horrors project, you never know.

One day Blum may just rip a page out of the Disney playbook, purchase a plot of land in Anaheim, and unlock the doors to merchandising millions with his own horror theme park: Blumberg. Ah, to dream .  . .

Without further ado . . .

NewsWhistle’s Interview with Jason Blum, maestro of modern day micro-budget mayhem

Q: What inspired you to take part in a more interactive horror experience?

A: I always loved Halloween and I started my career in theater…and so those two things came together last year for the first time in the Blumhouse of Horrors and I had a great time doing that. I didn’t want to repeat it; I wanted to try something new.  When we were making “The Purge”—actually when I read the script for “The Purge”—I thought it would…there was so much that goes on outside the movie that’s referenced in the movie, I thought it would be very fertile for a scary event.

***

Q: What were some of your favorite horror films growing up that inspired you?

A: “The Exorcist.” I loved “Poltergeist.” I loved, oddly, “Friday the 13th,”—the first one.  But I really loved Hitchcock movies. Weirdly, I took a seminar on Hitchcock when I was in college and that’s when I got into scary movies was from that class.

***

Q: In “The Purge” anything goes, nothing is illegal–How did that translate into an event like this? Obviously you can’t just kill people, right?

A: Yes, we don’t really kill people. Well, “The Purge” has parameters too, remember there’s the thing: no nuclear bombs. So there are rules to the real purge in the movie. We have our own parameters…we don’t break the law here, but we get as close as we can without breaking it. We still obey the great laws of the United States.

***

Q: What’s the most you’ve spent making a movie?

A: Not very much. I don’t believe in spending money on movies.

***

Q: What would you do if someone gave you $100 million to make a film?

A: I’d make 40 movies.

***

Q: Ethan Hawke stars in “Sinister” and “The Purge,” and you guys go way back to your theater days—do you enjoy torturing him? Does he enjoy being tortured?

A: Well, Ethan is a great friend of mine. We had a theater company together, the theater that I did was with Ethan, and Ethan doesn’t like scary movies. So I always was trying to—after I did “Paranormal Activity”—I was always trying to get Ethan. We actually offered him “Insidious” but he turned it down. And then “Sinister,” he liked, he liked the script and then he met Scott Derrickson and he’s like, ‘ok that guy seems like a very talented guy’ and agreed to do the movie. And he loved it. He had a great time and at the end of “Sinister” he said, ‘let’s do this again.’ And I gave him the script to “The Purge” and four months later we were shooting “The Purge.” It was very cool. Now he’s a convert: he loves scary movies. And now, he’s about to do another scary movie.

***

SPOILER ALERT QUESTION (IN INVISIBLE INK)

Q: Will Ethan ever survive a film … so he can do a sequel?

A: Why … that’s top-secret information.

***

Q: What are you looking forward to in the advancements of horror? What’s next for Blumhouse Productions?

A: We did a movie called “Lazarus” with Olivia Wilde and Mark Duplass, which is a take on Frankenstein—kind of a contemporary take on Frankenstein—so I’m really excited about that. That’s new—it’s very scary—but feels very different for us.  We’re also making a micro-budget version of “Ouija,” which we’re starting soon. It’s fun to take a $100 million dollar movie and make it for five cents. It’s kind of a fun challenge.

(AUTHOR’S NOTE: There was a time when Universal was trying to greenlight “Ouija,” but the budget soared above and beyond the realm of decency. Enter: Blum. Back on track…with an estimated budget under $5 million.)   

***

Q: How many horror scripts do you see on your desk every day?

A: A lot, we see a lot of scripts.

***

Q: What’s the difference between a script you greenlight and one you pass on.

A: It feels now. It doesn’t feel derivative. If it’s gonna have something bad happen…a ghost running around…we’ve seen that a hundred times. Really what I always look for is what feels different.

***

Q: You have so seven films in pre-production, seven in post-production—how many assistants do you have?

A: We have executives. We have a big company. We have about twenty people who—I couldn’t do all that by myself. We have a big team—it takes a bunch of people to get that many movies out and going every year and every day.

***

Q: With “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” arriving in January, and “Paranormal Activity 5” hitting theaters next October…can your series possibly become the most prolific theatrical horror franchise of all-time, surpassing the twelve incarnations of “Friday the 13th?”

A: On the record, can I see it going on beyond six? You know what…you never know. That’s what I would say.

***

To learn more about Jason’s “The Purge: Fear the Night” funhouse experience (which runs through Nov. 2 in Los Angeles), please click here: www.purgelive.com

***

Jeff Bock, NewsWhistle’s movie editor, is the senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations in Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at Jeff@NewsWhistle.com.

***

Lead-In Image: Joe P. Gere