Jason Blum is arguably the biggest name in horror cinema today. He’s never directed a movie nor penned a screenplay, but as founder and CEO of Blumhouse Productions he’s shepherded an abundance of low budget horror movies to mainstream success, from ‘Paranormal Activity’ to ‘Insidious’ to ‘The Purge’ and many more.
Nor is his impressive CV limited to horror alone, Blum having also produced a number of Oscar-winning dramas including ‘The Reader’ and ‘Whiplash.’ He was also behind this year’s not-so successful big screen take on 80s cartoon series ‘Jen and the Holograms,’ but let’s not talk about that here.
With the upcoming home entertainment release of his most recent horror sequel ‘Sinister 2’ (just one of the thirteen new releases to his name in 2015 alone), Blum was kind enough to give us a little of his time to discuss his work.
What made you want to revisit Sinister?
I thought we had a great character in Bughuul, a great iconic horror movie character which I thought it would be fun to explore. The plan was for more than one sequel, which I don’t think is going to happen, but I’m really happy with the movie that we made. And Bughuul, to answer your question, was the incentive to make a second one.
So were you the driving force behind the sequel, or was it more the writers Scott Derrickson and C Robert Cargill?
I don’t think there was a single driving force behind it. No one had to be dragged to the table – Scott and Cargill wanted to do it, and I wanted to do it, and the most of the financiers wanted to do it I guess. But I think it was more driven by us than by anyone else.
By comparison with some of your other properties it is darker – sinister, as the title suggests! – and certainly by comparison with the ‘Insidious’ films it’s a lot harsher-edged, more R-rated. Was this a factor in some [financial] people not being so keen?
No, I don’t think it was. Honestly, I think it was that the first one did very well but not extraordinarily well. I always felt the first movie was very – people really loved it and connected to it in a big way, so I always thought that was a big reason why I wanted to make a second one also.
And I think that Scott, Cargill and I are probably more in touch directly with scary movie fans than distribution necessarily. But because it was R-rated, that didn’t play into it one way or the other.
Definitely ‘Sinister’ did play well to the hardcore horror audience, and I think a lot of horror fans including myself were very impressed that you chose Ciaron Foy to direct the sequel, after he’d done such great work on his first film ‘Citadel,’ which was great but not too many people saw. How was it that he came on board?
Scott Derrickson found him. Scott watched ‘Citadel,’ loved it, thought that he’d be a good director for it, then called me and said, “you should see this movie.” I was like most people you’re talking about, I hadn’t heard of it, and I thought it was a terrific movie. Shortly thereafter we met, and we had a terrific meeting, and he just was an amazingly collaborative, spectacular director.
The actual production of ‘Sinister 2’ was definitely not easy. We usually shoot our movies in LA, we shot this one in Illinois. We had a really bad experience in Illinois, and [Foy] did a terrific job of holding the movie together. I’ve been talking with him about several things we might work on next, but I just had an exceptionally good experience with Ciaron.
What was it that went so wrong out there if you don’t mind me asking? You said you had a bad experience in Illinois.
We – I don’t know, there were other movies shooting… I was very disappointed with the crew there, that’s all.
Fair enough. So you say you don’t imagine there’ll be a third ‘Sinister’ film at this point?
There will not be a third ‘Sinister’ movie, no.
And ‘Paranormal Activity’ is also done for you now. How important are franchises to Blumhouse? As you have had quite a few with ‘Insidious,’ ‘The Purge,’ and a second ‘Ouija’ next year.
They’re important, but the company is not made to find franchises. They’re important to us; obviously I love doing them, I like having them; I feel like when you make sequels it uses a different part of your brain than originals. I like going back and forth.
But as a company, we’re not looking for big franchises. In fact, when someone pitches me a movie and says “this would be a great franchise,” I almost shy away from that notion. I really like great first movies; if the movie works, we’ll think about making one after that, but I really like to focus on making great originals, then if they catch fire in some way and everything goes right, then we’ll do more.
So they’re important to our company, but they’re not the reason the company exists, they’re not the ‘do or die’ of the company I guess, if that makes sense.
As you mention championing original properties, when your company came to the forefront, horror remakes had largely been the norm, as they have been for the past 10-15 years. Blumhouse of course haven’t been involved in too many remakes, with the exception of ‘The Town That Dreaded Sundown’ and the new ‘Amityville’ film [pictured above] coming next year. Was this a conscious move on your part, to avoid remakes?
No. I find the process of making a movie, whether you’re starting with IP [intellectual property, i.e. pre-existing material] or not, I just like putting creative parameters around it. I definitely wouldn’t want to do only remakes - that would get boring. But if there are other… there are two other movies that we’re interested in remaking.
If you make a lot of movies, I don’t think there are that many movies that merit revisiting or remaking, so I like going back and forth, kind of like with sequels. If we were only doing franchises, that would not be interesting to me, and if we were only doing remakes, that would not be interesting to me. But every so often doing one amongst the mostly originals we do, I think it’s fun, it kind of exercises different creative muscles.
How important is your mandate of never making a film for more than $5 million, and do you envisage that changing?
That is – unlike the franchise question, that is the foundation of the company. It’s very important to me, and it’s important to me because it’s tied to creative freedom and taking chances. And for me personally, when the budget gets a little, or a lot, or an enormous amount past that, we start making creative compromises that are little ones, but for me they kind of chip away at the way my process works.
There are lots of very expensive movies that I love, a lot of them. In fact, probably most of the movies that I like the best are expensive ones. I just can’t make them. So that really will be a cornerstone of the company.
There are a few exceptions, so I don’t want get this interview pointed back on! If we work with a filmmaker who we love who wants to do something more expensive we will consider that, in a couple of cases. But that’s the only way we veer into making more expensive movies. I am interested in growing the company, I just don’t want to grow the company by taking movies that are more expensive.
Well, one way your company has grown is through your work in television, and a lot of people were very excited to hear that you’re involved in the new TV series of ‘Tremors,’ with Kevin Bacon back on board. Is there anything you can tell us about that?
Yeah, we’ve been working on it for a long time. There’s a very complicated rights situation. Kevin and I first met on a movie called ‘6 Miranda Drive,’ which Greg McLean directed. I really thought ‘Tremors’ was a great movie, and am very excited, and I’m personally very involved in the show, and I can’t wait to see it.
I think when people see what the story is, and how Kevin fits into the story, it should be satisfying for those who liked the first movie. So I’m really pleased about it, and I can’t wait to start shooting it.
Where do things stand on the third ‘Purge’ film?
We wrapped about two weeks ago. We’re cutting the movie in New York, and hope to get it cut by January-February, beginning of next year. We have an Independence Day release, and we’re gearing up for it, and I’m very pleased with how the shoot turned out.
‘Sinister 2’ is available on digital download now, and comes to DVD and Blu-ray on 28 December.
Picture Credit: WENN, Entertainment One, Dimension/TWC, Universal