Dark Skies, Sinister, Paranormal Activity, Insidious some of the biggest and best horror movies in recent years and all produced by one company Blumhouse Productions. But behind the films and the company is one man, the founder and CEO of Blumhouse Jason Blum. We where lucky enough to talk to Jason about Dark Skies, the Paranormal Activity phenomenon, Insidious 2 and his horror ethos along with a whole lot more.
Jason Blum: Thank you for taking the time to chat to me I really appreciate it.
Love Horror: Well thank you and thank you for making so many great horror movies!
Jason Blum: Well we try, we try.
Love Horror: As it just came out in the cinemas in the UK let’s start with Dark Skies, how did the movie come about?
Jason Blum: Scott Stewart really came up with the idea and he had seen some of our movies and I had seen his movies and I said to him what do you think you could do that would be kind of scary and contained and he came up with this idea.
Originally it was a found footage idea and we suggested to him would you consider doing it in a more traditional narrative like in Sinister and he was open to that and he pitched it and I think 9 months latter we where shooting it so it went very quickly. It was really his concept and his idea start to finish and I thought it was really cool I really liked it and I am very proud of the movie.
Love Horror: You should be. Its funny you said it was pitched as a found footage film as there are definitely elements of that in the final movie especially with the security camera scene.
Jason Blum: We didn’t have a script we just had a pitch but originally one of the kids was filming and everyone was filming each other, it was more like Paranormal Activity.
I personally think unless really the story demands you tell it that way its harder production wise to do found footage and story telling wise its much harder to pull it off and make it feel authentic. So I thought the movie could be done another way and I’m glad we did that. I think a found footage version wouldn’t of been as good.
Love Horror: No definitely not. For me Dark Skies has a great slow build full of character development high on tension and low on special effects much like several of you production company Blumhouse Productions other movies such as Insidious and Paranormal Activity, would you say your companies horror films all have a particularly house style?
Jason Blum: It’s exactly what you said. I like to keep the cost of the movie really far down not for financial reasons much more for creative reasons. When we keep costs below a certain level we get to make all the creative choices ourselves, we get to choose whose in it, what the stories are, where we shoot it, how we shoot it, we get to make all those decisions ourselves when we keep the budgets low which is very important to me. I also think having less money forces all of us as filmmakers to spend more time on things that matter which I consider is story and character and less time on things that matter a lot less which is special effects.
Love Horror: I think the minimal effects work so well in Dark Skies and the fact that you don’t really see anything till that epic ending makes the film a whole lot more scary as it is a lot more in your mind.
Jason Blum: Yeah I think what you can imagine is almost always more scary than what you can be shown.
Love Horror: As a producer how much involvement did you have with the making of Dark Skies and how much involvement generally do you have with the movies you make?
Jason Blum: I get really involved in the movies. Josh Hamilton (who plays the lead in Dark Skies) is one of my best friends and I produced theatre in New York with him years ago. I get really involved in the script and the casting and the marketing and the relationship with the distributor. The physical production too is all run through our company so the crew and who we hire.
But I really feel that we have a kind of European outlook to how we make the movies and we are really an auteur driven company. The directors get to make the final decision on the creative choices and we try and provide as much support and give them as many choices as we can but I really promote the idea that the director is in charge. There is one voice making these movies, James Wan made Insidious, Scott Derrickson made Sinister, Scott Stewart made Dark Skies and I really promote that idea but give the directors as many options as possible.
Love Horror: You have had some utterly brilliant and very high quality horror films out in the last couple of years with as you mentioned Sinister, Insidious and Dark Skies, how do you keep up the quality in a genre that many feel is low brow, trashy and cheap and easy to make?
Jason Blum: I like to think that we take directors who have had experience, we rarely work with first time directors in fact we only work with first time directors if we have another producer other than ourselves on the movie. We work with people who love the genre they aren’t making these movies to make money they are making them because they love them. That is the case with everyone I mention and Leigh Whannell who wrote Insidious and Insidious 2 these guys live and breathe this all day long.
People who love and appreciate the genre understand, and I learnt a lot of this from these guys, that to keep these movies good they have to be character driven, they have to have good acting, they have to have great stories and the horror element is laid on top. It has to start with great stories and that’s something we look for in projects, what draws us is first whose directing and second is the story, a character drive story where the scares are organic to it as opposed to manufactured.
Love Horror: As a company although you do do other genres of film you are known for horror, have you always loved the genre?
Jason Blum: I have always loved Hitchcock, I studied his movies in college and I love genre movies. I don’t love super violent movies, super gory movies but I always loved thrillers, horror, sci-fi. Genre movies have always been the kind of movies I go and see. As you pointed out we do make all types of movies but hopefully we will stay in this genre as long as it will have me.
Love Horror: One of your biggest movies is Paranormal Activity which has not only spawned 4 sequels with a 5th on the way but completely dominated horror increasing the amount of found footage films coming out a thousand fold. Did you always think the film would be this big a horror phenomenon when you first started producing it?
Jason Blum: (Laughs) If I knew it was going to be this kind of a phenomenon I would be a clairvoyant and I would be retired by now or I would be president! I had a hunch that people would really respond to the first movie but I had no idea it would turn into what it turned into. I feel very lucky that it did and we love making the movies every year and we are working o the 5th one right now. Every one is always different to make, always fun to make but I had no idea it would turn into what it turned into. I am certainly happy it did.
Love Horror: What can you tell us about the 5th part?
Jason Blum: Paranormal 5 no that’s very top secret but we are working away on it and I think it will feel really fresh and cool and different and hopefully people will like it.
Love Horror: You also have Insidious: Chapter 2 coming soon, how did that come into being and how does then movie continue the story of the Lambert family?
Jason Blum: It’s a real continuation we have James (Wan) back to direct and Leigh (Whannell) wrote it and we have Patrick (Wilson) and Rose (Byrne) star in it again, in fact we got everybody back. Its very connected to the first movie. James is editing that now and I have seen little bits and pieces of it and I am pretty psyched about it for when it comes out.
Love Horror: Looking ahead there is a whole host of horror on the horizon from Blumhouse with another Sci-Horror Oren Peli’s Area 51, Mercy and Ghosts, do you try to pick very different projects each time?
Jason Blum: Yeah we try to do different things. I’m psyched about Mercy because its Stephan King, we haven’t done a movie based on a Stephan King story so that’s our first one of those. We try and look for new and original and different tales around scary things or scary subjects but I really encourage people we are working with to take risks and try different things. One of the big advantages to working with inexpensive budgets is that we can take risks so I try and take them.
Love Horror: Anything else lined up in that buys schedule you are excited about?
Jason Blum: Well I am really excited about Dark Skies and after that a movie called The Purge which comes out at the end of May and the trailer just went online actually. (Watch it at the bottom of the Interview)
It’s a great home invasion story which I am really proud of and it checks all the boxes that I mentioned and has a real good twist as its about what would happen if crime where legal for 12 hours once a year. From 7 at night to 7 in the morning one day a year crime is legal and this is what happens on that night and its pretty damn cool.
Love Horror: As a man who watches a lot of horror movies what scares you in movies?
Jason Blum: What scares me is things that are relatable, you put people in situations that feel familiar and then get turned on their head. That to me is always the most visceral and the most scary and the most effective scary movies as opposed to total fantasy.
Love Horror: That’s really what its all about with Dark Skies that works, its very easy to imagine yourself in the situation the family get into that is suddenly totally out of control.
Jason Blum: That’s it, its mum and dad and there having money troubles which is very common around the world at the moment but they have a great relationship and two loving kids and then a dark force is introduced into their unit. How do they react differently to each other, how do they react differently to their kids, how do the kids respond and how does that family respond to the outside world when they are faced with this challenge.
Every family responds differently and if you feel like you already know the family and are relating to the family I think that’s always the fun and scary thing to watch, how are they going to manage this threat.
Love Horror: Have you every had a close encounter or a haunted happening of your own?
Jason Blum: I had one,. I saw a ghost at the end of my bed. I lived in a basement apartment in New York City and there was a ghost at the foot of my bed but every time I tell that story I get laughed at.
Love Horror: (Laughing) You haven’t seen an alien then just a ghost?
Jason Blum: No aliens yet I am waiting for an alien I have a lot to say to an alien.
Love Horror: Jason thank you for talking to us and keep up all the good work.
Jason Blum: Thank you for reaching out and chatting to me and I am glad you like our movies!
Dark Skies is out now and you can read our Review right Here and check out The Purge trailer below: