Many people these days will associate Blumhouse Productions with the horror genre, since the company has been responsible for hit films, such as Paranormal Activity, Insidious, and The Purge. While Blumhouse Productions isn’t entirely dedicated to horror, as evidenced by Jason Blum being a producer on last year’s Oscar-nominated film Whiplash, it can generally be agreed that Blumhouse Productions has all but monopolized the mainstream horror market. Blum founded Blumhouse Productions in 2000, with the company’s mandate being to produce high quality micro-budget films. Considering the limited audience for horror films, those low budgets allow for greater profits. A big budget R rated film just isn’t going to make the same kind of money.
The origins of Jason Blum’s takeover of the horror genre can be traced back to around 2007. Oren Peli had screened his independently produced found-footage film Paranormal Activity at the Screamfest Horror Film Festival and was sending out screeners of the film looking for distribution. Jason Blum, who was working as a Senior Executive at Miramax at the time, acquired one of the screeners, thought that the film had potential, and he worked with Peli to create a new edit of the film and the rest is history.
While Blumhouse Productions isn’t entirely dedicated to horror, it can generally be agreed that Blumhouse Productions has all but monopolized the mainstream horror market.
With the huge success of Paranormal Activity in the fall of 2009, Blumhouse Productions’ future as a horror production studio was set. In addition to Paranormal Activity 2, which went into production immediately after the original film’s success, both Jason Blum and Oren Peli were producers on James Wan’s 2011 haunted house film Insidious. From there, a string of profitable hits was released, including Sinster, The Purge, Oculus, Unfriended, and Ouija. Perhaps even more important than the profits of these films, is how they manage to be rather unique in the world of the horror genre. The PG-13 rating many of the films get may turn some fans off, but they frequently offer something beyond teens getting killed in the woods.
Blumhouse Productions has also managed to save a few films from gathering dust on a shelf. Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno had been set for a September 2014 release before suddenly getting dropped. The film was recently picked up by Blumhouse, and is now set for a September 2015 release. This is great for fans, as The Green Inferno is one of Roth’s better films, and it’s one that’s been teased to the horror crowd for a little too long now. They’re also moving forward with some interesting distribution choices as well. The found footage film Creep just had a release on iTunes on June 23, 2015, before it arrives on Netflix in July.
Perhaps even more important than the profits of these films, is how they manage to be rather unique in the world of the horror genre. The PG-13 rating many of the films get may turn some fans off, but they frequently offer something beyond teens getting killed in the woods.
Since Blum’s mandate is to produce films with relatively low budgets, and the fact that he encourages much more creative freedom from filmmakers, many of the films produced by Blumhouse wind up making some impressive profits. It’s fantastic to see so many horror films getting bigger releases, and it’s obviously working when you look at the numbers, but not every film out of Blumhouse is what dedicated horror fans are looking for. It can be said that many of the films released by Blumhouse Productions can be described as “horror films for people who don’t regularly watch horror films.” The PG-13 ratings draw the crowds who can’t, or won’t watch R rated movies, but it can also turn away some genre fans.
There’s also the problem of repetition. Where there’s success, there’s an urge to try and recreate it, and in the movie business, that means sequels. In the horror genre, that usually means franchises that go on a little too long. Paranormal Activity will hit its sixth film later this year, while Insidious, Sinister, and The Purge have gotten sequels as well. There’s still some originality to be had in the Blumhouse offerings, but it seems as though there’s a growing reliance on the tried and true method of returning to the horrific worlds they have helped create in the past.
Where there’s success, there’s an urge to try and recreate it, and in the movie business, that means sequels. In the horror genre, that usually means franchises that go on a little too long.
The fact that Blumhouse Productions has become such a large player in the horror market seems to be both helping, and hurting the genre. They’ve played a huge part in bringing horror to the mainstream, producing a number of horror films for the marketplace each year. That’s great for horror fans, as it’s a genre that has a history of being ignored and insulted. The company allows a bit more freedom to the filmmakers, while other studios may be more concerned with rebooting recognizable franchises from the past. They also push for quality productions with small budgets, allowing for an easy way to attain profitability. Finally, the fact that many of their films get a PG-13 rating means a new generation of fans can be created. They’ve got to start somewhere, and Blumhouse offers a similar product that many horror fans from the ’80s will remember. The films weren’t always incredibly bloody then, and Blumhouse is a great stepping stone for the next round of horror fans now.
At the same time, some of those positives can be negatives. PG-13 is often dismissed by horror fans looking for more blood and gore, and Blumhouse is becoming more reliant on sequels to their films that worked, which is great from a business point of view, but not so much from an audience one. Their dominance in the market may also be keeping even smaller indie films from getting a bit of the spotlight. You can be pretty sure that fans will turn up for the next Paranormal Activity film, while being unsure of a film like The Babadook, a wonderfully original film that barely screened in Toronto. It’s a problem that many films find, not just in the horror genre, but it may be easier to point a finger at Blumhouse Productions for horror when they happen to be so mainstream.
Their films may not always work, and some may believe that Blumhouse is hurting more than helping, but there’s no denying that they have created an outstanding amount of quality horror films, bringing the much-maligned genre to where it deserves to be. Plus, they at least they keep their remakes to a minimum.