Emmy award winning producer Jason Blum was in attendance at Wondercon in Anaheim Ca., this past weekend to show footage from the upcoming horror films Unfriended and Insidious: Chapter 3. We spoke to Blum during a roundtable interview where he discussed the films and where the focus of Blumhouse Productions lay.
Q: How do you up the ante after you’ve done all these horror movies?
Jason Blum: In ‘Insidious,’ when it’s a franchise, it’s very different from an original. Where as an original, I think that it has to be different and if it’s different, more often than not, if it’s scary and different, it has to be both of those things, I think those things are related. I think when it’s something that is unique and the execution is good, it’s scarier because people aren’t as used to seeing it. That’s what I look for on original movies. With sequels, we try and walk the fine line between making it not feel derivative and feeling like they are a repeat of a prior movie but also feeling like it’s not that they are so different [from each other]. But making a sequel to a movie and making an original movie is like a totally different business almost.
Q: Which do you prefer?
Jason Blum: I love to do both because you use different parts of your creative mind. I really would be bummed if I could only make sequels, that would be a bummer but I hope we get to make a second ‘Unfriended,’ it would be so fun to get to do. I really like going back and forth. I think it helps both to be going back and forth.
Q: A lot of your horror movies seem to be more geared towards the supernatural, is there something that fascinates you about that genre compared to slashers or any other kind of horror?
Jason Blum: I think it’s scarier generally. That is what I’m always scared of. I guess I’m also scared of a person coming into my house, that’s real but I’m also scared of what happens when you die and is there anything that happens when you die? Is there something out there that we don’t understand? To me, that’s scarier than a person coming into your house. Also, you can do more with it because no one knows. People see true crime stuff everyday. You can be more inventive with supernatural.
Q: We’ve heard that we will see some references to ‘The Shinning’ in ‘Insidious’ 3, what are some of your inspirations?
Jason Blum: That’s one of my favorite scariest films. It might be the scariest movie ever. It’s such a great movie, I think about it all the time.
Q: What aspect of it do you find the most frightening?
Jason Blum: I think his [Jack Nicholson] performance, it’s so riveting. You can’t take your eyes off of him, so you stop thinking about anything else and that draws you into the movie in such an amazing way. I think that scary movies really work when you’re not thinking about them. When you stop thinking ‘Am I liking this? Am I not liking this? Am I scared? Am I not scared?’ but you’re just in it, that’s when they’re so effective.
Q: You’ve done found footage, you’ve done computer, these are somewhat low tech. Moving forward, is there an idea of trying to make it even more personal?
Jason Blum: Movies we do are inexpensive and low tech but I think that’s scarier. It makes it grittier. I think when you throw money especially at a horror film, the more expensive they get, the more generic they get and kind of soft. The more produced a horror movie is, the more polished it is, the less scarier it is.
Q: So what’s next?
Jason Blum: I mean I got the computer movie! (Laughs) Gosh! I don’t know what’s next. I want to do a virtual reality haunted house. That would be cool. To do Blumhouse’s horror in virtual reality would be super cool.
Q: As time goes on and all these horror films come out, do you find that it’s easier to scare people or is it harder these days?
Jason Blum: It’s always hard to scare people. It’s hard to effectively make a scary movie. With ‘Paranormal Activity,’ it was hard. So I don’t find that it has changed so much. I think there has always been a lot of horror. Most of it isn’t good and that makes people cynical about it. It’s very hard to make a good scary movie. I’m lucky to be a producer because we don’t write them and direct them but it’s very hard to write an effective scary movie. Most of them are not scary I think.
Q: Found footage has found its way into other genres, now that you’re doing this computer based, do you expect a new trend of that type of filmmaking?
Jason Blum: Uh…I don’t know. Well, put it this way, if the movie works, I definitely think so, yes. Like found footage, it’s really hard to do technically but I think you can do a comedy like that or an action movie. You can do different genres doing that format for sure.
Q: How do you balance horror movies and making art movies like ‘Whiplash’ producing wise?
Jason Blum: We mostly do horror movies. I want to continue to do mostly scary movies but I think that if there was a Sundance scary movie, it would be ‘Whiplash.’ I feel like we have a company and we see a lot of material and every so often with someone that we know, makes something that’s amazing, we are in a great position to get behind those things and do them but I’m not interested in changing the focus of the company. I really am interested in continuing to do genre movies.
Q: What do you think horror filmmakers need to do in order to get Academy attention?
Jason Blum: Oh God…I hope we don’t. That’s why I love horror movies ’cause they are outside of that. The reason I love horror is ’cause we are like second class citizens in Hollywood and I like that. I like being the underdog. I like people making fun of horror movies. I don’t know…I don’t know the answer to that. (laughs).