We Spoke To The King Of Scary Cinema About The Greatest Horror Film Of All Time
He's the genius behind the reboot of 'Halloween'.
He’s the man most likely responsible for your favourite horror movie — Halloween — and Jason Blum isn’t afraid to blow up the box when it comes to genre filmmaking.
For someone who’s not in front of the camera, Jason Blum is one of the most recognisable names in Hollywood. He’s not yet 50, but he’s got two Oscar nominations under his belt and a company — Blumhouse Productions — responsible for making some of the most critically and commercially successful projects of the past decade. Think Get Out, BlacKKKLansman, The Jinx, Sharp Objects, the Paranormal Activity, Insidious and Purge franchises and … oh, only about a hundred other titles.
Yet he’s “still surprised” — in fact, “constantly surprised” — at how hard it is to get shit done in show business.
“What we try to do with the company is always things that are different or unusual,” says Blum, from his hotel room in Sydney. “When you’re doing that, no matter how much success you have behind you, it always feels harder than it should… That’s a good lesson — it keeps me humble — which is important.”
Hollywood is not a place where one seeks the humble. In fact, Blum spent the first half of his career working for some of the biggest assholes in the business including the Weinstein Brothers at Miramax where it was his job to acquire titles. One such movie was The Blair Witch Project: he turned it down in the nineties and had to watch as it went on to become one of the most profitable films of all time.
Yet Blum is someone who learns from his mistakes and it’s no coincidence years later the film that would take over Blair Witch’s box-office record and establish his company, was also a found footage horror movie called Paranormal Activity. Released in cinemas in 2007, it made over $193 million globally off a $15,000 budget and spawned three other movies.
“Of every rule at the company, the most important is low budget,” he says. “It’s tied to humility because generally in Hollywood when you have success, the notion is you should spend more and your budget should be bigger and you should have more toys. And I believe the opposite: I believe that low budgets push us to be more creative, they push us to take chances on things we wouldn’t take chances on before.”
Rebooting Halloween Itself
One of those big chances was rebooting John Carpenter’s Halloween franchise, with the first movie marking the cinematic debut of Jamie Lee Curtis in 1978 and considered by many — including Blum — to be “the greatest horror movie of all time”.
Since the seminal slasher’s release, the property has been one of diminishing returns with nearly a dozen sequels like Halloween: Season Of The Witch and Halloween H20: 20 Years Later.
Gore king Rob Zombie had a go at hitting the reset button with 2007’s Halloween and 2009’s Halloween II, but up until now the original creator and legendary director John Carpenter has dusted his hands of the franchise.
“Hollywood — specifically with horror more than other genres — they have a hit horror movie, they fire everyone, they hire new people, they make sequels, the sequels suck and then they wonder why,” says Blum, who produced this year’s Halloween through Blumhouse.
“I very much believe that if you have Oren Peli, who did Paranormal Activity, or James (Wan) and Leigh (Whannell), who did Insidious, or James DeMonaco, who did The Purge, and you’re gonna make additional movies, you include the people who came up with the idea in the first place. That’s one of the things I really believe in — that’s one of the tenants of the company — so I said to Miramax ‘I’m not doing this unless John Carpenter is involved’.
I went to John, got him to executive produce, and he wasn’t involved in the day-to-day, but his presence loomed very, very large over all of us and we wouldn’t have done anything he didn’t like including what the story was, hiring (director, executive producer, co-writer) David Gordon Green and (writer, executive producer) Danny McBride — he loved the idea they came up with — Jamie Lee Curtis… he was crucial to the movie’s success.”
Wiping The Mythology Clean
You can tell Blum really believes in this movie.
His flight to Australia to promote Halloween took 24 hours, with an unexpected stop in Hawaii after a passenger fell ill mid-trip. Yet he rolled into a fan screening of the film just hours after he landed, extending the Q&A portion of the evening long after time had run out, and urging the audience to ask him “hard questions”.
He’s also incredibly honest, which is somewhat unsettling for a journalist who has spent 13 years interviewing Hollywood types.
“I don’t think our movie is as good as the first one,” says Blum, with a small shrug. “But it’s definitely better than the other nine, so I’m very happy with that.”
jamie lee curtis on the set of ‘halloween’, 1978 pic.twitter.com/D0WVVlVsn4
— best of old hollywood (@oldhllywoods) October 3, 2018
And he should be, since not only did he manage to get Carpenter to return to a franchise he had very publicly said he was done with, but the 70-year-old also updated his famous Halloween theme from the original movie and composed several fresh tracks to score the film as well.
Plus, it’s the first Halloween film since the seventies that critics seem to, well, actually like. Following its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, it’s currently certified fresh ahead of its global theatrical release on October 25 — just in time for All Hallow’s Eve.
This still of Jamie Lee Curtis from the new Halloween can be filed under “things I just learned I was gay for” pic.twitter.com/a1wxWNlgMC
— Only Lovers Lethed Alive (@kateleth) October 8, 2018
USA Today said “a new coat of paint, even on a storied house of horrors such as Halloween, can do wonders” and Entertainment Weekly added, “the movie mostly works because it’s so fundamental, and funny too”.
Part of the film’s strength is it manages to satisfy diehard fans of the original with everything from the presence of Carpenter and Curtis as star and executive producer, to “The Shape” references and use of tracking shots long associated with 1978’s Halloween to highlight horror in both the foreground and background.
Yet it also offers new audiences an entry point, wiping the mythology clean after the first film and updating the themes with the inclusion of Laurie Strode (Curtis), her daughter played by Judy Greer, and granddaughter Andi Matichak. Halloween 2018 is as much about women living with intergenerational trauma as it is a guy stalking babysitters in a William Shatner mask. It’s something that makes it topical in a post #MeToo world, which Blum says is no accident.
“I don’t think those things are coincidences,” he notes, having watched one of his other socially conscious horror movies, Get Out, go on to win an Academy Award earlier this year.
“It’s in the air we all breathe and when Danny McBride and David Gordon Green created this, it’s looming out there in some way. I think that’s the same with The Purge: it was about a Trumpian world before Trump. I think great artists are sensitive to what’s going on and whether it’s conscious or not, the events of the day infuse themselves into the work. That certainly happened for Danny and David with Halloween.”
Halloween is released in cinemas on October 25.
Maria Lewis is a journalist, screenwriter and author of It Came From The Deep and the Who’s Afraid? novel series, available worldwide.