Horror stories have always reflected our fear back to us
Horror stories have always reflected our fear back to us

Meet the man responsible for scaring the crap out of you

JASON Blum is the man responsible for scaring the bejesus out of you at the movies.

And while the average moviegoer might not know his name, they would've seen one of his movies, and seen his production company logo - Blumhouse Productions - pop up before the credits.

He's been dubbed the king of modern horror, the high priest of horror and the scary godmother, but he hasn't shot a single frame. He's a producer, a money man, but one who has an eye for picking and shepherding the right project and making tons of money off it.

This week, it's the Halloween sequel, last year it was Oscar-winning Get Out and next year, it's Glass, the follow-up to M. Knight Shyamalan's Unbreakable.

Since Paranormal Activity made almost $US200 million off the back of a $US15,000 budget in 2007, Blum has been credited on more than 100 projects, including The Purge, Split and Insidious, while his movies have made more than $US3.6 billion at the global box office.

 

Jason Blum recently courted controversy by saying there were no female directors making horror movies, before walking the comment back. Picture: Kevin Winter
Jason Blum recently courted controversy by saying there were no female directors making horror movies, before walking the comment back. Picture: Kevin Winter

Blum came up working for Harvey Weinstein (apparently Weinstein once threw a lit cigarette at him) before striking out on his own, and he struck out for several years, before finding Paranormal Activity. He's renowned in Hollywood for sticking to a formula - churn them out cheap (usually for less than $US5 million) and reap the rewards.

With Halloween and all the history and prestige that came with it, Blum had to lay a little more on the line - reportedly $US10-15 million - but even that comparatively high-end investment has paid off with the movie already raking in almost $US100 million after one weekend.

"We have a really specific way of making movies at our company and I wanted to see if we could apply our system to this franchise that's been around for 40 years," Blum told news.com.au in Sydney recently on a promotional tour for Halloween.

"And I wanted to see if we could make a good Halloween. The first one was the greatest horror movie of all time, the next nine were not so good in my opinion. So I wanted to see if we could actually make a good one. I loved the challenge of that.

"Halloween is so beloved even though its sequels weren't but there are more Halloween stories to tell so we wanted to tell them."

 

Jamie Lee Curtis returns to play Laurie Strode. Picture: Ryan Green
Jamie Lee Curtis returns to play Laurie Strode. Picture: Ryan Green

Even though he didn't like the Halloween sequels, Blum said it wasn't his idea to retcon the story back to the original 1978 Halloween, effectively wiping out everything that came after teen Laurie Strode's confrontation with Michael Myers in the house where she was babysitting.

He will however take credit for hiring Danny McBride and David Gordon Green to write the movie and Green to direct it, and it was their idea, along with original Halloween director John Carpenter's blessing, to take it back to the (almost) beginning.

Getting Jamie Lee Curtis on-board took a little wrangling.

"Her godson is Jake Gyllenhaal and David (Gordon Green) had just done Stronger, which Jake was in," Blum said. "So she called up Jake and said, 'what's this guy like?' and Jake gave a glowing recommendation so that made her open to meeting him.

"He pitched her the idea and she responded to it, to how a traumatic event would affect Laurie and her daughter and her grandchild, to these three generations of women."

Blum said that they had pitched Curtis early on in the process so that if she had said no, there would be time to formulate a Plan B - "We didn't know what Plan B was only that there was one".

 

Jordan Peele won a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Get Out (Universal Pictures via AP)
Jordan Peele won a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Get Out (Universal Pictures via AP)

 

If Halloween is about responding to trauma, so are many horror movies, a genre that's often been derided as popcorn fare. But with Jordan Peele's Get Out, an allegory for modern day race relations in America, taking home the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, it's a perception that's changing.

"There were all sorts of filmmakers who would never have contemplated making a horror movie and now are. And we're working on more movies that are scary but say something and that's very exciting for us."

The thing with horror movies is that it doesn't have to say something about our current political climate to tie into it. It has, oddly, been escapism for many people for decades.

Horror has always reflected what a culture fears, right back to folklore stories including Little Red Riding Hood which was a cautionary rape tale warning young women against wandering off the proscribed path.

But with real-world events terrifying people around the world, why would audiences voluntarily sit through two hours of stress? And pay for the privilege?

"It's a place to go where you can be scared in a controlled environment that is make-believe," Blum said. "I think there's something very comforting to people living in a world where there are all these scary things out of your control and you can go see scary things that are in your control and are imaginary and made-up.

"I think that's cathartic, it provides solace to these awful, real things in the world."

Halloween is in cinemas from Thursday, October 25.

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