We interview prolific genre producer, Jason Blum, on his new anthology series for Amazon Prime, Welcome to the Blumhouse, and what it aims to achieve.
Welcome to the Blumhouse is a new anthology movie series from Jason Blum, who spoke to ScreenRant about the Amazon Prime series and its celebration of the horror genre.
Jason Blum has worked hard to become one of the most acclaimed names working in the film industry due to how he’s helped champion talent in genre filmmaking. Blum’s finger on the pulse of what his audience wants to see, Welcome to the Blumhouse arrived just in time for Halloween 2020 viewing, as the spooky season tends to reignite an interest in all things macabre. Amazon Prime’s streaming service hasn’t become a premiere destination for original horror content, but Jason Blum seems poised to change that with his new series.
The latest effort by the groundbreaking people at Blumhouse is Welcome to the Blumhouse, a thematic series of films that breaks down different tropes and showcases new and underrepresented voices in the genre. Jason Blum graciously took some time to discuss the diversity and new voices in these films as well as how streaming services have impacted the future of horror, and the right way to make the classic Universal Monsters relevant for a new generation.
ScreenRant: There are some really cool stories being told in these films, but how did this whole Welcome to the Blumhouse project come together?
Jason Blum: Jen Salke, who runs Amazon Studios, she pitched to me the idea while I was still working on the Into the Dark series. There were a number of things that I wanted to do differently and correct from that project, but I do really like the idea of doing anthologies, but with movies. There’s something intriguing to me about movie anthologies, but you need to have some kind of connective tissue in order for it to make sense as a series. What really got things rolling is when we fell into the idea of using all diverse filmmakers, which I felt would naturally give the movies a different feel than the norm. That was what really jumpstarted it.
When we decided to pursue that angle the material started to come in and the movies reflect that. They’re not necessarily all about race, or gender, or religion, but they touch on these things and they’re authentic to the voice and the people who are behind the films, which I like and makes me proud. They use genre to deliver the message, which I love, and is what we’ve done for many years.
When you task people to come up with a scary movie and give them limited budgets it forces them to turn to subject matter that’s the most precious subject matter in these people’s lives, which is what I think leads to the most effective scary movies. You have to touch on these precious relationships that we hold dear and scary movies typically come about when those bonds are threatened by some outside and then you watch how they react to that threat. When you give people a ton of money those stories tend to be about monsters, which are less interesting to me. So all of these movies are about different families and the tragedies that strike them and how they deal with it.
You mentioned the holiday-fueled Into the Dark anthology series. How do you go about differentiating stories that would be appropriate for this as opposed to that?
I’m a big believer in low budgets, but with the Into the Dark stuff I think we could have still used a little more. The budgets there were super low. And for those we had to tie each one into a holiday. So the lessons I learned were that we probably should have spent a little more money and there were a lot of them. We made 24 and there’s a finite amount of holidays. With Welcome to the Blumhouse I was interested because it’s less movies—it’s only eight movies—spread out over the same amount of time of a couple of years. I liked using the theme of holidays to tie everything together, but I really preferred to just put the attention on diverse filmmakers instead. Instead of putting a theme on the actual storytelling, we put a theme on the storytellers, which I thought was a cool idea.
It’s also great to see that these movies can showcase a lot of first-time directors and people making their debuts, like with Zu Quirke and Nocturne. How has it been to help champion these new voices in the genre?
On the theatrical side Blumhouse rarely works with first-time filmmakers, so on the television side we did the opposite. Yeah, a lot of them are first-time filmmakers, but a lot of the reason that we wanted to work with these kinds of filmmakers is because they haven’t been given the same opportunities as white men, so it also makes sense that they may be making their debuts here. We want to give the opportunity for these skills to be recognized and I think that all of these filmmakers will go on to have fruitful careers. With some of these directors we’ll have helped launch their careers, which feels great.
It’s also a lot of fun to see how these movies tackle different sub-genres within horror, like how Black Box is more science fiction and that Nocturne even has a bit of a Suspiria vibe. Did you look for contrasting content like that, or was it more whatever had a good story?
We curated that to a certain degree. We wanted these movies to feel distinct from one another. That’s always a fine line to walk with anthologies that you want them to feel distinct enough that people don’t feel like they’re seeing the same thing over and over, but that they’re not so different that people wonder why they’re even linked together in an anthology in the first place. I don’t know if we got that totally right, but it’s something that we were aware of and tried to make an effort towards when we were picking which films to make.
What excites you about the direction that horror and genre storytelling currently seems to be heading?
A lot of things currently excite me. There are very few movies that people are still willing to go out and see theatrically—well right now there are no movies—but before all of this hit what people wanted to see in theaters was very limited, but horror was one of the last genres where when someone made a good movie people would show up and buy a ticket. I think Jordan [Peele] changed a lot of people’s perceptions about horror and that it can be cool to make a horror movie where a lot of directors used to think that it wasn’t cool or that it could mean that you were a sellout. So I think as a result of what Jordan did he was able to attract a bunch of different people into the horror genre that weren’t here before. So there are now different filmmakers making horror movies, which I think is an exciting thing.
I think streaming is also a really exciting thing, too. When you’re making a theatrical movie there are certain guideposts that you really have to hit. Even Get Out, The Invisible Man, Split, all of those movies still provide a number of jumps, however it’s done. In a streaming movie you can instead fill it with more things that are unsettling or unnerving as opposed to getting people to jump out of their chairs, which can be harder to do at home. So I think that has broadened the kind of horror that’s getting made and I think Welcome to the Blumhouse is a good example. If it weren’t for streamers then these movies would not have gotten made. They’re a little offbeat and they don’t have a jump scare every twenty minutes. I think both of things are really positive for the future of horror movies.
Is there anything that you can tease about any of the other upcoming takes on the Universal Monsters, like Karyn Kusama’s Dracula or Ryan Gosling in The Wolf Man?
I think we use those great characters almost how we use the horror genre as a whole. You want to use those characters partially as marketing tools to get people into these unusual stories that relate to the present day. I think what was so great about Leigh [Whannell]’s Invisible Man is that it’s obviously very much about gender and power dynamics within gender which is a very topical thing for today. So for me what’s so fun about the Universal Monsters is to weave stories into those monsters that makes them relevant to today’s audience with current themes. I don’t think these movies will necessarily change people’s ways of thinking, but they’ll at least get people talking and I think that’s a good thing.
Halloween is coming up, so what’s one underappreciated horror film that people should watch this Halloween?
Well you’ve just set me up here! It may not be underappreciated, but it’s ours. Everyone should watch Welcome to the Blumhouse and then instead of trick-or-treating they should get together and watch The Craft, which is out on Halloween.
Welcome to the Blumhouse begins to air on October 6th on Amazon Prime
Next: Into The Dark: Season One, Ranked
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