Q&A: Jason Blum on his “BLUMHOUSE BOOK OF NIGHTMARES,” Upcoming Sequels, the “OUIJA”-“WHIPLASH” Connection and MoreFearful Features,Home,Movies/TV,News Michael Gingold
Having cornered the market on low-cost, high-profit theatrical horror, producer Jason Blum has now turned to the literary world with the just-published anthology THE BLUMHOUSE BOOK OF NIGHTMARES: THE HAUNTED CITY. The man behind PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, INSIDIOUS, SINISTER and others explores his venture into weird words, plus his upcoming films, in this exclusive interview.
THE BLUMHOUSE BOOK OF NIGHTMARES, out from Doubleday, contains stories by many of his big-screen collaborators, including Eli Roth, SINISTER creators Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill and star Ethan Hawke, THE PURGE’s James DeMonaco and Mark Neveldine of this month’s THE VATICAN TAPES, along with numerous others. As the title announces, the unifying theme is urban settings; beyond that, the scribes were allowed to let their imaginations run free. Beyond the book, Blumhouse has a full slate of features on the way, including sequels to SINISTER, THE PURGE and OUIJA, plus Roth’s THE GREEN INFERNO, on which Blum’s BH Tilt is teaming with Universal and High Top Releasing for a 1,000-theater release September 25, backed by a targeted marketing campaign.
FANGORIA: How did the book come about, and what was involved in selecting the authors?
JASON BLUM: It came about because one of the things I wanted to do with the company is explore other media. So we have our haunted house, we have our live event, and we’re doing more TV, and I thought it would be really fun to do a book. It’s the first on our imprint, so the hope is that we’ll do more after this one, so that we become a destination for people who like to tell scary stories in different media. And I thought that, since the company is built on great horror filmmakers and storytellers, it would be cool for the first book to include them and reflect how the company came together.
So most of the authors, though not all of them, are people we’ve worked with in movies or TV. And the big difference between this book and other anthologies, especially that other filmmakers have done, is that I didn’t want to just put together a collection of stories that were already written. There are a lot of anthologies of material that was previously published, and I wanted this to be all original, which was a little harder to ask. I approached people we had worked with to see they were interested in doing original scary stories for the book, and most of them were excited to do it.
FANG: Did you give them any specific marching orders?
BLUM: The only two guidelines were that they had to make it scary, and it had to involve a city in some way—either it’s set in a city, or there’s a reference to one. That’s why it’s called THE HAUNTED CITY, but we were very loose with that. So many scary movies and stories take place in suburbia or in the middle of the woods, I thought it would be fun to throw that curveball. Obviously, in the city there are a lot of people around, and when that’s the case, things are less frightening, so I thought that would be a fun challenge.
FANG: Did any of the authors write outside their comfort zone? For example, is Eli Roth’s story as graphic as his movies?
BLUM: He actually did something different, and I think most of them took this opportunity to do something scary in a different way. Eli’s story especially is much more creepy than violent.
FANG: Did you ever consider contributing to the book yourself?
BLUM: No; I wrote the foreword, but I don’t have a story in there. The foreword is really short, it’s just a couple of pages, but if read it, you will see why I didn’t write a story.
FANG: Has there been any thought or discussion about adapting these tales to film?
BLUM: Well, of course, one of the things the writers asked about when I called was the TV and movie rights. And that’s not the point of this book. We don’t own those rights; I told the authors, “If that’s something you’re thinking about, you hold onto those.” And also, I encouraged them to write stories without thinking about budget. The great thing about fiction, as opposed to film or television, is that you can do anything, you can write anything and nothing’s going to cost anything. Most of the stories in the book—I don’t know about all of them, but the great majority—exist only as stories, and there’s no intention to turn them into movies or TV shows.
FANG: Were there any potential writers who were too caught up in film projects to do this book, who you’d like to have contribute to the next one?
BLUM: Yes, James [Wan] and Leigh [Whannell]! They were too busy, but on the next one, they have to do it [laughs]!
FANG: What themes might you want to explore in future books?
BLUM: Well, there are different things we want to explore with the imprint in general; I’m interested in exploring novels too, not just anthologies. We may also do novelizations of some of our movies; we don’t have anything official on that front, but I’d like to explore the universes our filmmakers have created in a literary way. For the next anthology, we could go back to the same people and give them a different theme, or go out to a whole new group. If the book resonates with people, I definitely want to do that.
FANG: Have you ever thought about doing an anthology horror feature?
BLUM: We have considered that, and there’s an idea we’re toying with that is an anthology feature, and we’re also looking at doing that in TV. We haven’t settled on anything yet, but I’m very interested in doing closed-ended scary stories on television.
FANG: With all the films you’ve done, you’ve become sort of a horror brand name, the way Roger Corman was. What are your thoughts on that?
BLUM: Well, that’s very flattering. Roger is actually friends with my parents, and I’ve met him a few times and really admire him, and many of the movies he’s produced. There’s one in particular he directed, THE INTRUDER, that I think is terrific. He’s had an extraordinary career, and to be compared to him is very flattering.
FANG: Do you feel a sense of responsibility to that “brand name” when you make your films?
BLUM: Oh yeah, definitely. The most crucial thing, of course, is that they’re scary, but another thing that’s important to me is that they are original, and feel different. Sometimes the things we do, as with anybody, are financially more successful than others, sometimes they’re critically more successful than others, but I like to believe the movies we choose to do are original. I like to take chances, and working on low budgets allows us to do that.
FANG: Do you see yourself ever stepping up to bigger projects, or are you comfortable in the lower-budget realm?
BLUM: We do occasionally; THE NORMAL HEART was a bigger-budgeted project, so sometimes we’ll step out of our comfort zone. If one of our filmmakers whom we’ve worked with over and over wants to do a more expensive movie, I might do it. I have no aspirations to bigger movies, though; I like doing inexpensive ones, because it’s easier to try different things when you don’t have a lot of capital at risk.
FANG: What’s the current status of THE PURGE 3 and OUIJA 2?
BLUM: We have the script for THE PURGE 3, and there’s a release date already announced [July 1, 2016], so there’s a 99 percent chance we’ll start shooting that movie before the end of the year. I can’t tell you anything about the story, but James has continued the saga in a great, insane way. We have a terrific script for OUIJA 2 as well, and I hope we’re going to start shooting that before the year’s end as well.
FANG: You got OCULUS’ Mike Flanagan and Jeff Howard to write OUIJA 2; any chance that Flanagan might direct as well?
BLUM: I’m trying to talk him into it. Every day I’m trying to talk him into it!
FANG: What’s the current release status of your original movies like THE VEIL, VIRAL and VISIONS—a lot of V-movies!
BLUM: We’ve announced a release date on VIRAL, which will be February of next year [through Weinstein Co./Dimension, and VISIONS and THE VEIL both should come out in the next 12 months, but those will be more limited releases. They’ll come out in a similar fashion to the way we just released CREEP.
FANG: How did you get involved with the distribution of GREEN INFERNO (pictured above)?
BLUM: Eli and I are pals, and he showed me the movie and I thought it was awesome. There’s a release pattern and marketing approach I’ve been wanting to investigate, and we’re trying it out on GREEN INFERNO, and I hope it works. I thought his movie would be perfect for it, so I pitched him the idea and he went for it.
FANG: Your PARANORMAL ACTIVITY and other films have been spoofed a few times now in things like A HAUNTED HOUSE and its sequel; is that flattering to you?
BLUM: Yeah, I think it’s funny. I believe that first happened when Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin did a PARANORMAL ACTIVITY thing at the Academy Awards, which was awesome; I was very happy to be spoofed! It’s a sign we’re doing something right, so I’m very flattered to be parodied.
FANG: Do you think you might ever do a horror/comedy yourself?
BLUM: I would never say never—because if I say no, watch and we’ll do one—but horror/comedy is very, very hard to pull off and also difficult to market, so I think it’s unlikely. It’s not really something we’re looking for; it would have to be something exceptional, and so far we haven’t come across that.
FANG: You’ve had some success outside the horror genre, most notably your Oscar nomination for WHIPLASH. Do you see yourself further branching out into other genres? And would you ever do a horror film with WHIPLASH writer/director Damien Chazelle, who’s written a couple of genre features in the past?
BLUM: Yeah, he has—in fact, he wrote a treatment for the first OUIJA movie. I would have Damien do a horror movie for us in a second; anything he ever wanted to do, I would love to work with him again. Do I see myself branching out more from horror? I think it will happen occasionally, for sure; [Ti West’s] IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE is our Western, and JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS is certainly not a horror movie, but WHIPLASH is not going to change the trajectory of Blumhouse. We’re built on doing scary stuff, and as I said before, we’ll be doing different kinds in addition to movies, like short-form on-line content, TV and books. I do really like horror, and I have no immediate plans to move away from that as a result of WHIPLASH or NORMAL HEART.