In his early 20s, Jason Blum was working in real estate, dreaming of being a film producer. Flash-forward a few decades and he's the king of horror movies, with his production company Blumhouse delivering sizable hits on relatively tiny budgets (and that's to say nothing of the Oscar-nominated dramas he’s been involved with, such as BlacKkKlansman and Whiplash.)
But he's never forgotten his roots as a lover of independent cinema. "One of the things I always tell the filmmakers is, 'If you pull out the genre parts, does the movie stand on its own as a great dramatic story?'" Blum said in 2017. "Most horror movies don't, but I like to think that our movies do. If you really dissect a lot of our movies, you'd see an indie movie in there."
Today, we rank Blumhouse's five best horror films.
The smartness of the new Halloween is that it reveres the original 1978 film without ever feeling like it's needlessly aping it. It updates it in a way that feels true to the spirit of John Carpenter's original, but it has its own story to tell, one that is undeniably connected to our current world.
Oh, and it's also extremely scary, even pitiless: this is Michael Myers not as kitschy '80s icon, but as an avatar of true evil.
In that same 2017 interview, Blum described this underrated Ethan Hawke chiller aptly: "If you look at our movies, they are totally born out of '90s New York independent cinema. Sinister is a Sundance drama about a man struggling in his career who makes the terrible choice of choosing his career over the well-being of his family. But it's in a genre skin."
Before he went on to helm Doctor Strange, director Scott Derrickson delivered this cautionary tale of a vain author (Hawke) whose specialty is true crime; he moves his family into a home where grisly things occurred, excited at the prospect of another bestseller. Hawke is superb as a self-absorbed writer who only slowly comes to understand what he's done, and Sinister delivers one expert scare after another. As Blum suggested, the film's a character piece about ambition and shortsightedness — and it's super-frightening, too.
Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)
Yes, yes, we know the first one is the most popular, and the one that changed the game, horror-movie wise. But is it OK that we actually prefer this one, directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, the Catfish guys?
The inspired addition to Paranormal Activity 3, set in the 1980s, is the camera that one of the characters attaches to a rotating fan — which means, essentially, we find ourselves panning back and forth across the frame, waiting for something scary to jump out when we make the return trip. Many scary things jump out. And we jumped out of our seats. Repeatedly.
Living up to the promise of Get Out was always going to be difficult for Jordan Peele. But Us gets awfully damn close, casting Lupita Nyong'o as a wife and mother who goes with her family on vacation — only to discover that there's a family that looks a lot like them just hanging out on the front lawn.
A metaphor for the marginalized that's also a pretty ace horror flick — Peele's skill as a visual stylist has increased since Get Out — Us is stuffed full of ideas that will keep you debating and unraveling the story long after it's over. If Us doesn't feel quite as revelatory, give it time: it might become a classic down the road as well.
Get Out (2017)
Jordan Peele was always a talented performer, but who knew he was the next Hitchcock?
OK, maybe it's a little premature to toss that name around, but Peele's directorial debut is so assured, and blessed with such an unbeatable premise, that it feels as if he was always a horror master just waiting to be discovered. Get Out was so revolutionary, and changed so much about not just the horror genre but movies themselves, that it's easy to forget how fantastic a movie it is standing on its own.
It gets under your skin and tells you more about yourself than you might like to know.