How Blumhouse Broke the Mould – Part 1

When it comes to modern Horror films, over the past twenty years a few things come to mind; home videos, obscured views and socially charged plots being but a few. Well nobody has done more to affect the current genre than a company called Blumhouse Productions.

Blumhouse Productions started in the year 2000 and is an American Film and Television production company. Even if you have not heard the name, it’s likely you have seen one of their films. They were behind ‘Paranormal Activity’, ‘Insidious’, ‘The Purge’, ‘Happy Death Day’ and ‘Get Out’ to name a few. Their productions have been nominated for several awards, two of them (‘Whiplash’ and ‘Get Out’) even receiving Academy Award nominations for Best Picture.

The company was founded by Jason Blum, who had previously worked as an Executive Producer under the Weinsteins at Miramax in 1990s. Blum had aspirations of becoming an independent Producer and decided to leave Miramax to follow his dreams. After around four years of this, however, it wasn’t what he’d hoped for, he really didn’t enjoy it and decided it wasn’t for him. During this time he had started building his own production company and by the year 2000 Blumhouse Productions was born.

Blumhouse is now well known for its surprisingly unique low budget model. Simply put, the company creates films on a low budget and widely distributes them in order to capitalise on a much higher profit. Due to this method their films have become some of the most profitable movies in history when comparing budget to gross. This also allows them to take chances on new ideas and to give creators less boundaries when making their films, making them a very attractive company to work with. This wasn’t always their intention though; it came about through the success of their first Horror film, a found-footage ghost movie that would go on to become one of the most influential examples of the genre in the past two decades, ‘Paranormal Activity’.

Initially ‘Paranormal Activity’ was developed as in independent film, written, directed and edited by Oren Peli. His idea was to create a Horror film that scared its audience through believability rather than through gore or action. He used a standard home video camera to create this effect, though unlike in ‘The Blair Witch Project’ in which the characters are creating a sort of video diary, he decided to keep the camera stationary which gives a fly on the wall feel to the film, intended to evoke a higher aspect of plausibility to the film. This also eliminated the need of having a film crew on set, helping keep the budget down. Instead of writing scripted dialogue, he created outlines for each scene, allowing the actors to improvise their scenes, this is what’s known as ‘retroscripting’ and is used to add a more natural feeling to the speech. After auditioning a number of actors, Peli finally picked Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat for the two main roles. He chose them because of their chemistry, saying it was as if they’d known each other for years.