The only thing scarier than Jason Blum’s movies is how good he is at getting them made. The 48-year-old CEO of Blumhouse has become one of the most successful executives in Hollywood thanks to a string of low budget horror movies that have made vast amounts of money at the box office.
Blumhouse’s latest triumph is the teen slasher romp Happy Death Day, which earned $26.5 million this past weekend, more than five times the amount it cost to make. To give you a sense of how Herculean a feat that is, Blade Runner 2049 brought in just $16 million in its second week of release. It cost $150 million to make.
Happy Death Day caps a remarkable year for the boutique production house, which also oversaw the release of Split and Get Out, another set of smaller films with huge paydays. In fact, Blumhouse movies have become such a safe bet, that studios have started scheduling the release of their major franchises around Blumhouse films. It’s a rare instance of Goliath cowering at the feet of David.
So how has Blumhouse been able to remain profitable without relying on the luxury of previously established tentpoles? It all comes down to a simple formula. By making high-concept horror movies starring up-and-coming talent instead of established boldface names, the company keeps its costs at a minimum, making it much easier for its titles to make money.
The low production costs also give Blumhouse the luxury of pushing out more movies per year than any major studio. It’s a throw-it-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks ethos that led to the ultra-successful Paranormal Activity, Insidious and Purge franchises. It’s also led to a slew of films you’ve never seen or even heard of; for every Get Out there’s an Area 51. But because they cost so little to make, the company’s failures are a lot less glaring than Warner Bros. current, very public Blade Runner 2049 post-mortem.
But Blumhouse’s real stroke of genius was its decision to go all in on horror movies, which have been brought back from the dead more times than Michael Myers himself. Much like the self-aware Scream franchise did in the 1990s, Blumhouse’s high-concept movies have managed to breathe new life into a genre that’s often prone to repetition. The company has built a sandbox for visionary filmmakers like Jordan Peele and M. Night Shyamalan to play and experiment in, free from the constraints that often come with working in a more traditional studio system. Peele, in particular, seems to have singlehandedly revived the “social thriller” and has at least four more planned over the next ten years.
It also helps horror movies are perhaps the one genre that begs to be watched with an audience. While more and more people are content with consuming content on their phones or computers, no one likes having their blood curdled by themselves. That’s especially true for slasher films, which are more dependent on jump scares than any other horror subgenre.
And with Happy Death Day, Blumhouse has its sights set on reviving the teen slasher film, which after years of cultural irrelevance, feels primed for a renaissance. Part of what made Happy Death Day such a hit was its irresistible hook: Scream meets Groundhog Day. It’s the kind of marketable gimmick that elevated the movie beyond its more traditional counterparts. It’s also further proof that audiences are willing to buy into horror movies even if they aren’t as effects-laden as It, which became the highest-grossing horror movie of all time earlier this year.
The success of Happy Death Day now leaves Blumhouse with an embarrassment of riches. With a sequel already a foregone conclusion, and the hotly anticipated Halloween reboot slated for next year, Blumhouse has ensured that the future of the slasher movie is very bright (and bloody.)