Interview: Jason Blum

Horror occupies an interesting and complex place in American cinema and the American psyche. Shallow horror flicks flood theatres, luring teens and gore-o-philes to the movies for fast, easy fun. Masterfully crafted horror films, however, can evoke all sorts of emotions and reactions: fear, terror, empathy, despair and creativity. The American cultural lexicon is replete with folk tales and urban legends that delve into the menacing and the macabre, from Bigfoot to Bloody Mary to the ghosts of Disneyland to the Hook Man. Horror can be culled forth from anywhere—the shadows of the woods, the darkness of solitude, the eeriness of cookie-cutter suburbia and the unsettling quality of a midnight cityscape.

Horror only carries weight insofar as we can believe it, relate to it, and internalize it, and if the murmurs, whispers and screams still ring in our skulls as we leave the inky black theatres and try to adjust to the brisk brightness of reality. A monster frequenting some cavern or sewer is spooky, but only when we see manifestations of that monster, that primal fear, infringing on our families, invading our homes, does it become true horror.

Jason Blum, producer of prominent horror films like the “Paranormal Activity” franchise and “Insidious,” is a fan of pitting supernatural threats against a prototypical American family, often in a suburban setting. Blum’s latest film is “Dark Skies,” a movie in which a suburban family slowly becomes aware of a paranormal presence that poses a threat to their family, especially their children.

Recently I got the chance to participate in a group-phone-interview with Mr. Blum, and got to hear some of his strategies and approaches to film.

Jason Blum’s production company, Blumhouse, has produced many horror movies, as well as non-horror-genre movies such as The Tooth Fairy and The Reader. Blumhouse aspires to create horror movies with a below-average budget, relying more, as Blum puts it, on story and character instead of big-budget effects. Many of his horror films share similar motifs, although Mr. Blum stated that this is more of a happy accident than anything.

“I go out and look for scary movies to produce, and often times they’re set in the suburbs, and often times they have scary children in them,” he said, “but I don’t go out specifically looking for movies with kids in them.”

However, Mr. Blum acknowledges that children in horror movies can carry some inherent spook-factor: “I think that children are innocent, and vulnerable and that their brains are not fully developed– and that the way that adults relate to that concept leaves a lot of room for scares.”

Mr. Blum stated that “Dark Skies” will be a “family-driven” film, and that the film’s horror will be derived from subtle scares.

“The scares will definitely be creeping,” Mr. Blum said. “There will definitely be some make-you-jump scares, but mostly it will be slow, creeping scares. I want it to linger in your head as you leave.”

Mr. Blum acknowledged that his films have not made fans of everyone, and that not everyone appreciates horror films, but openly says that he thinks “Dark Skies” is a good movie.

“This is my challenge to your readers,” Mr. Blum said, “I want them go see it, and want them to decide if it’s good– and then let me know! I’d love to hear from you.”