When Heavy Mag catches up with Jason Blum he is a few minutes late and begins apologising profusely. Really though you couldn’t expect anything less – Blum is one of Hollywood’s hardest working producers – in the past he has worked on 122 films and is currently working on 25 movies as well as having his latest film Happy Death Day hitting cinemas in just a few days.
If you’re a horror fan you have a lot to thank Blum for. Blum was the man that put horror back on the big screen. In a period when distributors were only too keen to put horror films in the straight-to-DVD pile Blum arrived on the scene producing movies and franchises like The Purge, Sinister, Paranormal Activity, Insidious and The Gallows which dominated the Box Office so much that soon distributors were once again realising that horror did sell on the big screen.
“I wanted to become a producer when I was very, very young,” says Jason once he has stopped apologising. “It was actually the year after I graduated college and even when I was in college I had done a lot of producing and organising, we had this group that I was a part of where we would organise events all throughout the year, so I was always doing a lot of producing, cheerleading and organising which is what a producer does anyway. My first year out of college in 1991 my roommate was Noah Baumbach and he wrote this script that I really liked and I said ‘hey we should make this’ and I had no idea what we were doing, it took three years to make but we got it made and that was where it all began for me.”
That leads me to a question that I have always wanted to ask a producer, what makes him want to make a film when he has just read the script? “Usually what I am looking for is something that feels original,” he explains. “I think that is what holds all of our movies together, not the sequels but the originals in the franchise – The Purge, The Visit, The Gift, Insidious, Split, Get Out and Happy Death Day. I think what ties them all together is that they feel different, one of the advantages of making low-budget films is that we can take chances on films that are different. Of course we have to like them and feel good but unlike studios who have to choose movies that feel like movies from the past we try to find movies that you can’t compare anything to from the past.”
While Jason has made movies like Whiplash and The Reader over the years he does seem to centre a lot of his filmmaking in the horror genre and I just had to ask him what he loves about horror. “Well first of all Australia and horror have a very strange relationship,” he says off me talking about him being the man to put horror back into our cinemas. “You make the greatest horror movie makers ever but then you don’t show their movies there and I was like ‘that doesn’t make any sense this country can’t make all these amazing filmmakers and then not show their work.’ So I decided to do something about it!!! I’ve always been a movie fan, I’ve loved crazy films from people like Quentin Tarantino and Eli Roth, but I’ve also like all movies across a lot of different genres. I lived on Hitchcock movies when I was growing up but why I love making horror films is that I like to make movies that play in the movie theatre and I like mixing things up. Most of our films are like those emotional dramas tied into a horror film… I say tied into because of lack of a better description… but I like that idea because of the dramatic films I come from at Miramax and Sundance and all that but now I put them in a horror shell which means they are consumed by a lot more people and I think a lot of the time it makes them a better movie – I think Get Out and Happy Death Day are great examples of that, that is what I love about horror movies.”
When we start talking about the movies that Jason was watching when he was growing up a few horror films do come into the mix. “I loved Hitchcock,” he says. “But I also loved Friday The 13th, loved The Shining and loved Rosemary’s Baby, loved Jaws and I loved a lot of the older movies that I watched as well. I have seen every Hitchcock film over and over multiple times, I actually did a class on Hitchcock when I was at college and they were the movies that I loved when I was growing up.”
So what were Jason’s first thoughts when he sat down and read the script for his brand new film Happy Death Day? “Well I had made four movies with Christopher Landon, four he had written and one of the four he has directed and I was dying to work with Chris again. So when he gave me this script I was inclined to like it no matter what it was and then when I did read it, happily I did like it and what drew me to it was what I was saying before it was original – it was a horror with a comedic feel of Groundhog Day. I just thought it was really cool, it was something I had never heard of and it was something that had never occurred to me that would even work and couple with the filmmaker we decided to go forward, but if it hadn’t of been Chris we wouldn’t have made the movie.”
Jason also agrees that this movie does throwback to the 90s style of horror with movies like I Know What You Did Last Summer and Valentine. “We were thinking about movies like those, and of course Scream, and we realised that people haven’t seen a movie like that for a while and that was one of the reasons why we wanted to make the film.”
Happy Death Day is in cinemas right now.