Today, Jason Blum – of Blumhouse Productions – is undoubtedly one of the most successful producers in cinema. His filmography is actually quite eclectic, with him having helped deliver projects across a number of genres – from the drama The Reader, to the comedy Tooth Fairy. His production label has become synonymous with horror movies, though – and that’s all thanks to one film: Paranormal Activity.
Prior to Oren Peli’s CCTV-based ghost story, Blum had enjoyed a somewhat patchier run as producer – but when Paranormal Activity earned $193 million worldwide against a budget of just $15,000, business at Blumhouse Productions kicked into high gear. Specializing in low-budget horror that earn big returns, Blum has since produced horror franchises including Insidious, The Purge, Sinister and Ouija, as well as standalone titles, such as Oculus, Creep, and Get Out.
Having received an Academy Award nomination himself, for producing the 2014 film Whiplash, Jason Blum is currently at a loss to explain why the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences generally seems to avoid the horror genre – despite a wealth of worthy movies regularly being released. With recent Blumhouse Productions Split and Get Out specifically generating awards buzz, the producer expressed his confusion on the issue to Screen Rant.
“You know what, I don’t know because I was going to say because people tend to shy away from the violence, but the truth is there are super violent movies that are nominated for Academy Awards, they’re just rarely horror films or they haven’t been horror films in a long time. Maybe they think they’re gross or something. I don’t know, that’s a good question. I don’t know. But you’re right.”
Blum makes an interesting point here, in that violent movies do often receive Academy recognition. The films of Martin Scorsese, for example, often draw a lot of Academy attention – despite containing notably vicious behaviours, as in the case of The Departed, Goodfellas and Gangs Of New York. And let’s not forget the Oscar success of 1994’s Pulp Fiction. So, if it’s not an aversion to the depiction of violence, why do horror films so rarely feature on the Oscars ‘For Your Consideration’ slate?
There are, of course, exceptions – most notably, 1991’s The Silence Of The Lambs – but such instances remain all-too-rare. Fans of the genre are likely to argue that the lack of Academy attention is due to the stigma attached to creating a story that falls into the same category as 1988’s Death Row Diner, or indeed, 2009’s Halloween II. Certainly, the fact that romantic historical drama Pearl Harbor managed to receive four Academy Award nominations would clearly support the notion of such stigma – as similar romantic historical dramas are generally considered ‘awards baiting’ projects, while complex, well-executed horror films are routinely dismissed by non-genre-specific awards-giving organisations.
The question is, with the past 12 months in particular having seen some truly remarkable output in the horror genre, could this be the year that such stigma is ended? Jason Blum’s optimistic.
“I am on the Academy and I definitely plan on voting for myself [laughs]. I think we have a real shot at certain categories [for Get Out], perhaps the writing category. I hope so!”
The writing, directing and lead performance of Jordan Peele’s Get Out are certainly worthy of Oscar nominations – as are the lead performance in M. Night Shyamlan’s Split, and the performances and production design in Andy Muschietti’s It. Whether these projects get the recognition they so richly deserve remains to be seen – but producer Jason Blum remains hopeful.