Get Out’s Jason Blum ’91Hollywood’s Titan of Terror
Jason Blum ’91, founder and CEO of Blumhouse Productions, produced two of the most talked-about movies of 2017—the critically acclaimed Get Out and Split, featuring a terrifying James McAvoy.
The notion of a post-racial America takes center stage with Get Out, when an African American fine arts photographer accompanies his white girlfriend on a visit to her family home. What begins as a nagging feeling that something weird is underfoot slowly turns into full-blown terror. In Split, three young girls are kidnapped by a deranged man who turns out to have multiple personality disorder —with 23 different identities.
Best known as the producer of the popular horror franchises Insidious, The Purge, and Paranormal Activity, as well as the Academy Award-winning Whiplash, Blum has mastered the low-budget horror hit. The producer—who is also a Vassar trustee—talks with us about his recent films, his foray into television, and his upcoming projects.
Get Out has received a rare score of 99 on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics (including the New York Times’ Manohla Dargis) praising Jordan Peele’s writing and directing. What was your first impression of the script?
It was everything that I look for in a script—unique, original, and fresh—and combined all the best elements of a scary movie with a really critical message.
How did you first become aware of Get Out and what attracted you as a producer?
A producer we work with named Scoop Wasserstein told me about Get Out, and then one of our assistants heard about it on a podcast. As a producer, first and foremost, I wanted to work with Jordan. He is just an incredibly talented, smart, original voice and he wrote a script that was unlike anything I had read before.
The Purge plays with class divisions, Whiplash examines the cost of genius, and Get Out uses the horror genre to delve into racism. Do you look for films that have a deeper meaning aside from their entertainment value?
Absolutely! Scary movies let you tell interesting, serious stories that shine a light on our culture. So, if you can do that effectively and mirror your storytelling with what’s going on in the culture, a film can really resonate.
You have a reputation for working with little-known and underappreciated talent. The recently released Split was a real comeback for writer-director M. Night Shyamalan and Get Out is Peele’s directorial debut. What is it about these filmmakers that you like?
Peele and Shyamalan are brilliant at what they do. They have their own voices and have really mastered the craft of storytelling. I see our job [as producers] as supporting them and giving them a platform to tell their stories.
Do you feel that films like Get Out and Split bring a bit more legitimacy to the horror genre?
I think Split is more of a thriller than a horror movie, but there have been great horror movies before that have really touched a nerve in the culture. For example, I think The Purge helped pave the way for Get Out. That being said, it’s definitely been a nice moment and has brought new people into the genre.
What are you working on now?
We have Insidious: Chapter 4 coming out later this year and I am working a lot on television [projects]. We are producing Sharp Objects—based on best-selling author Gillian Flynn’s novel—for HBO, starring Amy Adams, and are working on a miniseries about Roger Ailes with Tom McCarthy and acclaimed journalist Gabriel Sherman.
-Photo of Jason Blum ’91 courtesy of Blumhouse Productions; photos from Get Out courtesy of NBCUniversal.