Jordan Peele’s wildly popular film Get Out, in which a black fine arts photographer is introduced for the first time to his white girlfriend’s suburban parents during a weekend getaway, has been described as a cross between the socially conscious Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and the creepily prescient Stepford Wives. The breakout film was both a top box-office draw in early 2017 and a critical success, receiving a rare score of 99 on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics like the New York Times’ Manohla Dargis praised the strength and insight of Peele’s writing and directing. That it was Peele’s debut film made the accomplishment even more impressive.
The powerhouse producer who saw Get Out’s potential? Jason Blum ’91, CEO and founder of Blumhouse Productions, who was recently profiled in the New York Times and named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People.”
“First and foremost, I wanted to work with Jordan. He is just an incredibly talented, smart, original voice,” says Blum. “And he wrote a script that was unlike anything I had read before. It was everything that I look for in a script—unique, original, and fresh—and it combined all the best elements of a scary movie with a really critical message.”
“Scary movies let you tell interesting, serious stories that shine a light on our culture."
Best known as the producer of such popular horror franchises as Insidious, The Purge, and Paranormal Activity, as well as the Oscar award-winning Whiplash, Blum has mastered the low-budget horror hit. But he says he looks for projects that have a deeper meaning beyond their entertainment value.
The Purge, for example, plays with class division, Whiplash examines the cost of genius, and Get Out explores some white Americans’ competing impulses to reject and emulate blacks. Such culturally conscious projects help to raise the profile of horror films, attracting those who might not have been drawn to the genre before, Blum says. “It’s definitely been a nice moment and [Get Out] has brought new people into the genre.”
There’s no denying that such features have helped Blum’s star to rise, but he is not resting on his laurels. He released another talked-about movie this year—the M. Night Shyamalan thriller Split, which features the actor James McAvoy as a man with 23 personalities who abducts and terrorizes three teenage girls. Audiences can look forward to Blum’s Insidious: Chapter 4 coming out later this year, as well as several television projects, including two mini-series—one about former Fox News chief Roger Ailes and the other an HBO series called Sharp Objects, starring Amy Adams and based on the eponymous novel by bestselling author Gillian Flynn.
—Photos, from top: Jason Blum, Getty Images; film still, courtesy of NBCUniversal; Jason Blum, Blumhouse Productions.