Blumhouse Productions is everywhere right now. In addition to the successful The Purge series, which continues with a TV show this spring, the horror studio is breaking into Hollywood adaptations with the latest Halloween movie, and continuing M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable series with Glass. There’s a lot to talk about, and we’re going to dive into it all.
At San Diego Comic-Con’s Purge City pop-up, we met with Blumhouse Productions founder Jason Blum and The Purge creator James DeMonaco to talk about all the series and films they’re working on. They also told us why horror works as social commentary, divulged the film genre Blum wants to break into next, and whether Blumhouse could make a 12-hour Alien movie during Purge Night. For the record: They totally could.
I want to start by talking about The Purge TV show. James, I know you’ve talked previously about how having 10 hours allows things like flashbacks. What else will those 10 hours allot for that might be a little bit more difficult in two hours?
James DeMonaco: I think we really dive into character, why someone would go out on Purge Night. You know, why someone would ever pick up a gun or a knife to solve the problems we have.
Now, we have all this real estate to really explore why someone would do something so heinous — or, or just the complexity of how do you get stuck outside on Purge Night? Instead of just your car breaking down, we can get into some real complicated issues on how you would be outside.
The 10 hours just gives us all this real estate to really dive into character, and how people, you know, do their stuff on Purge Night.
Jason Blum: What we would always talk about, and James would talk about when he was writing the movies, was the fact that it’s hard to do a lot of character stuff in a 90-minute movie. It’s really got to be a bunch of action and plot.
And so, the idea that you can really delve into character, to have all this time — just to see how the Purge affects people’s actions all the way through the evening, not just when something violent is happening — is really interesting.
Are there other stories or character development you’re looking to explore beyond The Purge TV show, and can we expect those stories anytime soon?
DeMonaco: I think one thing that we want to try to get into is what the society is like when it’s not the Purge. We’re in an America where the Purge exists, how do people treat each other on the other days of the year? Is it a polite society? Do people worry about what happens on Purge Night?
So we get to open that up, because you know in the movies we really only spend 10 minutes before the Purge, 15 minutes after. Now, we get to do the flashbacks, and if we get a second season we can spend more time off-Purge, which could be cool.
One of the things that Blumhouse has done really well is using horror as a genre to explore socio-political issues, like with The Purge and Get Out. What is it about horror as a genre that lets you discuss these critical issues?
Blum: James is really the first person that we ever worked with — James started that tradition for us for. There’s been a long tradition of that in horror, but really the first horror movie we made with a real big social implications was The Purge... which came entirely out of James’s brain. So you should really answer that question.
DeMonaco: I think it’s because it’s metaphor. People don’t want to be preached to, I think. Sometimes they go to a movie, they don’t wanna say: "Oh, this is your society, we’re telling you about your society." Horror, sci-fi give us a good metaphorical mirror that we can put up to our society, without hitting people on the head or preaching to them.
Blum: And one of the great things that’s evolved with The Purge, and as you can see in this [San Diego Comic-Con’s Purge City pop-up] here, is James’s notion of the Purge is that it’s an absurd idea...
One of the things that we’re excited about in terms of in terms of the television show is really pushing into what a bananas idea the Purge really is, and we’ve made it very clear with this store here today that that’s the intention of the show.
Are there other social issues you’re hoping to explore in the future?
DeMonaco: In The Purge TV show we do get into a kind of #MeToo movement thing. We’ve done racism a little, sexism, racism. We’re continuing to explore thos e—
DeMonaco: Class, always class, and race. But we do get into the #MeToo movement in a big way with one of our storylines.
Blum: I think The Purge is very fertile to talk about a lot of different issues, can be woven into the notion of the Purge.
DeMonaco: Because it’s a night of reckoning. It’s where people come to terms with these issues. So it’s a night where we can focus on and put a mirror on these issues and really spotlight [them]. See how people react in a heightened way.
Let’s talk about another exciting franchise: Halloween. What were you most nervous about when it came to adapting a character as iconic as Michael Meyers?
Blum: Well, I guess there were a lot of expectations for Halloween. It’s been a while since there’s been one, and you can’t make all the fans happy. So we were really trying to do something unique and original but also something that felt true to the... really the first movie.
And the new Halloween movie nods to all the other Halloweens, but really in terms of storytelling, it’s really what happened 40 years after the first movie took place. So that’s what we attempted to do.
I know that this is a sequel and a reinvention. If it’s a success, is there a plan in place to continue the timeline that you’re establishing?
Blum: I don’t know — I hope we get to do that, but I don’t know where we’re focused. Hopefully, this movie will work and then we’ll figure out what the next one is. We haven’t gotten that far — we actually haven’t even finished the movie. We’re still working on the movie right now.
I know one character you’ve talked about adapting is someone like Jason Voorhees [from the Friday the 13th series]. I know there are rights issues. If all rights were on the table, it’s like a Purge Night of rights. Everything is OK —
Blum: [laughing] The Purge Night of rights.
DeMonaco: That’s good!
Blum: By the way, a great episode of The Purge would be... if you could make and distribute a movie in 12 hours —
DeMonaco: You have to make it and release it —
Blum: And release it, right. It would be hard but not impossible.
All crime’s OK, so I’m assuming that would be included!
DeMonaco: For me, it would be Alien, the Alien monster franchise. It’s my favourite. I love the Alien one.
Blum: Oh god, we’re gonna make an Alien movie. I just decided right here, let’s go!
So what about you, Jason. What do you want to adapt?
Blum: Well clearly it would be Alien with James. And I’ve always wanted to do Friday the 13th — I’ve tried to do it a bunch of times. We’d do a cool version of it, but I haven’t gotten the rights yet. But, I’m waiting for Purge Night to steal the rights to Friday the 13th.
DeMonaco: Then we’ll make it and release it in 12 hours.
One thing you did get the rights to is M. Night Shyamalan’s superhero series with Glass. Was it difficult working with Touchstone, which owns the rights to Unbreakable, in order to make Glass a reality?
Blum: Well, that’s why the movie’s being distributed internationally by Disney and domestically by Universal. So, we got everyone to get together and get along and we split the rights half and half. We split the rights for exactly the reason that you’re suggesting.
What makes Glass different than most other Blumhouse productions?
Blum: Glass is a little bit bigger budget, and you know Glass really belongs to [M. Night Shyamalan]. It’s really his and it’s something that I think has been brewing in him for a long long time. We’ve done a couple movies with him so we were pleased to work with him on it, but really the DNA of Glass is really M. Night Shyamalan’s DNA.
I know that Blumhouse is venturing out into other genres — for example, James, you have Once Upon a Time in Staten Island, a coming-of-age family drama. Are there any genres that you haven’t gone into yet that you’re looking or hoping to explore next?
DeMonaco: I’d like to do a musical. No, I’m kidding, I don’t want to do a musical.
Blum: I would love to do a musical. We made a documentary about a year ago called Stage Door, which is great, and I do want to do a musical for sure. Actually, I probably would put that at the top of my list of what I would like to do is a musical.
What kind of musical would you like to do?
Blum: I don’t know what it would be. I don’t know if it would be reinventing something. I mean, what I really want to do is an original musical. It’s almost impossible to do. I mean, we would have to do a very low budget, I think, but I would love to do an original musical. It’d be fun.
The two of you have had a lasting impact on horror as a genre, especially speculative horror, over the last decade. Where do you hope to see horror in the next 10 years?
DeMonaco: That’s a really good question. I hope it continues in this way. I mean, I hope that people continue trying to put a mirror up to society.
I think it’s a time of great turmoil in America and the world. Whatever we can do to put a mirror up to that, make people think about issues — and also be entertained simultaneously, so we’re not preaching to anyone.
And I’d like to see more kids pick up their iPhone and just shoot horror at home. Because if I had that stuff when I was 20, the technology they have now, it’d be great to see young people starting to make their own movies at that age.
Blum: And I think one of the great things about horror is it’s really geared towards young people. Young people often aren’t that — I’m including myself, I wasn’t that focused on politics but what’s going on in the world. If horror can get people, especially younger people, to kind of engage in issues going on in the world that would be a great thing.
So I hope to see more of that. I hope to see more things like The Purge or Get Out.
And what part do you hope to play in that?
DeMonaco: I’m just going to keep writing and directing leave the producing to Jason. I know my place.
Blum: I think both of us hope to make more movies and TV shows that feel like The Purge — but are new and different of course — but that did what The Purge did... Whether you like it or hate, it’s getting into the mindset of popular culture. And I think that’s a good thing.
DeMonaco: Yeah, me too.