'Into the Dark': Jason Blum on His New Hulu Series, 'Get Out' and the Horror Renaissance

Jason Blum has scared the hell out of millions of people.

The founder and CEO of Blumhouse Productions has been declared "the new master of horror," a title he earned with low-budget blockbusters The Purge, Insidious and Paranormal Activity, as well as 2017's game-changing, Oscar-nominated Get Out, written and directed by Jordan Peele. Made for less than $5 million, Get Out went on to gross more than $250 million worldwide.

"When I read the script, I thought, My God, I've never read anything like this, and I love it," said Blum. "But I certainly never thought we would get a best picture nomination." (It was Blum's second; the first was for a non-horror venture, 2014's Whiplash.)

Blum's latest project, Hulu's Into the Dark, is an anthology series—12 stand-alone horror films, the episodes united by a common theme: Each tells a frightening story about a different holiday. Newsweek got an early look at the gory first chapter (debuting October 5), in which a hitman shows up at a Halloween party with a dead body for a date. The second episode, the Thanksgiving-themed "Flesh & Blood," hits Hulu on November 2.

Newsweek spoke to Blum about Into the Dark, the social power of scary movies and how he turned the biggest regret of his career into a horror empire.

Jason Blum
"We pretty much see every scary script in Hollywood," says movie producer Jason Blum, pictured accepting the award for best sci-fi/horror movie for "Get Out" during the 23rd annual Critics' Choice Awards. Kevin Winter/Getty Images

How did you get the idea for Into the Dark?
We pretty much see every scary script in Hollywood. A lot that come in that we love, we [don't] have a mechanism to make them. Someone came up with the idea: What if we did a series of stand-alone movies, each with a scary holiday theme? It really scratched that itch we had.

What is the scariest holiday in real life?
Election Day. Donald Trump is the scariest man alive!

There's a sense among critics that we're living in a golden age of horror movies. Is that accurate, or are people just starting to pay attention?
I think it's accurate. But I don't think it's the first one. The popularity of horror movies is cyclical. I've lived through three cycles already. What happens is they get very, very popular. Then a lot of people make them. Then there are too many, and most of them are bad because they've been made very quickly. Then the popularity wanes a bit. When fewer start getting made, a good one will connect with audiences. And then it will increase. Right now we're definitely at the peak of a new wave.

What about Get Out made horror respectable for critics and the motion picture academy?
Get Out woke people up to the fact that there can be real artistry to horror movies. It's just as hard to make a great horror movie as it is to make a great drama or great comedy. I've known that since we started. The academy looks at movies [in terms of], "Are they trying to give a message to make the world a better place?" Like Get Out, with a message about racism. This has been true since FrankensteinJohn Carpenter did it in the 1970s better than anyone else—but critics are remembering that horror movies are a great vehicle to deliver a positive social message.

When you first read the script for Get Out, was your reaction "This movie is going to win a best picture nomination"?
No. If that was my immediate reaction, I wouldn't be on the phone with you—I'd be retired [laughs]. When I first read the script, I thought, My god. I've never read anything like this, and I love it. Because we make low-budget movies, it's easier for us to take risks. That's why we keep our budgets so low—so we can make movies like Get Out. Even after it came out and did financially well, I hoped it would get recognized by the academy. But I certainly never thought it would get four nominations [picture, actor, director and original screenplay], to say nothing of wins.

How would you describe a Blumhouse film?
Low-budget with an edge. And we don't look at successful movies and try to repeat that sucess—we try to make films that have never been made before. What also makes them unique is they're auteur-driven. Auteur is not a word commonly equated with horror. Most of our films are by writer-directors; they're not directed by someone else who hasn't written it.

And it's not just horror movies. We're making a scripted series for Showtime about [Fox News founder] Roger Ailes. That's really scary to me.

I read a profile of Paul Schrader, and it mentions he had a light-bulb moment when a fellow filmmaker told him that if you made a movie for under $2 million, you could make anything you want. That seems very similar to your vision.
Everybody talks about our low budgets in terms of profitability. We could be very profitable making big-budget movies. We have low budgets for creative freedom. Our number is $5 [million], not $2 [million]. But the reason we have that number is that we can do whatever we want. The reason my number is $5 [million] and his is $2 [million] is I'm making commercial movies. An art movie, the number is $1 [million] or $2 [million]. A commercial movie, the number is a little bit higher.

Into the Dark
Jason Blum, who has been called the "new master of horror," onstage during a Hulu upfront on May 2. Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Hulu

How does your approach to giving directors creative freedom compare with the norm in Hollywood?
We give directors a lot more control and power, including final cut. That allows us to have more creative influence over our movies and TV shows: Once a director knows he or she has final cut, they're more open to hearing criticism, because they don't have to do it! When a director doesn't have control, they become defensive; they're worried they're going to be forced to do something they don't want to do. We don't force our directors to do anything.

Do you have a favorite episode of Into the Dark?
Of course, but I'm not telling you. That would make for 11 very unhappy filmmakers [laughs].

OK, let me phrase it differently. Is there one that has special significance?
The one that holds a close place to my heart is [directed by] Chelsea Stardust. Ten years ago she was my assistant, and she's a horror fanatic. I learned an enormous amount about horror from her.

What are your all-time favorite horror films?
The Shining. Rosemary's Baby. The scariest horror movie for me was Friday the 13th.

Do you regret passing on The Blair Witch Project?
I deeply regret it. But I don't think the compnay would exist if I hadn't passed. I also learned a lot of valuable lessons. Seeing every major player in Hollywood pass on what became the most successful horror movie of all time gave me the conviction to believe in Paranormal Activity when no one else did. It's said a million times about Hollywood: "The experts are not experts."

Are you saying it made you believe in more unorthodox projects?
No. It made me believe in my own taste and my own conviction. I've believed in unorthodox projects since I was about 3 years old. I'm very unorthodox.

What kind of movies did you produce when you were 3 years old?
No, unorthodox projects!I made odd papier-mâché sculptures that no one else in my class made.

'Into the Dark': Jason Blum on His New Hulu Series, 'Get Out' and the Horror Renaissance | Culture