When it comes to horror, very few producers have come close to what Jason Blum has achieved through Blumhouse Productions. By recruiting talented – and not always obvious – filmmakers to tell scary stories on a budget, the producer extraordinaire has become one of the most important names in genre, as well as earning critical raves for films like BLACKKKLANSMAN WHIPLASH, as well as the acclaimed series Sharp Objects featuring Amy Adams. And now, he has teamed up with the fine folks behind the original HALLOWEEN to bring what appears to be the best sequel in the series – I’ve yet to see the film myself.
Along with John Carpenter, Malek Akkad and Jamie Lee Curtis, Blum brings us a sequel to the original film. HALLOWEEN (2018) is directed by David Gordon Green – with a script by Green and Danny McBride – and the word of mouth is exceptional. We recently had the chance to talk with Jason about the new film, it’s direct line to the original and the impressive critical response. During our conversation, we talked about a possible sequel, remaining true to the Carpenter’s classic and how Jake Gyllenhaal helped get Jamie Lee Curtis involved.
The night HE came home again will be this Friday, October 19th – with preview screenings on October 18th. Are you ready for the return of Michael Myers in HALLOWEEN?!
Well first off, I’m looking at the 84% on Rotten Tomatoes which is, you’ve got to be impressed with that. The 11th film in a horror franchise with that high of a rating, and people are this excited about it. [Currently, the film has risen to 86% over at RT]
Impressed! I’ve tweeted it about 700 times.
My biggest badge of honor. All the movies [in the franchise], they’ve all been rotten except for John’s and ours. I’m extremely proud of it.
You should be. You’ve been trying to get this franchise for a long time, you’ve been trying to get this off the ground. How did you know it was David and Danny, that they had the right vision for it?
Well, that’s a very kind of Blumhouse thing which is that I’ve had a lot of lively … Hollywood traditionally when they’re trying to find a director for a prized, horror, piece of ID, they just think “We have to find someone who’s done other good horror movies.” And I’m a firm believer that if you … I’d rather have a movie director who’s made great movies then a director who’s made three good horror movies. And so, if my point wasn’t proved out in GET OUT, it was certainly proved out in HALLOWEEN. What you really need for a horror movie is a great director, not a great horror director. And so, David Gordon Green I met after GEORGE WASHINGTON. I followed his career. I’ve been a huge admirer of him. I think he’s an enormous talent, as is Danny McBride.
I’ve offered him a bunch of things and it has to be the right creative fit for him. And finally HALLOWEEN was. And when he said yes, we totally went for it.
I’ve got to say too, I think you mentioned GEORGE WASHINGTON and one of my favorites is ALL THE REAL GIRLS. I feel like even though they’re dramas, they still kind of have that sense of Haddenfield, small-town America. Which this movie needs.
A hundred percent. A hundred percent. Yes, I agree.
Now how much did you have to fight to bring Jamie Lee Curtis back? Because I know she wasn’t really itching to jump back into this world.
She definitely wasn’t. I felt, I mean, John Carpenter, I said “I’m not making a movie unless we can get John Carpenter. And I met John and we had our meeting and happily he agreed to do it. If he hadn’t agreed to do it we would not have done it. Jamie, as the movie began to take shape, as Danny and David began to give the movie shape, it just became clear. Kind of the same thing, if there was no Jamie Lee it just wasn’t going to work, or wasn’t going to work nearly as well.
In retrospect, I just don’t think it would have worked at all without her, actually. And we got very lucky, which is that Jamie Lee Curtis, I think her godson, is – you have to check that, or anyway – Jake Gyllenhall [it appears he is her “unofficial godson”]. And Jake had just starred in STRONGER, which David had directed. And when we called Jamie, we said David was directing, and said “Ask Jake what he thought of David.” And clearly Jake gave David very high marks. And I think that made Jamie come to the meeting with an open mind. And that coupled with David’s pitch of what the movie would be, which is in a lot of ways a female empowerment story, is what got us lucky enough to get Jamie Lee Curtis back.
Well I was gonna say that too, because you don’t see in horror films, you see the tragedy happen and teenagers getting knocked off one by one, but you don’t see how it affects them years later. Which is a really great idea. Was that always David’s vision?
It was David and Danny’s idea to just kind of do a reflection on trauma. And when they pitched the idea I thought it was good. In retrospect, it was great. It was so clever, and the way it’s an extension of the first movie. They ignored all movies in between. As much as I liked the pitch, the movie turned out better than the pitch. Which is rare. And it made me, at the end of the process, have even more appreciation for their concept for this movie.
Now, again you went with guys who are known for comedy, or known for dramas, and as you said with GET OUT, another example, why do you think these guys have this grasp on the genre that maybe the guy who’s made 5 horror films doesn’t sometimes?
I don’t wanna say … the best horror movie director working today, period, is James Wan. He’s made seven horror movies. He doesn’t always make them but he is the best.
Agree with that.
I don’t want you to misinterpret what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that what makes a great horror movie is what makes a great comedy, is what makes a great drama, is what makes a great action movie, which is the storytelling. And the scares, or the action sequences, or the laugh in a comedy, are kind of, certainly have to service a great story.
So the reason GET OUT is a horrifying movie, it’s a terrifying movie, because the story and the way the story is told is so compelling. And I think that’s what’s true. Especially our company. We spend a lot of time doing this so if we have a great director who’s a great storyteller, the genre part is a lot easier. We can help with that. The hard part is the storytelling, and that’s what David and Danny are just great at.
I think that’s true and I think a lot of times when horror movies don’t work, it’s because you just don’t give a shit about the characters in jeopardy. Period.
Exactly. You can have the best scares in the world, and its just like you said, the scares are not scary if they’re not invested in the character, if you’re not on the edge of your seat. And you’re not on the edge of your seat if you’re not invested in the characters and their plights.
Exactly. I think with Halloween, this franchise is, I think, important to so many people, and it still is 40 years later. For many of us it’s one of our favorite movies of all time. You’re also dealing with the people on the fence who love Danielle Harris and some of the earlier plot lines from the other sequels. Were you concerned at all with the jumping from the original film to this film? And their reaction? Of maybe disappointment?
I wasn’t concerned because the HALLOWEEN universe, the nine movies in between these two movies were not linear either. It’s been a bit catch as catch can. So what I wanted to do with David and Danny is not restrict them. My mission to them was make a movie called HALLOWEEN. I didn’t say it should be this, it should be that, it should be that. And when they came up with this idea I think that there’s been so much playing with the timeline and the characters and the concept of Halloween through the other movies, I wasn’t terribly concerned about not following the story line in the other nine movies, no.
Well it does seem also, I mean lets be realistic, with most franchise films, the continuity is garbage. It just is. Especially horror. You know, FRIDAY THE 13TH has probably the worst continuity of any of the big horror franchise films.
Yeah, so why try and follow it. Why not reinvent it? You know, that was my thought.
And I’ve heard there’s a lot of little throwbacks and little hints to the original film. How far did you feel that you guys should go with playing homage to the original without bordering on nostalgia overkill?
Well I think what it is is from the storytelling, take the first movie and cut to 40 years later and extend that story from the first movie, and they’re Easter eggs, or there’s a tipping of your hat to the other nine movies. So if you’re familiar with the other nine movies you’ll see little winks at those movies in the course of the movie.
And I feel like that was a decision that David and Danny made, and it was a very light touch. And I think it was the right thing to do because I think it’s kind of silly to say they don’t exist. But what you’re doing is you’re acknowledging that your storytelling is one, to ours, but that these other movies did take place. You’re gonna acknowledge their existence but not the storytelling within them.
Well even in the trailer when the daughter’s talking “Oh yeah, that’s all just made up stuff on the internet,” I thought that was great.
Me too. I love that too.
It’s so true. That’s probably what would happen in real life if something horribly tragic like this actually occurred.
Totally. Totally. Totally.
Now, obviously there’s a lot of, people are excited about this movie. I would be shocked if it doesn’t have a huge, massive opening weekend. We’ve talked about sequels, we’ve talked about going forward, and I know this is an important franchise for you. Have you talked with David and Danny about going in the future with this if it is successful and if audiences do react to it?
A hundred percent. I agree with you. I think its gonna resonate and I would really like to, it’s not official but I would love to continue the Blumhouse involvement in the Halloween universe for sure.
Why do you think the Blumhouse universe was such a good fit for Halloween?
Why do I think Blumhouse is good … I think we’re a good fit for scary stuff generally. Not to brag but I think we’ve figured out a way to make quality, moderately budgeted scary movies. I think the budget plays into the quality. I think it actually helps us. And we have a system that’s different and unique, and clearly I think it’s effective. And it’s largely based on, a lot of it is based on really, really betting on partners who we think are incredibly talented. David Gordon Green and Danny McBride. James Demonaco. Jordan Peele. Chris Landon. Jeff Ludlow. That’s a big part of it.
I also feel like when I think of the horror movies that I grew up on, and the movies that I love, that I’ll put on every year, they usually were very low in budget. And they usually feel cheap. I mean, HALLOWEEN, BLAIR WITCH, TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, these were not big budget movies.
I think low budgets do a service to horror. I think that when you have big budgets you lean on special effects for scares. And I think CGI, no matter what it is of, is generally not scary. There are a few exceptions to that. I think THE QUIET ONES is one real exception. But generally, I think scary movies are much better without effects. And when you don’t have any money you have no choice but to not use effects.
Oh yeah, if you look back at the original HALLOWEEN, there are so many little happy accidents that happened that made the movie what it was.
Yeah, a hundred percent. I mean, most of all, the scariest character in the world, Michael Myers, was created out of a lack of money. They had $300 bucks, they told the guy “Go get a f*ckin’ mask,” and it turned out because it’s so simple and so anonymous … I always say to John, and I don’t know if he agrees with me or not, but I always say to John, “If you had a lot more money for the movie, Michael Myers never would’ve been as scary.” I fundamentally believe that. I don’t know if he does, but I do.
I actually do. And the mask. Let’s talk about the mask. You are, again, remaining true to the original film with the mask.
A hundred percent. And I love the mask in the original movie, and the idea this mask is the aged version. And I just thought the Michael Myers in the first movie was the scariest Michael Myers ever. And that’s the one that we’re closest to.
Before we finish up, I want to just get your thoughts. What memories do you have of the original Halloween? What is your fondest memories of the original film?
You know, I saw the original movie in college. It was very unnerving and what I remember most about it is this. I don’t know what other way to say it except that it’s just kind of undeniable. I don’t know how to describe it. You feel very close. You feel like you’re watching something that’s really happening, I guess. And it’s very unnerving and unsettling, and that’s what makes a great horror movie.