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Tuesday, March 20, 2018 | Opinion

With the rise in popularity of genre-bending thrillers such as GET OUT and SPLIT in recent years, audience tastes appear to have taken a liking to the smorgasbord of delectable delights that Blumhouse Productions is churning out. From bankable found footage franchise PARANORMAL ACTIVITY to the INSIDIOUS saga, the company has firmly established itself as the inheritor of the horror mantle. Though their breakout success appears to be something of a whirlwind over the last decade, Blumhouse has simply picked up where legendary production houses of the yesteryear left off. To take you through the timeline, here is a little horror history lesson:


Ah, the silent era, a time when you could scare the pants off viewers without so much as an audible werewolf howl or vampire hiss. These were the years of FRANKENSTEIN, DRACULA, and monsters that spanned the spectrum of terrifying to the ridiculous (CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, I’m looking at you). Which studio was responsible for bringing such classics to the big screen, you ask? Why, Universal Pictures, of course! The studio that brought us PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and the INVISIBLE MAN was renowned for being the home of horror throughout the transition from silent films to what we now know as “talkies”. However, the allure of star-studded musicals and Academy Award-worthy dramas would soon change the face of the company that spawned what would come to be known as “Universal Horror”. In a departure from the monster movies that made Universal Pictures a household name, the studio would go on to produce more family-friendly fare, effectively passing the torch.


Known as the transformative years for horror, these decades saw a stark departure from Gothic horror to more contemporary settings. With classics like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO, this was an era of experimentation for the genre. It was also a time when no single production company or studio dominated horror. Although UK-based Hammer Productions would produce dozens of B-Movie horror films, the financing needed to dominate the genre worldwide never came together. Everyone got a piece of the pie, but no one took the cake. With the mantle ostensibly devoid of a champion, there would be two that would emerge from the shadows in later decades to lay claim to horror.


Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, horror witnessed something of a renaissance. This was undoubtedly the golden age of horror, when anyone and his brother could produce a slasher for pennies on the dollar, a skeleton crew, and a few modestly attractive youngsters willing to be awash in corn syrup and red food coloring. With the two most dominating franchises born during this era being FRIDAY THE 13TH and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, it was fitting that their respective distributors were of completely opposite ends of the spectrum. Paramount Pictures, producers of the hockey mask-wearing and machete-wielding slasher saga, was a highly respectable studio that came to be ashamed of the franchise’s success. However, money talks and darned if they didn’t produce fewer than eight installments of FRIDAY THE 13TH over the course of the 1980s.

Conversely, a fledgling studio known as New Line Cinema produced, after much anguish and aggravation, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. While the painstaking efforts to bring the Christmas sweater-wearing dream stalker to life were agonizing for producer Robert Shaye, they proved more than worth it. With 7 installments in total throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, New Line Cinema cemented itself as a titan of terror willing to go toe to toe with studios both big and small. In fact, it would be New Line Cinema itself that in the early ‘90s bought the rights to the FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise from Paramount and would produce one of its own in 1993, titled JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY. However, the bloodbath came to an end in 2008 as New Line merged with Warner Bros. and chose to rebrand itself as a mainstream studio under the umbrella of one of Hollywood’s Big 5.


If torture and body horror was more your taste, then the 2000s was the decade for you. The last decade gave rise to the tidal wave of popularity surrounding what came to be coined “torture porn”, with franchises such as SAW and HOSTEL coming to mainstream prominence. Oh! What a coincidence, they were both distributed by Lionsgate, the studio that would take up horror’s belt of standard from New Line into the 21st century. Lionsgate carved out a nice niche for itself by capitalizing on horror’s enduring appeal and had the stomach to push the envelope with respect to MPAA rating tolerance thresholds. It was a rebirth for horror, which had seen something of a decline in the late ‘90s, and appeared all but dead. However, Lionsgate had a larger agenda in mind and sought to tackle genres spanning action, thrillers, and even delving into the forbidden: romantic comedies! Who, oh who was to save horror now?


Never fear! A new kid on the block is here! Taking the genre by storm from day one, and branding itself as the exclusive home of horror, Blumhouse Productions burst onto the scene in 2009 with the breakout hit PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, a film which would spawn (to date) five sequels throughout the decade and rack up more than $890 million in worldwide box office receipts. Make no mistake, though, Blumhouse is far more than just a found footage studio, with hits such as the INSIDIOUS franchise as well as THE PURGE series. In fact, in just the past year alone, Blumhouse has churned out the likes of Academy Award-nominated GET OUT and critically-acclaimed SPLIT among other originals such as HAPPY DEATH DAY and THE BELKO EXPERIMENT. The firm has even tried its hand at sequels, what with their take on THE AMITYVILLE HORROR franchise with their entry, titled THE AWAKENING.

Just as horror films have evolved over time to suit the changing tastes of audiences, so to have the productions houses and distributors that produce them. From monsters and zombies to slashers and supernatural thrillers, Hollywood has assembled and impressive resume of terrors that continue to raise not only our heart rates, but the hairs on the backs of our necks. With a remarkable CV of its own amassed in just ten years’ time, it is difficult to argue that in Blumhouse Productions horror has found its new home…for now. 

Sonny Morgan
Contributing columnist with a focus on the business of horror, from financials to production operations and everything in between.