Blumhouse: The Best And Worst
If you have been an avid viewer of horror movies over the last ten years or so, chances are, you will be familiar with Blumhouse. The Jason Blum-led production company has been responsible for some incredible films in the genre since it’s debut film, Paranormal Activity, and they will continue to make an impact into the future. Upcoming films include those in Amazon Prime’s ‘Welcome To The Blumhouse Collection,’ as well as Halloween Kills and a fifth entry in the Purge franchise. Looking further ahead, they also have plans to remake two classic horror titles, Bride of Frankenstein and The Wolfman.
There are now over 70 films bearing the Blumhouse name, but while many of them have been very well-received from both critics and audiences alike, there have, inevitably, been quite a few disappointments as well. Below, we will take a look at some of the best films to bear the Blumhouse name, alongside some of those that have put the fear into horror fans for all of the wrong reasons.
BEST: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY
Way back in 1999, The Blair Witch Project kickstarted (in horrific style) the found footage genre into being. Many of the copycats that followed failed to surpass the quality of that film, but with its debut film, Blumhouse re-ignited audience interest in this style of filmmaking.
The film was made on a shoestring budget, so there was no room here for CGI special effects and lavish backdrops. This made the film all the more terrifying, however, as the scares were generated by shadows and blink-and-you-miss-it moments, and the suburban house setting made the film relatable to nearly every one of us. With subtle scares and an eerie, uncomfortable atmosphere, this is one movie guaranteed to make you leave your bedroom lights on while you’re snuggled up beneath your blankets.
The 2008 French original was rooted in the torture porn and revenge thriller genres, and was certainly not for everybody. Telling the tale of a young woman seeking revenge on the people who once imprisoned and tortured her, the film is graphically violent and unrelentingly brutal.
In true Hollywood fashion, a sequel was greenlighted under the Blumhouse banner, and it was released in 2015. It was an almost shot-by-shot remake of Pascal Laugier’s original, but it lacked the style and finesse of that twisted film. It also failed to bring fresh significance to the story – that of women who are tortured so they will achieve spiritual awakening – and ended up being more exploitative and more repellant than the artier French horror.
BEST: GET OUT
This was the film that proved Jordan Peele could handle horror as well as comedy, and it was an instant hit upon release. The film tells the tale of Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) an African-American man who visits the home of his white girlfriend’s parents one fateful weekend. Unfortunately for Chris, terrifying secrets lie in wait, and his in-laws prove to be anything but hospitable.
The film takes a deep dive into social horror territory, as it explores themes of racism and slavery in a modern American setting. To spoil the twists and turns that the film serves up would be an injustice to those who haven’t seen it, but needless to say, Chris should have heeded the words of his best friend at the start of the film: “Don’t go to a white girl’s parents house.” In essence, the racial subtext of the tale is very disturbing, but Peele manages to disarm and entertain the viewer by making it a fun rollercoaster ride of a movie.
This 2018 film is soul-crushingly predictable and, despite its title, not the thrill ride that audiences probably expected. It’s yet another tale in ‘the bullied coming back to seek revenge on the bullies’ genre and pales in comparison to the best in the field, including Carrie, The Craft, and the oft-forgotten horror TV movie, Dark Night Of The Scarecrow.
Thriller gains points for its South Central settings and largely Black cast, but it loses points in the originality stakes, in its telling of a childhood prank that goes wrong. In this film, it is young Chauncey who becomes the victim of the prank when he accidentally causes the death of another. Following his release from a juvenile detention center, the instigators of the prank meet their demise. Could Chauncey be behind the killings? We’re not saying, but fans of one famous horror franchise will be able to guess the ending. What could have been an entertainingly cathartic movie turns out to be a very dull one, and it isn’t helped by the low budget and the uninspired filmmaking.
Sinister, a 2012 horror film with Ethan Hawke in the lead, is that rare film to live up to its title. It is very sinister indeed in its story of a true-crime author who moves into a home that was once the setting for a series of grisly murders.
Okay, so on the surface, this might not be a film to get excited about. The synopsis shares similarities with such horror titles as The Amityville Horror, so it might seem unoriginal. However, the film also mixes in elements of the found footage genre, as Hawke’s character discovers a box of 8mm films in the loft. Disturbingly, the films Hawke finds are snuff movies detailing the deaths of the families who have lived in the home. To Hawke and the audience watching, these short films appear bone-chillingly real, and once seen, are hard to forget.
Eventually, Sinister resorts to the familiar jump scare moments and supernatural horror moments that are common in other films, but the palpable chill instigated by the movie’s setup will remain with you long after the credits have stopped rolling.
WORST: AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING
1979’s The Amityville Horror isn’t the greatest horror film in the world, but due to the supposedly true story behind it, there are some chills to be found. The same can’t be said of this 2017 sequel, which should really be called: Amityville: The Sleep-Inducing.
In theory, the movie could have been a good one. It’s directed by Frank Khalfoun who made the reasonably effective Maniac remake. It also has quite a good cast, including Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bella Thorne, and Kurtwood Smith. The film is quite meta too, as Thorne’s character is reminded of the house she has just moved into when a guy from school hands her a copy of the 1979 movie.
So, why is it so bad? Well, it’s not completely awful, despite its reputation (the movie’s distributor famously gave the movie away to free streaming sites after it had suffered numerous delays). However, it is awfully generic, with the usual jump-scare moments caused by banging doors and other loud noises, and other than the meta-aspect, it does nothing new to stand out from its predecessors. With Blumhouse at the helm, horror fans probably expected much better than this tired and hackneyed effort.
We haven’t covered every film here – there are far too many to mention – but if you’re a horror fan, there are other Blumhouse house movies you might want to seek out (and actively avoid). Insidious, Happy Death Day, and The Visit are just some of their other films that are worth a watch, while The Gallows, The Darkness, and Exeter definitely aren’t.
As mentioned earlier, Blumhouse have more films in the pipeline, so here’s hoping their future releases will be terrifyingly good and not shockingly bad!
Lee Brown is a UK-based freelance writer, and has written movie-related articles for such websites as Flickering Myth, Screen Rant, and So The Theory Goes. In his spare time, Lee continues to write, focussing on story writing, playwriting, and poetry. Some of Lee’s work has been published in printed and eBook formats, and he has had one play transmitted over local radio. He is an avid movie buff and TV binge-watcher, and probably spends more time than he should sat behind a pillow watching horror movies from his sofa!