“It’s been a great year for us,” says Jason Blum, humbly offering up an early contender for biggest understatement of 2017.
The uber-producer is no stranger to success. His company Blumhouse has nurtured horror franchises, such as Paranormal Activity, Insidious, Ouija and The Purge, to box-office glory and even seen Academy recognition for Damien Chazelle’s debut drumming drama Whiplash, but the past few months have seen him score his two biggest hits to date. He continued the rehabilitation of M Night Shyamalan with Hitchockian psycho-thriller Split and broke new ground with Jordan Peele’s transcendent Get Out, a crowd-pleasing horror film, as well as an acclaimed commentary on the myth of a post-racial America.
The company’s third release, Feral, co-written by The Purge creator/director James DeMonaco, is a dystopian thriller set in a world where men become infected with a virus that turns them aggressive, leaving women to fend for themselves. It’s a cinematic story and, given Blum’s pedigree, one would assume that a movie would naturally be on the way, but DeMonaco denies that this is the main objective.
“I hope to make this movie, but that was never the goal,” he tells me. “I’ve always wanted to write novels, ever since I was little. This is a whole different muscle for me to flex.”
Given the challenging budgets of Blum’s pictures, the novel also gave DeMonaco the opportunity to think big. “My screenplays were becoming tighter, becoming these very economical things, especially as I was working within the parameters of a budget, which I think is good sometimes because they force you to be creative,” he says. “But then I was allowed with Feral to open up and explore. So now when I came back to the screenwriting world, I almost had to undo that because I wanted to return to the kind of economy that does service a screenplay.”
Blum sees it as another way for the writers and directors he works with to tell a story. “We’re trying to be a home for our artists, and be an outlet for them no matter what they want to do: write a book, do a live event, do a television series, make a movie,” he tells me. “Having a book division helps me keep books front of mind when we’re talking to people about how to get their stories out into the world.”
It’s an extension of an empire that recently branched out to the small screen with, you guessed it, Blumhouse Television, set to launch with a series about disgraced Fox News head Roger Ailes and a show based on hit franchise The Purge.