Jason Blum Talks ‘Unfriended,’ ‘Insidious 3,’ ‘Sinister 2,’ and ‘The Gallows’

Jason Blum interview on Unfriended, Insidious 3, Sinister 3, The Gallows
The cast, writer, and executive producer of ‘Unfriended’ at Wondercon (Photo © Richard Chavez)

Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Productions was well represented at the 2015 WonderCon, with cast members from both Unfriended and Insidious: Chapter 3 participating in Q&As with WonderCon attendees as well as interviews with the press. The filmmakers behind The Gallows were also on hand to discuss their found footage film at the Anaheim, CA event. And after taking part in the panel and fielding questions from horror fans, Blum chatted with us about his upcoming slate of projects and what he looks for in scripts.

How easy was it to make the decision to have Leigh Whannell direct Insidious: Chapter 3?

“Very easy. Well, we wanted James [Wan] to direct of course. I mean, he directed the first two so we’ve got to go to James first. And James was pretty clear pretty quickly that he wasn’t going to be available. If James couldn’t do it, we all wanted Leigh to do it. So it wasn’t like Leigh lobbied or anything. We definitely all wanted that to happen.”

What can you say about Sinister 2?

“Deputy So & So is much more prominent in the movie. Bughuul is back and up to more hijinx, and Deputy So & So is trying to figure out what exactly he’s doing. There’s a new family, a new drama is going on. There are five or six new kill films. We’re not done with the cut yet, so there may be five or six. The movie is very dark and disturbing like the first movie but with a whole new set of characters. I love it, and I think people will be really, really psyched about it.”

Were you concerned that Unfriended would be a tough sell?

“Everyone always says that when something’s new. Paranormal Activity… ‘I saw Blair Witch, I don’t know about that.’ I feel like when you try and do something new, that there are more haters than usual when you try and do something new.”

What made you believe audiences would connect with Unfriended?

“Because it’s so relatable. That’s all we do – you stare at your computer. I think it’s really hard to make staring at your computer and to make social media scary. But I think that if you do, it’s ultra scary because it’s all we all do all the time. It’s in our pocket and in our house. I think if you can make that threatening, it’s awesome. I think these guys did. I think Timur [Bekmambetov] came up with this movie that takes this and makes it scary, which is hard to do. But, it works.”

And The Gallows is also found footage?

“Yeah, not on a computer. The Gallows is found footage like Paranormal Activity or like Blair Witch.”

Do you see Unfriended or The Gallows as a way for the found footage format to get out of the corner it’s painted itself into?

The Gallows, no. Unfriended, yes. Unfriended is different way; I don’t see Unfriended as a found footage, really. Unfriended I see as new. The Gallows is very much…and everyone’s tired of found footage, me, myself at the top of that list. We see gazillions of found footage movies and 99% of them don’t work. This one just happens to be really, really feel real and scary and brave. But I was really skeptical even about it before I heard about it because I feel like found footage – there is less of it being done. But this one really works.”

Why does it work? What sets it apart?

“Because they did it the right way. They did it for no money. They did it with two people. I don’t think at this point if we had produced a found footage movie if it’s not a sequel it would be very challenged because we’re over-thinking it. They are just two kids and they just got into it. Their craft service was just Subway, and they’re really talented.”

You’ve said that the filmmakers found a way to make the found footage aspect of it plausible. Can you talk about that?

“It’s hard to do that without spoiling the movie. What I was kind of saying is that found footage, to make a scary movie in found footage is actually way harder than a traditionally shot movie because scary movies are people in jeopardy. When people are in jeopardy, they don’t hold a camera so you’re always fighting that with a found footage movie. In The Gallows, they really figured out how to make that organic so that you’re not questioning the camera all the time. I think that immediately makes the movie not scary when you’re like, ‘Why are they filming?’ And they answer that in a very clever way, but you have to see the movie.”

What’s the secret to your success in making these lower-budgeted genre films?

“Well, they’re not all successes, but we have a good track record for sure. And I think the way that we do it is very connected to making them inexpensively. And that’s not because it’s profitable because they’re inexpensive, it’s because when you don’t spend a lot of money you can do weird, creative stuff. I think the larger…especially with horror – other genres is another story, although maybe not that different – the more money that you throw at it, the more generic it gets, the more produced it gets, the more glossy it gets, and the less scary it gets. And so when you start with low budgets, you can also take risks. Like the first Insidious I was talking about, James pitched the third act of that movie as, ‘I want to make it like a David Lynch movie,’ so The Further would be like David Lynch. If you were making that movie at a studio, the studio would be like, ‘You can’t go to The Further, you can’t make that.’ But if you make a movie for very little money, you can say, ‘Screw it. Let’s give that a shot.’ So that’s the answer to your question that by not spending a lot of money on the movies, it allows us to let directors take chances that they ordinarily would not get to take.”

Given all the projects you have going on, what is it that you look for in deciding what to move forward on?

“Scary. Like, however it can be scary. Two things: scary and different. Now that really applies to originals. Sequels obviously there’s mythology and there’s all these things that are pre-established. I try and do that, too. Obviously you want to make every movie a little different than the previous one. But on original movies I really look for what scares me and what feels new, what feels different. Like Lazarus Effect to me, that felt like a very [different film]. We haven’t seen that. It didn’t really work unfortunately, but I still really liked the movie. I like what David Gelb tried to do with the movie, and it’s a story we have’t seen for a long time. So, that’s what I look for.”

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