Jason Blum on Halloween Horror Nights Mazes, ‘Halloween’ and ‘Happy Death Day’ Sequels, and More

     September 10, 2018

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It’s that time of year again, when the hugely popular Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood will have the most authentic scares on display, from some of the biggest horror properties in film and TV. On select nights from September 14th through November 3rd, two of the mazes featured at the 2018 event are The First Purge and “The Horrors of Blumhouse: Chapter 2,” highlighting Truth or Dare and Unfriended from the Blumhouse catalog.

Collider was recently invited to preview the new mazes to find out from creative director John Murdy what went into bringing all of the little details to life, and also chat with Jason Blum about why he enjoys taking part in Halloween Horror Nights. During the interview with Blum, we talked 1-on-1 about why The First Purge, Truth or Dare and Unfriended were selected for mazes this year, why the Purge franchise almost never happened, the fun of further exploring the idea for a TV series (currently airing on the USA Network), whether there could be a Truth or Dare sequel, more Halloween movies, what fans can expect from Jordan Peele’s next horror film Us, the status of the Happy Death Day sequel, what he wants to see in a horror movie, and what’s next for Blumhouse. We’ve also included a list of 8 things to know about the Blumhouse mazes and some preview photos.

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Image via David Sprague / Universal Studios Hollywood

Collider: What is it about Halloween Horror Nights that not only brings so many fans out, every year, but gets talent like yourself involved?

JASON BLUM: We do it because it’s really fun. For us, it’s not financially motivated. It’s just fun. I started in the business by producing theater, and so I really love live events. We’ve done our own versions, which were much smaller versions of little haunted houses, and that was also for fun. I just love the notion of live entertainment. It’s just really cool to see the movies come to life again and, of course, it’s great to keep the movies out there. Some of these movies are franchises, some of them aren’t. There’s not gonna be any more Unfriendeds, so that’s for fun, but The Purge, hopefully, will keep going. This is just a different way to get people to keep thinking about the movies, but it’s really fun to see. Usually, a movie shuts down and that’s the end of it, but when you go onto these maze sets, it’s like the movies have come to life again. It’s pretty cool.

Along with The First Purge, you’re doing another version of the “The Horrors of Blumhouse” maze again this year. What sort of feedback did you get on that, last year, that made you want to do it again?

BLUM: It was the second most successful maze, which was very exciting. I think Insidious was number one, and “Blumhouse of Horrors” was number two. I think people really liked one maze where there were three different experiences within it. People really responded to that. And for me, it’s very fun to see “Blumhouse of Horrors” on the marquee. That’s very cool. 

What made The First Purge the right choice for a maze? Were there certain visuals that you really wanted to see brought to life?

BLUM: The most successful maze is when you feel unsafe and chaotic, like you’re in anarchy. That’s what The Purge is about. The Purge is about creating that feeling, for 12 hours a year. Well, it’s not actually about that, it’s about something else completely, but it does create that feeling, for 12 hours a year, that makes you very unsettled. So, I think The Purge, as a concept, is particularly suited to a Halloween Horror Nights experience, whether it’s a maze or a scare zone, or in any different context. And (Creative Director for Universal Studios) John [Murdy] is great at choosing the moments from the movie to adapt for the experience. He’s great at picking out moments from our scripts and saying, “This would be a good scare.” He really does all of that. He curates what is gonna go in and out, based on the scripts and sometimes based on the movie. We really trust him to do that, and he does a great job. 

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Image via David Sprague / Universal Studios Hollywood

When the first seed of the idea for The Purge was brought to you, however many years ago, could you ever have imagined you’d be here, so many movies later, with all of these live experiences and now a TV show? Did you see that kind of life in it?

BLUM: No. The first Purge movie – the original movie, four years ago – almost didn’t come out. It was almost not released. We were all very on the fence about how people would respond to the idea. Was it to risky? Was it too controversial? Was it too out there? It almost went straight to video. So, that almost didn’t happen, and now, we’re here, four movies, one television series, and three Halloween Horror Nights later. I did not expect that, but I’m very happy about it.

And now, we’re in a world where, scarily enough, it seems like we’re only about two steps away from it, for real.

BLUM: Yeah, the idea of the movie seemed like such a fantasy four years ago, and now it seems like much less of a fantasy, which is frightening, in and of itself. 

What have you been enjoying with the TV show, getting to expand the world in an even deeper way like that?

BLUM: The fun thing about the television show, and one of the we’ve always been constrained by with 95 minutes, is the audience of the movies demands a lot of scares and action, and now we can see how it would affect everyday behavior on the other 364 days a year. If you piss someone off, they could kill you. I think that would change how people interacted with each other, and there would be a lot of character stuff that we’d want to explore. I think in the TV show, we really get to do that. The series is still largely a Purge night, but there are a lot of flashbacks and different rabbit holes of storytelling that we go down, which gives you a look at how having this event in society, once a year, has changed people. It’s changed the way people live and it’s changed their behavior, and not for the better.

What was it about Truth or Dare and Unfriended that made you want to include those in “The Horrors of Blumhouse” maze? Were there visuals that you thought would be cool?

BLUM: I tell John everything that we’re doing, and then he chooses. I’ll let him do anything that he wants, that we’re making, ‘cause I really trust him to keep the integrity of the ideas together. If I could speak for him, I think one of the things that he really liked in Unfriended is that there hasn’t been a lot of scary mazes that are connected to technology. It’s interesting ‘cause there’s technology incorporated in the scares. We’ll see if that works, but I think it will. It’s something relatively new. With Truth or Dare, it’s a new take on a kid’s scary movie. It’s very relatable because Truth or Dare is a game that a lot of people play during Halloween. I think John likes the visual look of the set pieces in our movies, and there are a lot in Truth or Dare. That’s why he chose those two movies.

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Photo by Christina Radish

Because Truth or Dare ended on such a big cliffhanger, have you thought about trying to revisit that, doing another movie?

BLUM: I definitely have. It’s a big cliffhanger. I’m thinking about it very hard.

When you go see a horror movie that’s not a Blumhouse movie, what do you want to see? What gets you scared?

BLUM: It’s easier to say what I don’t wanna see. What I wanna see is the exact same thing as the audience wants to see. I feel like I can tell, and the audience can tell, if the movie has been made by a bunch of executives who are like, “Horror movies make money, so let’s go make some money with a horror movie.” There are a lot of those vs. a filmmaker, a team of people, or an executive. By the way, there are a lot of executives who love horror movies that are like, “We want to make great storytelling in the horror genre.” To me, horror movies fit into those two categories. The ones that you don’t like are very formulaic, the acting is usually not very good, and they feel sloppily put together, and those are depressing to watch. It gives horror a bad name. Then, there are movies that are incredibly, artfully done, like A Quiet Place, which was just a terrific movie. It makes me happier to see those.

What are the best scary or horror movies that you’ve seen, in recent years, that you had nothing to do with?

BLUM: A Quiet Place, for sure. I liked The Witch. And I admired IT.

Halloween is already building up huge buzz. People are excited and there’s such a huge anticipation for it. Is that something that you’re also hoping to continue? Do you want to make more Halloween films?

BLUM: Yeah, I would love to make more of them. I’m really looking forward to seeing how people respond. Hopefully, people will like it as much as I do. And yeah, of course, I’d love to make more of them. Hopefully, we’ll get the chance to do that.

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Photo by Christina Radish

After Get Out was such a huge success, how much would you say Jordan Peele is really stepping things up with Us?

BLUM: I think a lot. I admire a lot about Jordan, but one of the things that I really think is so cool is that he didn’t do Get Out and then say like, “I got what I needed from horror, so I’m gonna do something else.” He doubled down on horror with Us, and I’m very pleased about that. It makes me very happy, and I think people will love the movie. He had more resources to work with, so the scale of the movie will feel bigger. It’s also about something. Not all of the horror movies that we make have a social message in them, but I think the best ones do, and he’s got that in his second movie. I think horror is a very effective vehicle for social messages. It makes them digestible, and they stick with you longer because it makes you think about things, in a different way. So, I just love that Jordan is going for it, and he’s not giving up on scary movies.

I loved the Happy Death Day part of “The Horrors of Blumhouse” maze last year.

BLUM: Yeah, that was cool.

Audiences really loved Happy Death Day. Where are you at with the sequel for that?

BLUM: It’s finished. We’ve finished the sequel. I’m seeing it next week, and I’ll see it again when it’s done.

Do you know when that will be out?

BLUM: No, we haven’t decided yet. There’s no decision on that. I have to see it first.

What’s coming up next from Blumhouse?

BLUM: On the movie side, we have Halloween, and then we have Glass, and then we have Us. And then, the next movies that are not dated yet but finished are Happy Death Day 2 and Ma, which is our Octavia Spencer and Tate Taylor movie. And then, the two movies we have in development, that we’ve been spending a lot of time on recently, are Spawn and Five Nights at Freddy’s. And on the television side, we have our Hulu series Into the Dark, which is a series of 10 original scary movies, each one based on a different holiday, through the course of the year, and the first one comes out in October. We have a series right now on Facebook Watch, called Sacred Lies. And on the production side of TV, we’re going into production on our Russell Crowe series about Roger Ailes (called The Loudest Voice in the Room), which starts at the end of October in New York. So, we have a lot going on, and a lot to look forward to.

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