Unlike most movie moguls instead of traveling in a Maserati, Blumhouse Productions’ Jason Blum, producer of “The Purge: Fear the Night” haunted attraction, gets around town in a customized Chevy Astro-Van. It’s white with a simple red logo that except for the word “Blumhouse” would make you think it belongs to an electrician. Perfect camouflage.
Q: I saw your van out front earlier…
A: You did? Nice. That’s my mobile office.
Q: What’s the set up like inside there?
A: Well, there’s a wall, a computer. I have internet, my call sheet. A big TV, so I can watch things.
Q: Sounds like the CIA.
A: Yeah, just like the CIA. It’s like my home office. I can watch movies in there, I have a bed, so I can take a nap (laughs). It’s my home away from home.
Q: The Blumhouse of Horrors was so successful last year, why did you decide to do something new instead of repeating your recipe for success?
A: I don’t believe in repeating yourself. You get really boring (laughs). So I wanted to try something really different. You know, last year when we did it, it was definitely for FUN. You know what I mean?
A: I mean, our movies do very well and I wanted to have fun in a different way. I don’t want to say it’s a hobby, but there are a lot of other things to do if I was just in it, you know, for profit. Then, maybe I’d take less risks, but the idea is to just have fun with scary stuff, you know?
Q: I would think that as a filmmaker you are usually very removed from your audience.
A: Yeah, that’s what I always say! That’s why, for me personally, it’s REALLY fun because we’re NEVER with our audience. It’s like you go to the movie theater once when your movie opens, but you never interact with the fans.
Q: Then here, you see people running out of the theater screaming…
A: Yeah, it’s AWESOME. I love it. I really love that. That’s why I do it. It’s live.
Q: It’s like live theater, there’s nothing like that connection.
A: Yeah, there’s nothing like that. And that’s how I started, producing live theater.
Q: Is that how you met Ethan Hawke?
A: It was. We had a theater company together called Malaparte. I was the Producing Director and he was the Artistic Director, we had very fancy titles (laughs).
Q: Do you have any new projects lined up with Ethan?
A: We always have a few things. There are two or three things we are working on which hopefully we will make one of these days.
Q: Let’s talk about The Purge: Fear the Night. How does the live show expand the world that you created in the movie?
A: Well, there’s back story in the movie, which is alluded to, which you never saw. It was actually in the script, but it didn’t end up in the movie. How the law came to be and what kind of strife in the country went on. In the movie, the characters are pretty pro-Purge, right? They all think it’s a good idea, but obviously, if you think about that more, of course there are going to be people in the United States who are not going to think it’s such a good idea.
So this event, launches off of those two different things. People having different emotions about The Purge one way or the other and then how it started. I felt like there was a lot of mythology in The Purge and we just looked at this tiny part. We took one family’s experience of it. And one of the reasons we chose The Purge is that there’s a lot that goes on outside of the movie and we address some of that in here.
Q: Does this take place on the same timeline as the story in the movie?
A: It’s generally the same. We are about eight years into the law.
Q: What were your expectations with the earlier version of the live event? And how did that change when you had the first live audiences?
A: There’s an event in New York which we (with Josh Simon co-producer) also really like called Sleep No More which is not a maze at all. It’s five floors in a big building and it’s Macbeth, although you could spend two hours there, and you would not know it’s Macbeth. You walk around and if you go with a couple or you go with a group of friends they tell you “don’t hold hands and you have to have your own experience”. And everyone walks around and everyone sees a totally different thing. And it’s totally free to do whatever you want. And so what we tried to do on the first weekend was kind of half-and-half.
The beginning of it was a walkthrough and the second half was… you could go wherever you want… and people were just totally confused by that. And part of the reason why they were confused is because we didn’t do the full thing. So, we led them through a maze and then we told them they could do whatever they want and people didn’t go. They came to the bar and they didn’t go anywhere and I think they were scared or something or I don’t know what it was, but obviously it was not their fault. It was our fault because everyone had that experience.
So, the biggest difference between then and now is that now there is a route through the whole thing and you’ll see it doesn’t feel like a maze. There’s storytelling in it and it’s not a bunch of jump-out-at-you scares, although there are those, but there’s a route from beginning to end. The idea that you can walk and see whatever you want is gone. And I was glad because I think people liked it a lot better. The other reason I think it was confusing to people is that it’s Halloween, so Sleep No More goes year round and I think if this event was in May people would be more open to that, but there’s a certain amount of “haunted house” that people expect (at Halloween) and you can’t take that fully away from them.
Q: So, how scripted is The Purge: Fear the Night? Are there alternate endings depending on audience participation?
A: It’s pretty scripted. The actors, if something comes up, they ad lib, but it’s pretty scripted and rehearsed. There are no alternate endings, really. There is one through line and along the way things happen differently depending on how people interact with the actors.
Q: I know Josh Randall and Kris Thor (directors) came to you from BLACKOUT, would you consider this more of an extreme maze? Is there touching allowed?
A: It’s not as extreme as BLACKOUT, but it’s close. It’s close. It’s much more extreme than last year.
Q: So touching, but no waivers?
A: Yes (laughs). Touching, but no waivers. Exactly.
Q: Is there a line you won’t cross, personally? I know they have nudity in BLACKOUT and it’s more of an NC-17 experience.
A: No, there’s not. I don’t have any issue with that.
Q: Ok, well, we will see what you do next year.
A: Next year, everyone will be naked. (laughs)
Q: Have you thought about expanding one of your projects into a year-round live event?
A: I want to try and do that. Yes, I hope so. I don’t know which one and I don’t know how, but I’d like to do this more than just at Halloween. I think that’d be fun to do. There’s a lot of good people here (in LA). Lots of great actors, a lot of horror fans. I have no immediate plans for it, but I would really like to do it.
Q: Have you thought about what you might do as a live event next year?
A: No. (laughs) No, we’ve got to finish this one first. Then give me a month off!
Q: One last question. I know you can create things that scare me, but what scares you?
A: It’s like The Purge… The thing I’m really most afraid of is home invasion. Like even last night, my wife is out of town and I went to the bathroom and I thought I saw a person sitting on the toilet. Which, I did not.
Q: What?! (laughing)
A: See? And there was no one in my toilet. And it scared me. I was scared of it. Wouldn’t it be scary if you just walked in your bathroom and someone was sitting on the toilet?!
Q: That’s really scary.
A: I thought that’s what I saw! And it wasn’t a ghost or anything, it’s not like I’m saying that, but it was dark and I guess the way the shadow from the tree (laughing)… I was freaking scared!