The purveyors of terror at Blumhouse are known for such blood-curdling franchises as Paranormal Activity, Insidious, The Purge, Halloween, and most recently The Exorcist: Believer. Now they are attempting to launch several new potential cash machines with the comedic Totally Killer, the eerie Night Swim, and the video game adaptation Five Nights at Freddy’s.
This year at New York Comic Con the company boldly decided to put on a full-fledged Blumfest. Making his way to the Javitz Center’s Empire Stage first was Blumhouse founder and CEO Jason Blum, who warmed up the crowd with his typical charm.
“We make movies for our fans,” Blum exclaimed. “We can’t make another Get Out, but our goal is scary and original. Even when we’re doing IPs we try to make them original.”
After talking up Leslie Odom Jr.‘s performance in the recent Exorcist film, Blum showed a new trailer for the 80’s-set time travel comedy thriller Totally Killer. The trailer gave it a feel similar to Blumhouse’s Happy Death Day, with a deft mix of teen humor and gore.
The panel featured veteran TV director Nahnatchka Khan (Always Be My Maybe) talking about working with Blum to make this unique feature: “I’m just a fan of the genre, so when I first met with Jason and his team we said, ‘Let’s figure out what it is that we can do together.’ Anything I do will always have an element of comedy. I’m not gonna do a remake of Remains of the Day.”
“We had lunch at my house, and you want someone who has a very strong voice and point of view and is very assertive,” Blum told Khan. “You checked all those boxes.”
The director had actually worked with star Kiernan Shipka of Mad Men and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina-fame previously on the TV series Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23. “I knew she was hilarious in that show and she had comedy chops, but she just crushed it in this movie,” Khan declared.
Added Blum, “Horror has a lot of comedy in it. When we start laughing you relax so it’s easier to scare you. Comedy and horror are cousins in many ways.” Totally Killer is now available to view on Prime Video.
Next up was Night Swim, the movie that will no doubt make pool owners all across the nation hesitant to partake in that midnight swim. It involves a family who move into a new home with a swimming pool that has an appetite for infusing terror in those who take a dip in it. Writer/director Bryce McGuire (who based the feature on his own 2014 short film) admitted that seeing Jaws at nine years old made him terrified not only of the ocean but of his family pool.
Said McGuire, “Seeing this trailer out in the wild now, it was a little bit validating to feel that phobia is not just mine. There’s a universal aspect to the water, even in a place that should be safe… it feels like we’re not in our element anymore. We’re not at the top of the food chain.”
“His short was great,” added Blum of the original property. “This is something that [James Wan’s] Atomic Monster brought us. The second you have a formula it doesn’t work. I think it was in the process of making ‘M3GAN’ that they brought this to us.”
Added McGuire, “I remember when I met James Wan, he said ‘I saw your short. I was swimming in my pool last night and I thought I saw that creature from your film. You scared me. I want to make your film.'”
The first-time feature filmmaker spent two years attempting to expand the film in order to “weaponize” that fear he felt as a child in order to scare audiences. He said the bad version of this story would have it become a repetitive ‘boo in the pool’ movie.
Still, we’ll never feel the same way about playing Marco Polo… Night Swim arrives in theaters on January 5, 2024.
Judging by the audience reaction to a simple image of the iconic top hat-wearing bear of the title, Five Nights at Freddy’s is clearly the most anticipated film in Blumhouse’s current roster. It makes sense, considering the fact that Blum spent eight years trying to bring it to the screen.
Explained Blum, “One of the reasons why the movie took so long is that Hollywood sometimes, not always, makes the mistake when they’re adapting a super popular book or a super popular game, and there’s always that pressure to bring in that larger audience. Scott and I started that way too, but in the development process we realized we should make a movie that works for the fans.”
Director Emma Tammi immersed herself in the world of the popular video game created by Scott Cawthon (who also co-wrote the film), which turns Chuck E. Cheese-style animatronic animals into figures of fear.
“I started doing a deep dive right after my first call with Jason, started playing the game,” said Tammi. “We were trying to pull in elements of the lore that Scott felt were right for this film. Every department, and of course Jim Henson’s creature shop, were looking for opportunities to make it authentic and pull in Easter eggs we knew were going to make it rich.”
Translating a video game into live-action was made possible through the practical animatronics magic of The Jim Henson Company. “We started with the original designs that Scott shared with us from the game,” Tammi explained. “Jim Henson’s company just nailed it.”
“Emma and Scott set out to do it practically and we did do it practically,” added Blum. “It makes the movie so much better.”
Towards the end of the panel Jason Blum talked up the Blumhouse experiences at both Universal Studios theme parks for Halloween Horror Nights, including one for Five Nights at Freddy’s. He also teased that putting on a Purge-themed Halloween experience made him inspired to “wake up” that currently-dormant franchise.
The Blumhouse panel ended with a new clip from Five Nights at Freddy’s in which Josh Hutcherson‘s Mike Schmidt watches a training video for security guards at the abandoned Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria. The VHS tape contains a few eerie moments of static interrupting the scarily wide-eyed female video guide.
The clip matches the uncanny tone of the game with aplomb, and shows that fans will surely not be disappointed with this narrative adaptation.
Five Nights at Freddy’s makes its highly-anticipated arrival in theaters and will stream on Peacock just in time for Halloween on October 27, 2023. Keep your eyes peeled to Vital Thrills for our exclusive interviews with Blum, McGuire, and Tammi straight from the Con!
Max Evry has been a film journalist since 2005, serving at various times as a writer, interviewer, graphic designer, podcaster, video creator, features editor, and managing editor. Past media outlets have included MTV, /Film, IGN, and Fangoria. For home video companies Arrow, Kino Lorber, Indicator, and Via Vision he has provided Blu-ray audio commentaries as well as featurettes for classic and contemporary films including “Flatliners,” “Blackhat,” and Best Picture Oscar winner “Marty.” In 2023 he released his first book “A Masterpiece in Disarray: David Lynch’s Dune – An Oral History” to considerable acclaim.