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By David Young · October 24, 2022
Try as we might, we can’t seem to escape the usual trappings of storytelling: time loops, meeting the parents, or even a good old-fashioned body swap. For every comedy setup or seemingly overdone trope, though, there’s a company wanting to give it a clever twist. That company is Blumhouse Productions and Blumhouse movies — well — they deliver.
Blumhouse is famous for its horror movies in particular, and many of them have celebrated lengthy franchises since their inception, such as The Purge or Insidious. They’ve even had the pleasure of producing a recent reiteration of one of the most successful horror franchises of all time, with the final Halloween trilogy revolving around the enigmatic slasher icon, Michael Myers.
But a company like this has to have something special in order to stand out. Why does Blumhouse get to revisit and reimagine the Halloween franchise? Why does Blumhouse stand out time and again as a masterful producer of scary movies, whether they’re psychological horror films like Get Out or horror comedies like Freaky? The answer lies in their approach, using the storytelling tools and tropes we love in fantastic new ways. This company likes to take something we know and shake it all up into a brand-new horror movie.
Curious about what we mean? Just take a look at the following Blumhouse movies to learn more!
Not everyone enjoys their birthday, but many find it a reason to celebrate. If you were Tree, though, you’d think twice about celebrating. After all, her birthday is also the last day she gets to be alive. Oh, and of course, she might get tired of the fact that she’s experiencing her birthday over and over… and over. This happens until she dies each time.
That’s right — she’s stuck in a time loop with a deranged killer.
Not much cause for celebration after all. What we can celebrate, though, is how Blumhouse gave new life to one of the most overdone TV tropes of all time. The time loop is a great device, of course — that’s why everyone has used it. But Happy Death Day takes charge of that same device by turning it into the main event of a whodunit, a slasher, and even a stage for absolute psychological torment. After enduring a series of birthdays like this, it’s easy to imagine dreading the same day every year for the rest of your life.
With a little bit of supernatural research and a justice-seeking story, Oculus proves to be a multifaceted psychological horror. Kaylie, the protagonist, aims to prove her brother’s innocence after he’d long been blamed for the death of their parents.
A story about a deadly mirror and misremembered realities is the perfect way to turn that mission on its head. The “fight for justice” tends to get played out quite a lot. Every now and then, though, a new film will invite a great perspective to the age-old story, and Oculus does that by adding the horror and psychological torment of Kaylie’s situation to her mission. Even the ending offers a twist of its own, denying Tim any justice in a way that is almost too cruel to put on the big screen. But it sure does fit the M.O. of Blumhouse movies!
Meeting the parents can be the setup of any romantic comedy — and sometimes, it’s the whole premise. However often it’s been done, though, there’s always a way to change the stakes and make it feel like a fresh decision. That’s what happens in Jordan Peele’s Get Out.
This film jumps at the chance to set up the usual “meet the parents” conundrum, and it shows this through the lens of a black man meeting the family of his white girlfriend to even highlight other dynamics at play. This plot-driven tale carries with it an overall feeling of dread that soon exceeds the usual knot in your stomach you might get from meeting future in-laws. After all, in most stories, they aren’t as bad — or as creepy — as this family. The Blumhouse touch really lines up with this transformation: a general recipe for a narrative into something unique and all its own.
The true device that The Purge hinges on is a little elusive at first, but in time you understand it as a universal question: “What would someone do with unlimited power?” Isn’t that what criminal immunity looks like? In the event known as the Purge, people can do what they want for 24 hours with no repercussions — a dangerous problem to have. Blumhouse knew that.
However, this film’s status as speculative fiction has since aged like milk. Lawlessness and scare tactics in real life mirror the dangerous world we see once a year in this imagined version of America. That realness, the closeness to home, is what was truly frightening about the movie when it was made. It’s also what’s scariest about the world we live in today, as we watch a real-world scenario where many of the wrong people get the wrong amount of power. The premise is so prevalent, in fact, that they’ve moved beyond the Blumhouse movies to start producing a series of the same name.
An out-of-body experience isn’t always a horrible thing. It can be enlightening, enrapturing, and even inspiring. However, none of that is the case in Insidious or its sequel, Insidious: Chapter 2. In the events of the first installment, Josh’s astral projection acts as the device that gets transformed into a horror setup.
However, there’s another element to the second chapter of this series that warrants recognition: the use of “time travel.” In reality, it’s a combination of tropes being used at once, including the introduction of another world and the discovery that this new world — The Further — doesn’t behave with the rules of time. It’s with this discovery that Josh is able to speak with his former self, a standard trope that comes from the time travel stories at large. It’s this ability that helps transform this supernatural horror and crime investigation film into a much more interesting version of the usual approach!
It has to be said: Halloween is already perfect. It’s the quintessential slasher flick, so why on Earth would the Blumhouse movies be any different? The simple answer is this: That’s their thing, and they do it really well. Blumhouse took the tropes of the usual slasher and started to twist them little by little throughout the narrative we see in the last three films.
This is greatly encapsulated by what happens in Halloween Kills, where Tommy Doyle’s impromptu mob treats Michael Myers like Frankenstein’s monster — only with less successful results. An angry mob is most definitely a TV trope that has evolved through the use of a Blumhouse flick — yet again proving the deftness of these creations.
How about a good old-fashioned body swap movie? Well, maybe not so old-fashioned… since the person that Millie Kessler switches with happens to be a serial killer. Even the title of this film suggests that the spin is intentional, referencing the comedy Freaky Friday. But of course, the mystical body-switching has to have a twist of its own, and Millie is none too thrilled about what she learns. Yet again, another success in “the Blumhouse switcheroo.”
You can’t expect to escape tradition. The devices you see, from time travel to body swaps and angry mobs, exist in film for a reason. However, you can combat it by doing something new with the conventions of yore. Whether it’s adding a twist to a tired literary trope or reframing it in a new genre, you can learn a little something about this transformation by reading a few Blumhouse Productions screenplays!