The Best Films From Blumhouse Productions

The Best Films From Blumhouse Productions

In the last decade, the Blumhouse production company has become a mainstay of the horror genre, responsible for countless productions with major cultural impact, in addition to seeing huge box office numbers and various accolades. Our team takes a look at some of our favorite films from the studio from the very start to the present:


 paranormal activity blumhouse

Paranormal Activity (2009)

It’s the one that started it all, the first Blumhouse production, 2009’s Paranormal Activity. Made for $15,000, the found footage horror film went on to make $193 million dollars, becoming the most profitable film ever, based on return of investment. It’s the model Blumhouse has continued to use—fund low-budget films with solid talent behind and in front of the lens—and, so far, success has followed. Paranormal Activity was a cultural event, too, thanks to its stellar marketing. There was a mystery surrounding it, similar to The Blair Witch Project, and trailers of audiences being scared by footage from the movie brought people out. It was one of the first to use social media effectively, too, having people vote online on what city the movie would screen next. I remember having to take a long drive to a theater in Atlanta in 2009 to see a midnight screening with a packed crowd, and it was well worth it. The film itself crawls under your skin, with its well-constructed scares, creating a haunted house movie for the ages. It was a hell of start for one of the best productions companies working today. (Marcelo Pico)      

 insidious blumhouse

Insidious (2010)

James Wan’s fourth feature was the first non-Paranormal Activity film from Blumhouse, and the film that showed Hollywood that their success with those films was not a fluke. Wan and his collaborator Leigh Whanell’s twist on the haunted house sub-genre was a bonafide smash, which is no surprise given just how crowd-pleasingly spooky it is. The Lambert family is instantly relatable thanks to the strong performances from Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne, so when their son Dalton falls into a mysterious coma the stakes are clear. What separates this film from the traditional ghost story is the concept of traveling to the astral plane. The first half of the film is all masterful jump scares, but it’s the second half set in the darkest section of the astral plane known as The Further where the movie truly frightens. The modest budget forced Wan to get creative with the visuals and it adds to the effectiveness of the scares. Lin Shaye gives the best performance of the film as the demonologist the family hires to find Dalton. Insidious also gave us one of the most memorable and terrifying horror villains in recent memory. (Sam Van Haren)

 the bay blumhouse

The Bay (2012)

The Bay really snuck up on me. One of those ‘needle in a haystack’ finds on Netflix, Barry Levinson’s found footage horror film is nothing if not surprising. That the director of films such as Wag the Dog, Bugsy, and Rain Man would dive head first into the horror genre was a shock but for longtime viewers of his work it shouldn't have been. Taking the disturbing imagery of the Robin Williams vehicle Toys (featuring an aquatic monster) and the sci-fi horror on display in his adaptation of the Michael Crichton underwater thriller Sphere, the stomach churning gore on display in The Bay is almost expected. Taking place during a festival in a small seaside town, we meet various characters who won't survive the night. A strain of mutated crustaceans has gotten a bloodlust and are on the prowl, infecting everyone in town that's on a seafood diet. This being the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, that's pretty much everyone and the creepy crawlers begin to burst out of the locals in gruesome fashion. All of this is caught by Levinson's keen eye that he's used to great effect in his dramas, this time with added body horror and gore. Dismissed, sight unseen by many as just another found footage movie, The Bay is more than worth the trip. (Matt Curione)

 sinister blumhouse

Sinister (2012)

It may go a little too far off the rails when the pieces finally fall into place at the end, but there’s no denying that Sinister contains some of the most effective horror filmmaking of the last decade. Scott Derrickson’s third film is impressively economical with its scares, having them take place almost entirely within disturbing snuff tapes discovered by a struggling pulp novelist, Ellison (Ethan Hawke). The tapes are unsettling to say the least, wisely leaning towards psychological slow-burn horror rather than loud jump scares. And just like many of the horror genre’s best, the worst of the worst takes place outside of the frame and you’re left to your own imagination. It’s as much about what you don’t see as it is about what you do. The upsetting imagery and depressing tone is sold perfectly by a lingering camera and a never better Hawke. (Marcus Irving)

 lords of salem blumhouse

The Lords of Salem (2013)

Blumhouse Productions finds great success in supporting the vision of the artists—Ouija: Origin of Evil finds Mike Flanagan’s brand of buried trauma right at home—and Rob Zombie fits right into the mold. The Lords of Salem is, like many of the famed auteur’s works, uncompromising, but it reconciles his knack for viscera with an artistic calm, while expressing personal demons. The result is a near-masterclass in matter-of-fact tension, aligning with ancient coven curses and the hardship of kicking a habit. Zombie acknowledges they’re all one and the same—dangers to rid of, and hopefully keep at bay. Watch it to observe the influence of Polanski’s ‘Apartment’ trilogy buried within the roots of modern horror. (William Mai)

 oculus blumhouse

Oculus (2014)

Still the best movie released with a connection to WWE Studios, Mike Flanagan's 2013 supernatural horror film, based on his own short film, was another hit for Blumhouse. Starring Karen Gillan (Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Who) and Brenton Thwaites (Maleficent, The Giver) as two siblings who have long been haunted by an ominous mirror, Oculus is a truly scary ride through traumatizing childhoods with some choice gore along the way. If it wasn't Flanagan's 2011 film Absentia that planted his name in horror fan’s brains, it was Oculus, with its inventive cinematography and gripping story. The film that catapulted the director to bigger budgets and critical raves with Hush, Ouija: Origin of Evil, and Gerald's Game, Oculus has that signature Flanagan look and feel and we've grown accustomed to. It's the classic ‘Are they really just crazy?’ story given a new look and it is incredibly effective in doing so. Flanagan might have made better films since, but Oculus shouldn't be forgotten. (Matt Curione)

 whiplash blumhouse

Whiplash (2014)

In 2013, Damien Chazelle was seeking funding for a feature length film about a drummer going through music school, but, even with backing from Blumhouse, it couldn’t quite come to fruition. Hence, the short film version of Whiplash was made. It served as a proof-of-concept for the feature film, and after seeing the immense suspense Chazelle created in only eighteen minutes, funding came through for the full-length film. In 2014, Whiplash became Blumhouse’s most ambitious and award-season-friendly release, so far, winning multiple Oscars that included Best Supporting Actor, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound Mixing. It’s a thriller unlike any other, because from its relatively simple synopsis, one would never expect how truly frightening this film is. Miles Teller plays Andrew Neiman, a drummer with tons of potential who’s attending a fictional equivalent of Juilliard, where he meets J.K. Simmons’s Terence Fletcher, a vicious jazz band instructor who pushes students to their limit. It may not seem like the most intense elevator pitch, but Damien Chazelle expertly crafts an oppressive tone that perfectly matches Simmons’s wild, over-the-top menace. It’s a white-knuckle thrill ride of a film that wraps up with an astounding ending that now ranks among the most iconic of all time. (Callie Smith)

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The Gift (2015)

Joel Edgerton’s directorial debut stars himself, Rebecca Hall, and Jason Bateman, and is one of the most unsettling films in the Blumhouse canon, which is saying a lot when stacked against horror films like Sinister and the Paranormal Activity franchise. Edgerton plays Gordo, an odd man who tries to weasel his way into the life of his former high school classmate Simon (Bateman) and Simon’s wife Robyn (Hall). We don’t know exactly why Gordo seems so interested in Simon, but as the past starts to bubble up, we don’t know exactly who to root for in this dementated story. The Gift is also further proof that Bateman is more than just the standby lead in every other R-rated raunchy comedy; his role and performance feels like a deconstruction of the acidic characters he’s known for playing. While Edgerton saves the most layered role for himself. Thanks to his script and direction, you’ll have trouble reconciling with the film’s end, one that makes you feel dirty enough to take a shower immediately after. (Marcelo Pico)

 the visit blumhouse

The Visit (2015)

M. Night Shyamalan is the only South Asian director who’s a household name, so I’ve always felt a little protective over him (even during the deep lows of his career). After a handful of embarrassing misfires, Shyamalan doing a micro-budget horror/comedy for Blumhouse was the perfect move to regroup himself and flex his creative muscles. Shedding the oppressive self-seriousness that plagued his previous films, The Visit is a funny, effectively scary, and knowingly goofy take on the horrors of aging from a child’s perspective. Often mislabeled as found footage (it’s closer to documentary in style), The Visit is a diverting example of Shyamalan’s elegant filmmaking. Even in such a seemingly throwaway little movie, he crafts a few striking images and some really heartfelt dialogue. The conceit of the film (do not leave your room at night) creates an air of dread and mystery and Shyamalan pays that off. He even subverts his infamous twist endings by delivering the twist (one so obvious you dismissed it) at the end of the second act and then letting the film bake in it for another half hour. Maybe Unbreakable or The Sixth Sense are his best films, but The Visit breathed new life to his career and it’s a major favorite for me. (Manish Mathur)

 creep blumhouse

Creep (2015)

Lost in the haze of all the popular projects released by Blumhouse is Mark Duplass and Patrick Brice’s chilling micro-budget horror film, Creep. This found-footage thriller centers on a videographer, played by Brice, who answers a Craigslist ad posted by Josef, played by Mark Duplass. As he records Josef, things begin getting weirder and creepier until, finally things boil over in a scene that made me leave my lights on all night after watching the movie for the first time. While found-footage horror is usually a very hit-or-miss subgenre, the realism of the filming style, the fully realized and completely terrifying character of Josef, the uncomfortable humor, and the unsettling themes of stalking and home invasion strikes a perfect balance that takes full advantage of this style of horror filmmaking and makes Creep stand out among the other found-footage horror riffraff. (Callie Smith)

In a Valley of Violence (2016)

 in a valley of violence blumhouse

In a Valley of Violence is a Ti West directed action/western set in the Old West. Ethan Hawke and his beloved dog are on a journey to Mexico when they decide to cut through a desert to barren Texas. Upon doing so, Hawke and his pup run into a group of peculiar individuals in a run down mining town. These archaic halfwits bring nothing but violence to the lives of Hawke and his dog as he tries to get to his destination. This movie picks up as it goes along, and we see Hawke in a more subtle role that is not talked about that much today. Revenge and anger are strewn throughout and many scenes are brow raising. Your dog loving emotions will be tested and you will find yourself wishing that the dog got more credit. He is phenomenal. Packed with other wonderful actors like Taissa Farmiga, Karen Gillan, James Ransome, and Larry Fessenden, In a Valley of Violence is an underappreciated gem from Blumhouse. (Rachael Hauschild)

 hush blumhouse

Hush (2016)

Although not as well-known as some Blumhouse features, Hush, released on Netflix, may very well be one of its best. Mike Flanagan, director and co-writer of the film, takes on a different angle of the home invasion genre. Given the lead is a deaf-mute author, it would be easy to see her as helpless. However, with minimal buildup, Kate Siegel provides the audience with not only a heroine to root for, but also a woman with strengths and weaknesses, which leaves us unsure how or even if she will survive. Flanagan’s use of sound and light masterfully ratchets up the tension and consistently increases the stakes throughout the runtime. As in many horror films, there are other characters put in the line of fire, but never is there a chance for the lead to be a simple damsel in distress. But all of that excess of tension would be worthless without a killer third act. In Hush, everything that has been built up in the first hour of this tightly constructed narrative comes to fruition in the most satisfying of conclusions. When it comes to a genre that has been become slightly repetitive, Hush manages to create a home invasion thriller that feels completely new. (David Hart)

 ouija origin of evil blumhouse

Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)

Movie sequel/prequel titles can be pretty dumb, and Ouija: Origin of Evil is a groan-worthy title. Under the skillful hand of Mike Flanagan, however, the board game movie makes the smart decision to go into the 1960s. Period piece horror works pretty well; the lack of smartphones and the Internet means characters don’t have the same crutches they’d have in a modern setting. Flanagan keeps a steady pace, with a few jolting jump scares and a number of delicately crafted slow-burns. He creates specificity in his locations, so that the audience knows each room and what’s happening where. The period trappings of the film are executed beautifully, with an undeniable attention to detail. What makes this prequel really soar is the thematic resonance underneath the horror. At its core, this is a story about a single mom and her two daughters trying to live a better life. The connection between the women ties the film together, and makes the scares truly effective. Flanagan tried to keep the film separate from the first Ouija, and he succeeds until the end, where the film has to set up future events. That aside, Ouija: Origin of Evil is a gripping, thrilling horror film. (Manish Mathur)

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Split (2017)

It took several attempts, but under Blumhouse’s tutelage M. Night Shyamalan got his mojo back with 2015’s The Visit and then again in a bigger way with 2017’s Split. A layered psychological thriller revolving around a man with multiple personalities who abducts a trio of young girls, who must escape while learning about the various different personas embodying one vessel, and the final one, ‘The Beast’, which displays superhuman abilities. Split is remarkable for how it defies audience expectation, delivering a number of truly shocking and surprising twists right to the very end. At the heart of it all, its the performance(s) of James McAvoy (23 in all!) that make it a must-see, and surely the best work Shyamalan has made since its forebearer Unbreakable. (Rob Trench)

 happy death day blumhouse

Happy Death Day (2017)

Happy Death Day is a blast and a half, and a rare PG-13 slasher with the goods. Sorority sister Tree (Jessica Rothe) finds herself reliving the day of her death over and over again, Groundhog Day style, and must get to the bottom of identifying the culprit. As she gets closer to solving her own murder, various tropes and signifiers of the genre are subverted to hilarious levels, pulling off a balancing act of horror and comedy to great effect. It’s not the kind of film that aspires to be more than what it presents on the surface, just a fun piece of tongue-in-cheek horror schlock, and a very entertaining one at that. If you overlooked this one when it hit theaters, consider carivng out 90 minutes of your day to give it a whirl, you’ll probably be glad you did. (Rob Trench)

 

 get out blumhouse

Get Out (2017)

Get Out is the perfect example of what Blumhouse can accomplish with its different takes on production style. The production house is known for giving its directors complete freedom to tell their story, as long as it comes in under budget. Looking at Get Out, a horror film that doubles as social commentary, it is highly unlikely that any other major studio would have touched this material, especially coming from first-time director Jordan Peele. But the studio’s trust in Peele was well-founded, and that faith, along with some terrific performances from Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, and Catherine Keener propelled Get Out into not only a high-quality movie, but the rare horror film that was nominated by the Academy Awards. The cultural impact of Get Out cannot possibly be overstated. But that is not the only reason to watch it. The film points an accusatory finger at our best intentions and, especially on rewatch, forces a difficult look inward while still being one of the most engrossing movies of the past few years. Get Out may stand apart from other Blumhouse horror films in terms of critical acclaim, but at least a portion of its success and praise are due to the studio taking risks and giving creative freedom to promising directors. (David Hart)

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