With Halloween coming up, movie lovers are already starting to put together spooky watch lists to get in the mood. This year, we’re shining a spotlight on Blumhouse Productions, one of the most important forces in the genre right now with a string of influential releases that have redefined how audiences get scared. They aren’t just about horror—after all, they also had a hand in films like Whiplash and The Normal Heart—but nobody else right now guarantees scares like Blumhouse.
And clearly, we’re not the only fans. Universal Pictures Home Entertainment released a 10-movie collection called Blumhouse of Horrors and Prime Video unveiled “Welcome to the Blumhouse,” a series of eight genre films available on the platform. Four of them will debut this month—The Lie and Black Box on October 6, and Evil Eye and Nocturne on October 13—but we’ll have to wait until 2021 for the rest.
The one that started it all, this microbudget found-footage chiller about a couple’s battle with something supernatural lurking in their home took two years to reach theaters after its initial festival screenings. Outfitted with a new jump-scare ending, it kicked off a long-running series of films with a fresh entry currently in progress.
If you were lucky enough to see this one in the theater, it’s impossible to forget the gleeful screams that erupted during that breakfast table scene. A ruthless scare machine that updated the possession and haunted house ideas for a new era, James Wan’s film paved the way for a wave of ghostly hits including sequels to this film and The Conjuring series.
Blumhouse went very, very dark with this tale of crime writer Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) unearthing some unsettling home movies in his attic, which provides the opportunity to mix film formats and aspect ratios in a way that’s still influential today. Packed with images that feel pulled straight out of a nightmare, it’s definitely not one you want to put on just before going to bed.
So popular its very title has become part of the lexicon, this mixture of white-knuckle tension and biting social commentary brings back Hawke for what would become a multi-part saga (including five films and a TV series). Set in a dystopian world, it depicts a society where one night each year, any criminal activity is permitted for the populace to blow off steam—with complex and disturbing repercussions.
Best known today for his Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House and his Stephen King adaptations, Gerald’s Game and Doctor Sleep, writer-director Mike Flanagan flourished under Blumhouse with titles like Oculus and the underrated Ouija: Origin of Evil. One of his best is this taut suspense gem about a deaf writer (played by his real-life wife and frequent collaborator Kate Siegel) fighting for her life against a serial killer over the course of one very intense evening.
One of the most talked-about genre films in recent years is this satirical blend of horror, sci-fi, and dark comedy from writer-director Jordan Peele, who took home an Oscar for Original Screenplay in 2018. Drawing inspiration from classic ’70s shockers, the film about a young Black man (Daniel Kaluuya) going to spend the weekend with his white girlfriend’s family managed to catch both viewers and critics off guard while playing a major part in the social discussions we’re still having today.
Happy Death Day
At the opposite end of the spectrum, you won’t find much profundity but you will have a tremendous amount of fun with this comical slasher twist on Groundhog Day as college student Tree (Jessica Rothe) gets stuck in a deadly single-day time loop along with a killer wearing a baby doll mask. Much smarter than anyone expected, it’s a pure roller-coaster ride that leaves a smile on the viewer’s face.
This slick and stylish sci-fi techno thriller pulls no punches with its extremely dark storyline but offers much food for thought as a quadriplegic mechanic (Logan Marshall-Green) who has lost his family in a car crash thinks he’s found a new lease on life thanks to a computerized implant that can make him ambulatory—with extremely violent consequences.
The fourth attempt to tackle a new approach to the story of unstoppable slasher Michael Myers (on top of multiple sequels and a remake) proved to be the charm with original star Jamie Lee Curtis anchoring a story of multiple generations of women preparing for battle against the masked maniac. Showing there was still plenty of blood in the old formula yet, it became a major seasonal hit with two follow-up features on the way.
The Invisible Man
The H.G. Wells novel and its beloved Universal monster adaptation get a major modern reworking here with Elisabeth Moss starring as an abused wife who thinks her brutal scientist husband is dead after she goes on the run. Of course, there’s far more than meets the eye (so to speak) in Leigh Whannell’s restrained and jolting rendition told from a female perspective.