‘The Gallows’ hangs hopes on horror guru’s record

LOS ANGELES: Hollywood producer Jason Blum has a reputation to keep up: he is famous for micro-budget horror films which make megabucks at the box office.


It remains to be seen if his latest spine-tingler, “The Gallows,” will hit the same mark. But it could well do.

The movie, out Friday in the United States, begins with the story of a 1993 student theater production which turns to terror when one of its actors, Charlie, is accidentally hanged onstage.

Twenty years later, a group of teenagers decide to revive the play in honor of Charlie — but it’s not always a good idea to resurrect the dead.

“The Gallows,” which recalls 1999’s “The Blair Witch Project” for its hand-held camera technique, gives young actors Reese Mishler, Pfeifer Brown, Ryan Shoos and Cassidy Gifford their first substantial roles.

Directed by Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing, the movie will thrill horror fans, although it may also annoy those who dislike juddery filming and other amateur-video stylistic foibles.

But the Jason Blum brand should attract those who are already fans of the talented filmmaker, whose past credits include the “Paranormal Activity” and “Insidious” movies.

His method consists of making films with tiny budgets, paying actors peanuts, but working with studios that ensure that his films are distributed around the world, often going on to be major hits.

– No star treatment –

The actors certainly don’t get the star treatment, even those who are already well known: for the first “The Purge” movie, Ethan Hawke recalls having slept on Blum’s couch every night of the film shoot.

“Jason Blum makes films the way studio executives can only dream about: on time and under budget,” said analyst Jeff Bock of box officer tracker Exhibitor Relations.

“In fact, I refer to him as the micro-maestro of horror as his budgets are routinely under $10 million, and most of them around $5 million.”

The Blum “model” started with “Paranormal Activity” in 2009, produced for $15,000 before grossing nearly $200 million worldwide, making it the most profitable film in Hollywood history.

It has already had four sequels, and a fifth is due out this fall.

In addition to “Insidious” and the first and second “The Purge” movies that were big summer hits in 2013 and 2014, the 46-year-old also produced “Sinister” and “Ouija.”

“It’s no wonder seemingly every studio in town has a deal with him right now,” said Bock.

“Even when his films aren’t massive hits, he still comes out in the black every time, because of his penchant for budget mastery and edgy thrillers and chill pills with contemporary twists.”

Blum’s filmography, which runs to 80 credits, also includes more serious fare including 2014’s “Whiplash,” which won three Oscars and a Golden Globe, and TV film “The Normal Heart,” which won a Globe and two Emmys.

He also co-produced “The Reader,” which won Kate Winslet an Oscar, and the hit documentary “The Jinx,” which caused a sensation earlier this year.

But his horror flicks are his bread and butter — and keep him in non-stop work.

“Keeping tight budgets in Hollywood is definitely an art form in itself,” said Bock.

“In the end, people go to where the work is… and he steadily employees many folks, considering he has at least a dozen films in production at any given time,” he added.