By Justina Bonilla
Blumhouse Productions has become an influential voice in Hollywood with its diverse Academy Award-winning dramas (Whiplash (2014), Get Out (2017), and BlacKKKlansman (2018) and signature micro-budget strategy. However, it is beloved among horror fans for its influential pop-culture horror films (Get Out, Paranormal Activity (2009), and The Purge (2013).
A unique aspect of Blumhouse’s horror properties is its increasing inclusion of ethnic talent, including Latinos in front of and behind the camera. Most notably The Purge the USA/Syfy television series, the Hulu Into the Dark anthology series, and the feature film Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones.
Latino audiences are major consumers of horror content, especially films. In 2018 The Wrap reported that, “According Warner Bros. and comScore data from [The Nun’s] $53.5 million domestic opening weekend, the best for a Conjuring film and second-best for a September release, 36% of the audience was Latino, up from 17% for The Conjuring and 26% for last year’s Annabelle: Creation. On top of that, Mexico was the top overseas market with $10.7 million grossed.”
Blumhouse was founded by Jason Blum in 2000 where he currently serves as CEO and producer for several of its film and television projects. The production company became a contemporary Hollywood trailblazer with its philosophy of micro-budget films, with high concept stories, and giving filmmakers creative freedom. Their first horror hit was the groundbreaking Paranormal Activity. Made for $15,000 (Paramount added another $200,000 in post before it was released) the film went on to earn nearly $200 million worldwide. The success of their first film led to Blumhouse producing five more prequels and sequels, creating the Paranormal Activity film series franchise comprised of some of the most profitable and popular horror films in Hollywood, most notably among Latino audiences.
“Latinos make up a significant portion of the theater-going audience, and they are a valuable audience for Blumhouse,” Blum declares. “We know that our audiences want to see themselves in the stories they see on the big screen and we’re committed to bringing more stories to life, that reflect different backgrounds, points of view, and people.”
Blumhouse has an array of theatrically released horror films starring Latino leads; from Jennifer Lopez in The Boy Next Door (2015) to Jessica Alba in The Veil (2016) and Michael Peña in Fantasy Island (2020). Their other films that feature Latino leads include, The Green Inferno (2015) and Paranormal Activities: The Marked Ones (2014). Latinos have also appeared in supportive roles, most notably in the second film of The Purge series, The Purge: Anarchy (2014), such as Nicholas Gonzalez (The Good Doctor), Justina Machado (One Day At A Time), and Noel Gugliemi (Training Day).]
Paranormal Activities: The Marked Ones, is one of the films from the six-film Paranormal Activities franchise, which had a total franchise budget of $28 million and a worldwide gross of $890.5 million. This film was specifically Latino themed with Latino leads. With a $5 million dollar budget, its worldwide gross was nearly $91 million. Its cast of young Latino actors featured Andrew Jacobs (Trinkets), Jorge Diaz (East Los High), Richard Cabral (Mayans MC), and Carlos Pratts (McFarland USA).
After the financial success of the four The Purge films, (The Purge, The Purge: Anarchy (2014), The Purge: Election Year (2016), and The First Purge (2018), with a combined budget of $35 million dollars, and a total worldwide gross of $457.1 million, that’s when the TV series followed.
In an exclusive interview with Latin Heat, Marci Wiseman, and Jeremy Gold, the two Co-Presidents of Blumhouse Television spoke with us about the importance of Latinos at Blumhouse, both as fans and content creators.
“It makes us enormously proud and happy that these filmmakers of such unique talents are getting recognized and their work is so well received,” Gold explained. “That is incredibly gratifying for us, of course, and for them. And as a studio across both film and television, we are deeply committed to not only discovering, but also continuing to nurture and provide a real platform for upcoming diverse voices.”
The USA/Syfy TV series The Purge (2018-2019) follows the basic plot of the film series. A contemporary America under a totalitarian government, which allows the legalization of all crimes for one day a year, from 7 PM to 7 AM, including the worst kinds of murder possible.
Series regulars in season one featured Gabriel Chavarria and Jessica Garza as brother and sister Miguel and Penelope Guerrero. Miguel, a US marine is desperately looking for Penelope during the Purge, to save her from becoming a Purge sacrifice. While, season two featured Paola Núñez as Esme Carmona, an NFFA government employee. Though Carmona sees herself as a valuable employee, she eventually becomes an enemy of the state. The Latino directorial talent for The Purge includes Jamie Reynoso (S2. E9. “Grief Box”) and Gigi Saul Guerrero (S2. E9. “Hail Mary”).
Gold explained the decision to hire Latino directors and talent in the lead roles for The Purge TV show, “We really value [the Latinx] fan base highly and we actively work to make sure that, that was represented across the series, and it was partially important on that show, [for] both of the talent in front of and behind the camera. And we are very proud of that The Purge series,” he said. “We had lots of Latinx directors and writers. That element of the series really seemed to land with the audience.”
Since 2018, Blumhouse’s streaming horror anthology Hulu series Into the Dark, releases a new installment each month, highlighting American holidays from Fourth of July to Christmas. This series has been a highly successful vehicle for showcasing the work of several Latino directors.
According to Rotten Tomatoes, three out of the top five highest-rated Into the Dark episodes, Culture Shock, Pooka!, and Pooka Lives!, were directed by Latinos.
Culture Shock, directed by Gigi Saul Guerrero, takes a gritty look at the border crisis issue. Marisol (Martha Higareda), a young Mexican woman takes the risk of crossing undocumented into America for her “American Dream”, only to find herself in a nightmare beyond her wildest dreams.
When selecting Guerrero to be a part of the Into the Dark series, Wiseman shared, “The feature [film] department is very aware of Gigi’s multitude of shorts, all in the horror space and had been keeping their eye on her.” After Guerrero pitched her take on the material, Wiseman noted, “We loved her take. We loved what she said she was going to do with it. And the rest is history.” The trust in Guerrero paid off. Culture Shock is rated on Rotten Tomatoes at 100%.
Pooka! directed by Nacho Vigalondo is a unique Christmas horror tale. After struggling actor Wilson (Nyasha Hatendi) finds success as the Pooka mascot, he starts to see that Pooka bring out aside of him he’s struggling to control. The sequel Pooka Lives!, directed by Alejandro Brugués, takes the Pooka horror online. A group of friends create the online challenge #pookachallange as a joke, only for the challenge to go viral, causing deadly results.
“[Into the Dark] became a really great forum for us to work with all kinds of film makers, from all different walks of life,” Wiseman explained.
The Blumhouse backed Crypt TV is a successful digital network co-founded by Jack Davis and director/writer Eli Roth. Crypt TV focuses on making short horror web content, including individual short horror videos and multiple series of short horror videos. Their YouTube channel has over three-million subscribers and over 460 short videos, with millions of views. Many of the shorts feature diverse talent and content makers, most notably Guerrero.
Earlier this year Blumhouse Television announced it had secured the rights to adapt the popular two-season horror podcast The Horror of Dolores Roach into a drama series for TV. Podcast creator Aaron Mark will serve as showrunner for the Amazon series which follow Roach (Daphne Rubin-Vega) upon her return to her New York neighborhood after a sixteen-year stint in prison.
Mexican writer and director Issa López (Tigers Are Not Afraid) was announced in May 2020, to be writing and directing the film Our Lady of Tears for Blumhouse, based on the article “The Haunting of Girlstown” by VOX.com. In 2007, Villa de las Niñas, an all-girls Catholic boarding school on the fringes of Mexico City, faced an epidemic of mass hysteria, with supernatural origins.
Blumhouse’s outreach within the Latino community was further cemented in January of this year when Blum partnered with LA Collab, an organization which seeks to collaborate with industry talent and entities to create opportunities for Latinos in Hollywood. Blum shared with Latin Heat how he became involved, “One of LA Collab’s co-founders Ivette Rodriguez reached out to Blumhouse’s Head of Marketing, Karen Barragan about the collaboration, and when she told me about the initiative I was eager to throw our support behind the effort.”
Blum went on to explain, “We have found LA Collab to be a great resource in connecting us with top talent and filmmakers, and we really liked that LA Collab had a clearly defined goal of increasing authentic Latino representation (in front and behind the camera) in the entertainment industry by 100% by 2030.”
Blum joined a multitude of Hollywood luminaries and other production entities which include director JJ Abrams, Eva Longoria, Ozzie Areu of Areu Bros. Studios, Warner Media, producer Eli Roth, and actor/producers Edward James Olmos and Eugenio Derbez for the launch of LA Collab, which was founded in partnership with the Office of LA Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Blumhouse has become a leading force in the horror industry by showing its ability to find, nurture, and elevate talent of color in horror. “Traditionally, we have always loved ghost stories and the macabre and Gothic tales,” Edwin Pagan, who runs the horror genre centric latinhorror.com, told NPR in 2015. “They’re just sewn into the fabric of who we are as a people.” And so, the avid Latino audience awaits to see what new “horror” Blumhouse has in store for them.
Into the Dark is exclusively streaming on Hulu.