The best Blumhouse horror movies
The lights are out, and the popcorn is popped. A spinning chair appears on the screen, suspended in mid-air. A door slams and a book flies across the room. The camera pans to a ghostly girl pacing as a light bulb swings into the frame. All of these strange occurrences can mean only one thing: You're about to watch a Blumhouse film.
As founder and CEO of Blumhouse Productions, Jason Blum has arguably changed the landscape of horror movies. His vision broke the industry mold by supporting low-budget films with unknown or struggling directors, giving them complete creative licenses. And the formula worked, spawning several multi-million dollar horror franchises and some of the most successful genre films since the 2000s. From Paranormal Activity to The Purge, Blumhouse has mastered the art of scaring the bejesus out of us.
Think you're the ultimate horror fan? This list isn't for the timid. Check out our top picks for the best Blumhouse horror movies — if you dare.
<i>Paranormal Activity</i> (2007)
The film that made Blumhouse a household name had a measly budget of just $11,000, bringing in a whopping $193 million worldwide. Taking notes from the indie classic The Blair Witch Project, Oren Peli set out to make his own found-footage film about a haunted house on steroids, and ended up launching a hugely successful franchise in the same swoop.
A pesky poltergeist plagues a San Diego couple (Katie Featherstone and Micah Sloat), prompting them to set up a camera and film evidence of these supernatural events: unseen entities snatching blankets while they sleep, throwing pictures off the wall, even dragging them out of bed. You'd think any one of those occurrences would be reason enough to move, but this is Blumhouse afterall, so our intrepid couple stands their ground night after night until the bitter end.
Filled with hair-raising jump scares and a slow build tension like a mounting roller coaster before the fall (oh, and an evil spirit is in the car behind you), Paranormal Activity is all-around terrifying.
Jump scares may be a controversial trope amongst genre enthusiasts, but when they're done well, as they are in Insidious, they make for one hell of a viewing experience. This supernatural horror film gets your heart rate up with some of the most unpredictable jolts. Which is no surprise, given Blumhouse tapped James Wan of Saw to direct and Paranormal Activity's Oren Peli to produce this hybrid haunted house-possession film that holds nothing back.
A couple (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) are tormented by things that go bump in the night in their family's new home when a malevolent spirit takes over their son (Ty Simpkins), and he slips into a coma. In an act of desperation, they call in a psychic exorcist, played by the outstanding Lin Shaye, who unleashes all sorts of demonic mayhem on the family. And after the spirits take the poor boy to their demented realm, Wilson must step into "The Further" himself to save his son.
"Insidious is a haunted-house movie that has some of the most shivery and indelible images I've seen in any horror film in decades," said EW's critic in their grade A review, who lauded how Wan "reaches back to the stately spookiness of the 1962 low-budget classic Carnival of Souls and adds a touch of early David Lynch to conjure up a vision of hell that is terrifying in its dreamlike banality."
What kind of sicko would move his family into a home where gruesome murders happened? As a horror trope cornerstone, someone's gotta do it, and in Sinister, our culprit is true crime writer Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke).If the home's history wasn't a red flag enough, the box filled with old Super 8 films of the grisly tragedies in the attic should have stopped him cold, but only inspires further investigation. What could go wrong?
Scott Derrickson, known for Doctor Strange and The Exorcism of Emily Rose, collaborated with Blumhouse to direct one of the most genuinely scary movies in recent memory.The project was a welcome reprieve in a way for the director, who told EW that it was "such a satisfying experience. I had come off of a very bad experience shooting a big-budget film [2008's The Day The Earth Stood Still]. Jason [Blum] gave me $3 million and final cut, so I had total control, and it was so refreshing as an artist."
Be warned, this movie isn't for the faint of heart — which is actually a scientific fact. Sinister took the top spot in the 2020 Science of Scare Project launched by Broadband Choices, which tracked viewers' heart rates while watching scary movies to find which films get their hearts pumping. At 131 BPM, Sinister produced the highest spike (though Rob Savage's Host dethroned it in 2021).
A sinister antique mirror is the heartbeat of Oculus, where a brother and sister (Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaites) fight to destroy its power and overcome a violent past. This underrated Blumhouse film marks the early work of Mike Flanagan, who would go on to direct acclaimed Stephen King adaptations like Gerald's Game and Doctor Sleep and develop spooky Netflix shows such as The Haunting of Hill House and The Midnight Club. Eagle-eyed fans may notice an Oculus nod hidden in Flanagan's most recent horror series, Midnight Mass, as the director revealed to EW that the antique mirror hangs in the background during the rec center scenes.
"It's all becoming incredibly convoluted, really connected," Flanagan said. "That's our goal. I want all of [these projects] to just be a big ball of rubber bands by the time we're done, just impossible to extricate from each other."
This supernatural thriller features a younger Gillan who commands the role from the moment her ponytail bounces onto the screen. So much more than your average ghost story, Oculus is filled with mind games and jump scares that keep you on the edge of your seat until the bitter end.
<i>The Purge</i> (2013)
Before The Purge became a franchise that led to four follow-up films and a series, the original movie was a massive box-office success. We all know the premise by now: The year is 2022 and in the wake of a financial collapse, America's new founding fathers legalize all crimes for 12 hours once a year, including murder, to drive down crime.
The story follows a wealthy family led by James Sandin, who is played with deft tension by Ethan Hawke. Too timid to participate in the Purge, they hunker down to watch chaos reign on television, almost like they're watching The Hunger Games, that is until murderous home invaders breach their security system.
Blumhouse collaborated with writer-director James DeMonaco to create this dystopian horror film that took off in a big way, exceeding box office expectations (as is Blumhouse tradition) and launching a juggernaut franchise that unfortunately dwindled with each subsequent installment.
Creep is a lesser-known but beloved Blumhouse film that is absolutely worth your time. A man dying of cancer (Mark Duplass) hires a videographer (Patrick Brice) to film him for 24 hours to create a video diary for his unborn son. When the two meet at a remote cabin in the woods, things start innocently enough. But their dynamic gradually becomes more awkward, as a white lie leads to an inappropriate joke which spirals into a bizarre confession.
The result is a super stripped-down, ultra-weird movie that makes you so uncomfortable it's almost hard to watch — yet you can't stop. The found-footage format gives the film a voyeuristic vibe, meanwhile Duplass plays the part of a creep ingeniously well, with both playfulness and tenacity. You can't decide if you want to hug him or run away as fast as you can (we would suggest running away).
Oh, and our two lone actors also wrote the film, with Duplass producing with Blum while Brice directed. Duplass explained their inspiration to EW, saying "We're big people-watchers, and we started talking about how much we loved My Dinner with Andre, and strange human dynamics, and then we started talking about making films which were a two-hander together. We were led to this concept of a Craigslist adventure gone awry."
<i>The Visit</i> (2015)
It was a hard fall from grace for M. Night Shyamalan when the The Sixth Sense director made a string of critical and commercial flops in the 2000s and 2010s (see: The Happening, After Earth, The Last Airbender). Luckily for him, Jason Blum has an affinity for giving has-been directors new life, and, in turn, Shyamalan marked a career rebirth with the unnerving found-footage film The Visit.
A single mom (Kathryn Hahn) sends her son and daughter (Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould) to visit their grandparents on a remote farm in Pennsylvania. Once they arrive, it doesn't take long for them to notice that something is off about Nana and Pop Pop (Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie). The documentary-style footage builds tension as the story unravels in an epic signature M. Night plot twist that will leave you feeling uneasy for days after watching it.
"Suffice to say that the result is an effective scare machine and a semi-return to form for its creator," EW's Clark Collis wrote in his review "Certainly, this is the first Shyamalan movie in a long time that viewers may be tempted to re-visit just to see how he pulls off his magic trick."
<i>Ouija: Origin of Evil</i> (2016)
It's rare for a prequel to surpass its predecessor, but that's the case with Oujia: Origin of Evil. The original film, directed by Stiles White, may have earned a C- from EW critic Kyle Anderson, but the follow-up film, directed by Mike Flanagan, weaves better storytelling into a quality period piece.
Set in Los Angeles in 1967, a widow (Elizabeth Reaser) and her two daughters (Lulu Wilson and Annalise Basso) run a fake fortune-telling business out of their home. Their goal is to help grieving family members move on, but once they add an Ouija board to the scam, all hell breaks loose — literally.
Flanagan casts his usual cast of characters. Henry Thomas makes an appearance as a tormented priest, Father Tom Hogan, and Kate Siegel makes a cameo as a woman trying to connect with her husband's late wife. But the real star is Wilson, who pulls out all the punches as a possessed little girl. She screams, levitates, and emanates evil with a flair all her own.
A deaf and mute writer (Kate Siegel) moves to a remote cabin in the woods to find solace while she works on her next book. But her concentration is soon broken when a mysterious man appears outside her window, hellbent on getting inside. Now, she must defend her life in silence, which only adds to the horror as Hush forces the viewer to witness a fierce survival story for the ages.
Siegel co-wrote the script for this indie film with her then-boyfriend and Hush director Mike Flanagan. The couple has since tied the knot and made a habit of scaring us into submission with collaborations, including The Haunting of Hill House, The Haunting of Bly Manor, and Midnight Mass.
"I was really working through a time in my life where I felt like I couldn't be heard," Seigel told EW regarding the inspiration behind the story. "I wasn't being taken seriously in my life and just felt like I'd lost my voice. Coming to that project, I tried to do a lot of turning my insecurities and my weaknesses into strengths." Ironically, there's no arguing that she found her voice in Hush.
<i>Happy Death Day</i> (2017)
Imagine Bill Murray escaping a masked killer, day after day, in the classic 1993 movie Groundhog Day. That's essentially the premise of Christopher Landon's Happy Death Day, which adds a slasher vibe to the formula again and again and again.
Snotty college student Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) awakens in a strange dorm room on the morning of her birthday to see an unfamiliar boy (Israel Broussard). Hungover and confused, she bolts, and by the end of the day, she's brutally murdered. But when she wakes up the next morning to the same events, it's evident that she's trapped living the same fateful day over and over — and the only way to stop the loop is to uncover her murderer's identity.
Don't worry, we didn't spoil anything here because Happy Death Day has plenty of surprises, with a handful of suspicious characters that could potentially be her killer. Rothe is amazing here as well, delivering screams and quips, all the while proving she has the acting chops to play the leading lady.
<i>Get Out</i> (2017)
Not many horror films can boast being nominated for an Academy Award, let alone winning one. But if any horror modern auteur deserved the honor, it's Jordan Peele, the Key & Peele alum whose debut film Get Out won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and was nominated for Best Directing, Best Actor in a Leading Role, and Best Picture. This social thriller takes a subversive look at race relations in America but does it with a sharp sense of humor. The laughs can be uncomfortable, which only makes this movie more of a timely masterpiece.
Our story begins with Chris (the always-excellent Daniel Kaluuya), a Black man who feels unnerved upon visiting his white girlfriend Rose's (Allison Williams) parents in upstate New York. What starts as a series of microaggressions ("By the way, I would have voted for Obama for a third term if I could") build and build until he ultimately learns a shocking truth about his hosts' true colors.
Provocative and poignant, Get Out uses discomfort to ultimate cinematic effect — especially through the chilling performances by Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford — and makes viewers squirm in their seats in the process. Peele proves he's a force to be reckoned with as he marries social thrillers with the horror genre in a film whose "biggest jolts have nothing to do with blood or bodies, but rather with big ideas," according to EW's review.
Three teenage girls enter their car only to have a creepy man (James McAvoy) slide into the driver's seat, kidnap them, and take them to an undisclosed location. Locked in a sort of bunker, the girls gradually discover that he has over 23 distinct personalities, and they must escape before the most terrifying one, known only as "The Beast," arrives.
Night Shyamalan and Blumhouse weave a horrifying tale in Split that explores how far the human mind can fray (not in any accurate sense, but still an undeniably entertaining one). McAvoy as Kevin Wendall Crumb proves he's a master of his craft as he slips in and out of personalities. One moment he's a sophisticated woman talking down to his captives, and the next, he's a nine-year-old child named Hedwig complete with tantrums and teasing. Anya Taylor-Joy is another standout, shining as one of the kidnapped girls alongside Jessica Sula and The White Lotus' Haley Lu Richardson.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Shyamalan film without a twist revealed at the very end (spoilers ahead). Turns out Split is actually the second film in a trilogy, nestled between Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson's superhero story Unbreakable and the conclusion to both, Glass. Superfans nearly lost their minds with excitement, though the finale to the trilogy eventually underwhelmed critics and fans alike. Love him or hate him, Shyamalan proves time and time again that he's always got some tricks up his sleeve.
In the not-so-distant future, computers have taken over everyday life. Cars are driverless, homes are smart, and technology is king. And at the center of it all is Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green), a self-proclaimed technophobe and victim of a mugging gone wrong that leaves him paralysed and his wife dead. Now in the aftermath, he's forced to embrace the future through an implanted microchip that gives him superhuman powers to track down his wife's killer.
Upgrade is a sci-fi thriller written and directed by Leigh Whannell, the mastermind scribe behind the Saw and Insidious franchises. And bringing his story to life is Marshall-Green, who carries the lead role with humor and an intensity that effortlessly endears the viewer, while Betty Gabriel, of Get Out and The Purge: Election Year, also does an admirable job as the gutsy detective on the case.
While the theme of man versus computer may feel familiar, Upgrade offers enough twists and turns to keep the plot moving in an unexpected direction. The imagined steampunk world makes a perfect backdrop for the movie's graphic fight scenes. If violence and computers are your thing, then this is the film for you.
Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has been one of the most iconic final girls since she fought off Michael Myers in John Carpenter's original 1978 slasher film Halloween. It's one of the longest-running slasher movie franchises with an impressive 13 films, with fans watching Myers terrorize the citizens of Haddonfield on Halloween night for over 40 years.
He's been stabbed, burned, and shot. Yet, somehow evil always finds a way to return. There are sequels, reboots, and resurrections, but one Halloween stands out from the rest. Director David Gordon Green and co-writer Danny McBride collaborated with Blumhouse after a string of underwhelming reprisals, breathing new life into perhaps the most beloved slasher of them all.
Halloween presents Laurie Strode as an ass-kicking, gun-toting grandma who has been so traumatized that she refuses to leave the safety of her highly fortified home. And rightfully so, because Myers is once again on the loose after escaping during transport to a different mental ward, meaning her family is in imminent danger. Armed with an arsenal of guns and a serious safe room, Strode unleashes her fury on Myers in a frightening, funny, and ultra-violent Halloween installment.
Like walking in a carnival house of mirrors, Us takes viewers through a psychological maze that has us seeing double — literally. Leave it to Jordan Peele to whip out all the horror stops on his sophomore film after the seismic success of Get Out two years prior. Crazy body-snatchers? Check. Epic slasher kills? Check. A family vacation gone wrong? Check. Us covers all the bases and does it better than most.
A middle-class family takes a trip to their summer home only to discover an eerily similar family of four standing on their driveway, shrouded in darkness. Once the intruders invade the house, the group soon realizes that murderous doppelgangers of themselves are stalking them with a vengeance, but why? It's an original concept that's both unsettling and fascinating — looking yourself in the eyes and feeling pure, abject terror — like a car crash you can't look away from.
The inventive premise of course requires flawless execution from apt actors, and the cast here absolutely rises to the occasion, screaming and slashing their way from scene to scene. Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o dazzles as a fierce mom protecting her kids (Shadai Wright Joseph and Evan Alex) from their own foil characters, which is no small acting feat, alongside father. Winston Duke and Elisabeth Moss as the annoying neighbor. EW's Leah Greenblatt pointed out that Us doesn't strike the same social commentary chord as its predecessor Get Out, but "to put that mantle on him for every film — reshaper of the zeitgeist, heady arbiter of race and class and cool — also seems unfair. Go see Us on its own terms: two hours of blood-spraying, body-snatching multiplex fun."
<i>The Invisible Man</i> (2020)
This slick adaptation of the sci-fi novel written by H.G. Wells gives a new twist to an old tale. The Invisible Man thrusts the familiar story into the 21st century using cutting-edge technology and a fresh perspective, this time seen through the eyes of the victim. Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) escapes an abusive relationship only to be haunted by what seems to be the ghost of her dead tech mogul ex-boyfriend (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) in an eerie physiological thriller that delivers plenty of atmospheric suspense.
Blumhouse teamed up again here with writer-director Leigh Whannell to produce this reality-bending film. Moss gives a convincing portrayal of a woman fighting for her sanity and life, not unlike Julia Roberts escaping her stalker in Sleeping with the Enemy. She told EW that the film seemed very of the moment, saying "I think it was a cool thing for Leigh to do to [take] this genre film, this genre idea, this Universal monster, and make it relevant for audiences… it is an analogy for gaslighting and abuse."
<i>The Hunt</i> (2020)
A group of conservatives wake up in unfamiliar woods, gagged and confused. Within moments, bullets fly past their heads as they are picked off one by one by woke elite "snowflakes" hiding in a bunker, hunting "deplorables" for sport. The Hunt is a political satire film that almost didn't make it to the big screen, with Universal Studios pushing the release date thanks to its controversial theme. Luckily, Blumhouse doesn't shy away from social thrillers.
Several stars make appearances: Emma Roberts, Justin Hartley, and Ike Barinholtz are a few famous faces you'll see, not to mention a killer fight scene between Hilary Swank and Betty Gilpin. The Hunt offers in-your-face action and brutality mixed with tongue-in-cheek dialogue that will have you laughing, despite your best efforts no to.
For director Craig Zobel (Mare of Easttown), no political topic seems off limits. From climate change to online conspiracy theories, The Hunt roasts hot button issues from a post-2016 world. But don't let the controversy surrounding this one deter you from the ultra-violent commentary on the divided world we live in — there's something to offend everyone in this movie, which only makes it more enjoyable.
<i>The Black Phone</i> (2021)
Any Gen X-er can tell you that being snatched into a van was a real fear for kids who grew up in the 1970s. Life wasn't all bellbottoms and joy rides on your Huffy bike, and throwback horror filmThe Black Phone feeds on that nightmare through "The Grabber" (again, Ethan Hawke), who kidnaps and traps 13-year-old Finney Blake (Mason Thames) in his soundproof basement.
As if child abduction wasn't horrifying enough, a supernatural element takes this movie to the next level of suspense. While we don't want to give too much away, Finney gets a helping hand through the titular disconnected black phone, giving him just enough of an upper hand to possibly make it out alive.
Hawke embodies The Grabber with freaky precision, appearing in a creepy mask and taunting poor Finney to tears. And behind the scenes again is Blumhouse and Scott Derrickson, who joined forces to bring us one of the best horror films of 2021. Fun fact: The movie is based on a short story written by Joe Hill, the son of Stephen King.