Producer Jason Blum talks about his latest movie The Town That Dreaded Sundown.
Ryan Murphy came to you with the idea. What was his pitch?
I didn’t know him personally, but he asked me to lunch, so we went to lunch. He said, ‘I’ve always wanted to make a remake of The Town That Dreaded Sundown,’ and I’ve always been a big admirer of his, he’s an amazingly talented guy, obviously. I’d never heard of The Town That Dreaded Sundown, but I went home and watched it that night. I said, ‘Look, if you’re looking to do this inexpensively, which is how we do our movies, I’m in!’ He said he’d do that, so we approached MGM and they said they wanted to do. That’s how it happened!
How did he describe his version of the film?
He described it very much, you know, he really always thought Alfonso Gomez-Rejon was the right director, he knew Alfonso from American Horror Story, I’d never met him before. He described it very much as the movie came out, that we would tuck the first movie into the second movie, and so I think the version that came out is very close to what he had originally conceived.
What did you think of the original film?
It is dated, but it definitely got under your skin. I loved the narrator and the ‘based on true events’ tag. I really liked it, given the fact that it was 30 years old! I found it creepy more than scary.
Were you wary about doing a remake?
I know it’s sacrilegious to remake movies, but I don’t see a big difference between a book being made into a movie, a comic-book being made into a movie, a movie being made into a movie… There are some where the original is much better, there are some where the remake’s much better, I don’t think it’s… You’re just adding something else. I don’t have a big moral problem with remakes, I just feel like you shouldn’t do it unless you’re going to bring something new to it. I feel like Alfonso brought something very new to the original movie.
What do you think Alfonso brought to the remake?
We set it in present day and The Phantom, which is this really scary figure, is back. I think Alfonso took that movie I saw that night, and he made a very contemporary version of it. But he still tipped his hat to it, which I think was interesting and compelling. I liked that.
Did you talk to him about how he was going to tackle the film?
Yeah, we did. We talked a lot about it, and with Ryan, too. Alfonso’s game plan for the film is basically what you saw on screen. The film is very much as he wanted. One of the things we talked about a lot was making it very clear that it was present day. Alfonso wanted to make it a little bit more ambiguous and he got his way on that way. The film is very much his, he got to make the movie that he wanted to make.
What’s your role as a producer on a film like this?
My role is to bring the pieces together, so raising the money for it, putting the cast together, figuring out the relationship between Ryan and the director, and managing the relationship with the studio during the creative process. We make a lot of scary movies, so we have a lot of data. We give our opinion to the directors every step of the way – sometimes they take it, sometimes they don’t, but we’re not shy about giving it.
Are you involved in the filming side, do you ever go down to the set?
I try not go to the set. I went to the set of The Town That Dreaded Sundown a couple of times, but my theory on producing is: if you’re on the set, usually it means something’s going wrong. I don’t particularly like going to set, I don’t spend too much time on set and this movie was no exception. I think at that point, you’ve set it up, you’ve picked the crew, the director, you don’t want to micro-manage. The best thing you can do is look at dailies as they’re going along, but I don’t think it’s the best use of my time to sit on set.
What did you think when Alfonso’s dailies started coming in?
I thought it looked great. It looked really stylised. I thought the movie was beautifully shot, it looked gorgeous. And the costumes and production design, the movie really looked amazing.
How long did they film for and where was it shot?
The shoot took place in Shreveport, Louisiana and I think we had 26 days. The shoot went well.
How difficult was it to find Addison Timlin, your Final Girl?
It was very difficult because the studio and the director had different ideas, but we happily landed on her. There was a lot of back and forth about it. There was somebody else that came up and there was a big conversation between me and Ryan, but we’re very happy that we landed on Addison. She was somebody that the director and MGM really liked.
What is it about Addison that makes her such a great Final Girl?
Her performance in the movie is really good. She’s very reserved and I think that really adds to the movie. It was a really strong performance and I don’t know if it was how she was directed, or if this was her choice, but the way she played it really reserved was really interesting. I liked that. It’s a tough role to get right but I thought she did pretty well.
It’s great that you have Veronica Cartwright in there, too…
Yeah, I think that was Alfonso’s idea, we were all really excited about it.
Are you a big slasher fan?
No, I actually prefer… Most of our movies are what’s off the screen, they’re more about what you don’t see than what you do see. I thought the remake of Evil Dead was pretty fun; I like the original, too. I don’t have anything against slasher movies, but most of the movies we make aren’t really slasher movies. I’m not as versed in that genre as I am in the supernatural.
How do you think The Town That Dreaded Sundown compares to other slasher films?
I think it compares favourably. It’s more arty. It’s a less commercial version of a slasher movie than what those fans are used to. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, I like this movie!
Based on a terrifying true story this shrewd remake of the seventies horror of the same name is inspired by the unsolved ‘Moonlight Murders’ that took place in the American border town of Texarkana in 1946.
Set in a world where the original film exists and is very much part of the public consciousness, The Town That Dreaded Sundown picks up 65 years later, where the quiet streets of Texarkana are once more plagued by a masked maniac who bears a striking resemblance to the same Phantom Killer who wreaked havoc decades earlier. Is it a copycat crime? Has someone seen the original film too many times, or is it something even more sinister? A lonely high school (Addison Timlin), with dark secrets of her own, may be the key to catching the murderer.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown is in cinemas 17th April 2015.