Quartz identifies an interesting movie marketing trend that’s appeared in the last two years: The indie horror label Blumhouse has worked its brand name into the marketing of its films to an ever-growing degree, up to and including the campaign for its recent release Truth or Dare. A steady stream of films that have resonated with both critics and audiences have grown the studio’s brand name to one that carries a lot of weight and which has become a signifier of some quality.
The reviews for Truth or Dare haven’t been quite as strong as some of the studio’s recent output. This THR review calls out how parts of the movie feel made by committee and a bit soulless, something that’s unusual for Blumhouse’s releases to date. Whether or not that represents the first cracks in the studio’s reputation remains to be seen but it’s worth remembering that almost every specialty distributor that starts out with a slate of strong films eventually loses some of its luster.
The link has eluded me, but I remember an early story following the formation of Castle Rock wherein the players behind that banner said they weren’t interested in producing a lot of movies but were instead focused on turning out two or three A+ pictures a year. Miramax and its successor The Weinstein Co. had similar quality-over-quantity mission statements at the outset. Eventually a few B+ movies sneak through or a couple movies bomb and everyone panics, compounding the problem. No one is actively seeking out bad movies, but the realities of the marketplace, where high-quality doesn’t always equate financial success, catch up with the ideal sooner or later.
Eventually Blumhouse will become just another specialty label. We’ve seen this happen with Castle Rock, Fox Searchlight and others. Even A24, which was last year’s press darling, has put out a few movies in the last couple months that don’t meet the lofty status assigned to it while releasing quirky prestige titles like The Lobster, Lady Bird and others.
That’s not even necessarily a bad thing. It’s good that these scrappy smaller players keep emerging and pushing the cinematic boundaries as established players either exit the scene or begin making safer, more financially sound choices. Blumhouse has been the cocky upstart for a year now and a year from now we’ll probably be talking about some other company playing the same role. It’s how things work.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.