How Horror Studio Blumhouse Decides Whether Or Not A Movie Will Be R-Rated

Happy Death Day Jessica Rothe

Unlike any other genre, horror has a love hate relationship with the rating system. If a movie pushes extremes and goes for the R, it potentially hampers its box office potential; but if it goes for PG-13 in search of more money, it can neuter the content. This is something that the folks at Blumhouse Productions have to deal with regularly -- but they do have one notable shortcut in the decision making process: if the protagonists are under 18, it has to be accessible to audiences under 18. Studio head Jason Blum recently told me,

If someone gave me a great scary movie all about high school kids, and they said it was R-rated, we wouldn't make it. PG-13, we'd make it... You can't make a movie about kids, and then tell those kids they can't go see it without their parents. It doesn't work - although people have tried.

I sat down with Jason Blum for the release of the surprising horror-comedy hit Happy Death Day --which hits Blu-ray next week -- and one subject that we touched upon in our conversation was the film's rating. I was curious if the movie -- which arrived in theaters with a PG-13 -- was ever considered for an R-rating, and the executive/producer told me about the particular guideline that his company follows. It's worth noting that Happy Death Day centers on college kids, and therefore could have been developed for 18+, but that simply wasn't the vision that writer/director Christopher Landon had for the feature.

Going further, Jason Blum explained that the approach was one that manifested through experience -- specifically with film that Blumhouse put out back in 2015. Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing's The Gallows is a movie all about teens who get brutally killed while trying to honor the anniversary of a tragedy 20 years prior at their high school, and Blum expressed regret during our interview that the movie was developed to be R-Rated. Said the filmmaker,

We did it once. It was a big, big mistake. The Gallows. The Gallows is a movie about high school kids, R-rated. And the movie didn't work. And the movie was quite good. The movie tested well. It was a playable movie. And I think mostly it had to do with the R-rating that we allowed. We should have cut it back, and gotten it to the PG-13, but I didn't.

When it was released, The Gallows earned only a 16 percent on Rotten Tomatoes -- though can ultimately be seen as a benefactor of Blumhouse's microbudget approach. The movie only had a reported budget of $100,000, but finished its global run making $42 million.

There have also been recent events in the horror genre that Jason Blum might want to take into consideration when applying this idea to future projects. Last September saw the release of the most successful R-Rated film of all time in Andres Muschietti's IT, and it notably centers on a group of pre-teens. The movie is one that perfectly utilizes adult content and earns its rating, but it's interesting to note that it wouldn't have been made the same way if set up at Blumhouse.

Following up on an incredibly successful 2017 that included hits like Get Out, Split, and Happy Death Day, Blumhouse has yet another schedule full of treats coming up in the next 12 months, including Blumhouse's Truth or Dare, The Purge: The Island, and the newest installment of the Halloween franchise. We'll be keeping a close eye on all of them, so stay tuned for the latest updates!

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.