Back in 2010, shortly after Paramount Pictures’
InSurge, as it was known, would produce films for less than a million bucks -- much less, as the mil was earmarked for no fewer than 10 movies -- going high on concept and short on dough (and costly big stars).
Such ambitions proved more attractive in theory than in practice. The label has yielded few movies, though those it has produced (for example, 2012’s horror flick “The Devil Inside”) have been hits.
PHOTOS: Billion-dollar movie club
But unlike most Hollywood flavors of the moment, the notion has turned out to have some staying power. Low-budget horror under studio auspices seems to work more often than not. This past weekend we saw the latest, and perhaps most shocking, example. “The Purge,” a futuristic horror thriller starring
As with many trends, some of the more successful executions come largely from one company: Jason Blum’s Blumhouse, who is behind the "Paranormal" franchise, its spiritual heir
PHOTOS: Movies Sneaks 2013
Within Hollywood circles, much is made of the fact that these movies come cheap. They do (though not as cheap as they sound once marketing costs are factored in). But that's not primarily why they work. Moviegoers, generally, don't care how much a film costs.
Or do they?
In the cyclical world of Hollywood, sometimes the best thinking goes against the grain. And the grain in recent years has been to make big spectacles. Many of them, of course, become big hits. But it's also no surprise that there would be a backlash, or least that commercial audiences, peppered as they are with Hollywood sound-and-light shows, might like something with a hand-made quality once in a while too. (Of course, it still helps to make a satisfying movie. "The Purge" garnered a weak C CinemaScore, which will make for a tougher climb next weekend.)
It's been nearly 15 years since "The Blair Witch Project" became the first of the modern hand-made genre phenomena. We're a lot savvier about low-budget horror movies and found footage that often accompanies them. But the lessons of "Blair Witch" haven't gone anywhere: In this outsized era, movies that feel small just keep resonating.