Jump scares and gore are great, but there’s a lot more to horror than blood and guts. Under any veneer of squishy visual stuff there’s got to be a provocative concept, something that will continue to tweak our minds long after we leave the theater. It doesn’t take money to achieve that, just ideas and willpower – which Blumhouse Productions has in abundance.

Founded in 2000 by Jason Blum, Blumhouse Productions continuously makes waves with a surprisingly successful low-budget, wide release formula. While the company produces films that cross into many genres, it is widely known for a focus on horror. Big names on the producer’s roster include Paranormal Activity, Split, Get Out, and The Purge franchise. In all these movies Blumhouse has worked to reinvent and revitalize horror with its game-changing approach.

The Horror Of Society

[Credit: Universal Pictures]

In addition to exploring things supernatural and sinister, Blumhouse takes aim at the horrors of society. Deep dives into psychological suspense, such as Split and Get Out, certainly paid off. Blumhouse has found that social issues can be used as horror threats just as easily as can supernatural forces. Correlating those social themes into a horror-friendly story gives filmmakers a wide audience for ideas that might otherwise find more limited engagement.

For proof, look at The Purge, one of the outfit’s most popular franchises. Jason Blum recently spoke to Variety about how horror stories like The Purge open doors to larger topics.

“Horror does incredible things. It reaches an audience in which politics may not be front of mind and it makes politics front of mind. ‘The Purge’ reaches an audience that isn’t thinking of gun control every day and might start thinking of gun control.”

The Purge has people thinking about far more than Blum alluded to. After its 2013 debut the series quickly grew to three films. All are set in a dystopian future version of America in which the government is controlled by a recently-formed party, the New Founding Fathers of America (NFAA). These near-totalitarian rulers attempt to reduce crime by instituting a 12-hour annual event, the infamous Purge night, during which all crime is legal.

In the first film, we experienced the horrifying Purge night from the point of view of a family taking shelter at home. Sequels The Purge: Anarchy and The Purge: Election Year offered a wider look at the annual Purge chaos as lived by a broad cross-section of society. Just dealing with being preyed upon for one night is bad enough; being stuck in a society that pits citizens against one another based on class and race is unfathomable. The mere proximity of the event seems to cause even the most sensible citizens to crave violence.

Experience The Purge‘s Origin

[Credit: Universal Pictures]

On July 4, Blumhouse expands the franchise with a prequel. In The First Purge, fans will see – spoiler – the first Purge, which plays out as a “social experiment” on Staten Island. The NFAA claims to have one goal with the experiment, but we in the audience, and people involved in the experiment, quickly realize there’s a lot more going on than a crime-reducing concept.

Y’Lan Noel stars as William, who, despite being a local drug lord, is against the law-free festivities. Lex Scott Davis plays an activist trying to save her brother (Jovian Wade) from falling into the world of crime. And Luna Lauren Velez, Melonie Diaz, Mo McRae, and Steve Harris all appear as well. Then there’s Marisa Tomei, playing Dr. May Updale, the psychologist who comes up with the idea that becomes the Purge.

The key difference in this prequel is the setting, which is right now. While we could look at the previous films through the lens of horror-tinged science fiction, The First Purge goes even deeper into the social angle, for a much more “real” approach. That might not have worked without Blumhouse laying the groundwork with the previous installments, and now the company’s concept can really tear our sense of well-being to pieces.

The First Purge hits theaters July 4, 2018.