Director’s Chair Introduction: James Wan

by Tony Cogan · October 9, 2020 · Director's Chair · No Comments

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Deadline: 31 October 2020

Hello everyone, it’s time to announce the director that will be featured for October’s Movie of the Month and for October I always like to highlight a director famous for horror films. This year, I’ve decided to go for James Wan.

Before his big break in the film industry, Wan made the film Stygian, which did get some acclaim at film festivals in Melbourne, but is now unavailable in any format. Wan’s real break however when he worked with his friend and screenwriter Leigh Whannell came up with the idea for Saw. After filming a short section of the script to obtain funding, the final film, made for an overall budget of £1.2 million, was a massive success on release. Originally planned by Lionsgate to be a straight to DVD release, the success of the film at Sundance and TIFF convinced them to release the film in cinemas, where it became the most profitable horror film released at the time. The success of Saw ended up launching a franchise, with Wan being involved in creating the story for Saw 3, and the wider trend of ‘torture porn’ in mainstream American horror, although Wan rejects the claims that the first Saw falls within that label, a distinction that I would agree with.

Wan and Whannell followed up Saw with another horror film, Dead Silence, although the film was not critically or commercially successful, the same also being true of his third film, Death Sentence, which was loosely inspired by the book of the same name, a sequel to Death Wish.

After a little break, Wan returned to the horror genre with Insidious. Making the film independently to ensure complete create control and seeking to move away from the level of gore he had become synonymous with thanks to the Saw series. This paid off, with Insidious being a critical and commercial success, later spawning a sequel, which was again a commercial success, but not a critical one.

After Insidious, Wan directed The Conjuring, based on the lives of Ed and Lorraine Warren, most famous for their investigation of the Amityville case. A test screening of The Conjuring at New York Comic Con, done before Wan had fully finished the film, was a massive success spawning 2 direct sequels and a wider franchise including the Annabelle films, The Nun and The Curse of La Llorona, although not all of these were as successful.

In between Insidious: Chapter 2 and The Conjuring 2, Wan got involved in the big budget blockbuster scene when he was hired to direct the seventh film in the Fast and the Furious series. Furious 7 received positive reviews on release and it is currently both the highest grossing film in the Fast and the Furious series and the 9th highest grossing film of all time (not adjusted for inflation). After The Conjuring 2 meanwhile, Wan joined the directors of the DC Extended Universe, directing Aquaman, which is currently the most successful film in the DCEU.

Wan has got a number of other films currently in the works. His next film, Malignant, which marks Wan going back to horror, was meant to be released this year but, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has been pushed back into next year. He’s also produced the upcoming Mortal Kombat movie, is being courted to direct the sequel to Aquaman and is producing a spin-off of Aquaman, and for TV, along with producing the currently ongoing reboot of MacGyver, Wan is attached to shows based on I Know What You Did Last Summer and Dylan Dog.

As a reminder, the films of Wan’s you can cover are listed below.

  • Saw
  • Dead Silence
  • Death Sentence
  • Insidious
  • The Conjuring
  • Insidious: Chapter 2
  • Furious 7
  • The Conjuring 2
  • Aquaman

I look forward to reading what you send me.