The Savior Of Horror : James Wan

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James Wan on set of The Conjuring (2013). Pic via this site.

By Jonas Barnes

Back in 2004, a new director by the name of James Wan burst onto the horror scene with a film you may have heard of before called SAW. It started as a short and was eventually made into a genre launching low budget full-length horror film.

The 2004 savior of the horror genre. Picture via this site.

With almost zero expectations, the film took the horror genre and horror fans by surprise and was very successful. So successful, in fact, that it launched a horror sub-genre known as “torture porn” that churned out some gems and also god awful horse shit. And with one movie, James Wan became a household name in the horror community damn near overnight. The “SAW” films went on without James Wan (and were pretty universally mediocre) but Wan moved on to other projects. Here is the interesting thing: He launched a franchise and then abandoned it to make other movies. Most directors stick around for their babies gestation period.

Three years after “SAW”, Wan made a criminally underrated film called “Dead Silence“. In the horror community, the film was praised as being an original take on an old horror trope, along with being genuinely scary.

Underrated and awesome. Pic via this site.

Two movies in and James Wan has two very solid horror films under his belt. In the same year, 2007, Wan dropped his first non-horror film starring Kevin Bacon, called “Death Sentence“, where Bacon plays a vengeful father hunting down those responsible for the death of his son. The film was dark, gritty, tense, violent as hell and very well made. It actually ended up being an action thriller that crossed boundaries and settled into the hearts of horror fans.

Arguably better than the “Taken” series. Pic from this site.

After another 3 year stretch, we see Wan come back to his horror roots in 2010 with the excellent “Insidious“. “Insidious” was a film that was universally praised by horror fans and critics alike. It was legitimately scary with great acting and Wan showcased more maturity in his directing.

This was a balls out haunting film that scared the shit out of most audiences. (If you’re keeping track at home, James Wan is killing it.) And after 3 more years (seems like a pattern), we are treated to one of the best possession films in years, “The Conjuring“.

James Wan on the set of “The Conjuring” with a friend. Pic from here.

“The Conjuring” is based on the real case files of paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorrain Warren. (Who are polarizing figures in the paranormal community. Some say they have been exposed as complete frauds, while others swear that they are the real deal.) When you think of possession films, you think back to the legendary and groundbreaking “The Exorcist, but “The Conjuring” stepped right up to the plate. Wan managed to direct this film in a way that always had you guessing, kept you enthralled, had you on the edge of your seat and left you wanting more. This was an absolute home run in horror filmmaking. 2013 also saw the release of “Insidious: Chapter 2” which was a damn good horror film, especially by sequel standards, but was ultimately eclipsed by “The Conjuring”.

Ready for a curveball? in 2015, James Wan ventured away from horror once again to direct…”Furious 7“? Yes, the man behind “Saw” and “The Conjuring” directed arguably the best sequel in the “Fast and The Furious” franchise.

James Wan with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson on the set of “Furious 7.” Picture via this site.

And it was good, and I don’t give a shit what you think about me for saying that. But none of that matters because we’re at the end and it’s a doozy. In 2016, James Wan came back to the horror helm and directedThe Conjuring 2“. Sequels tend to be, well, fucking awful in the world of horror. But “The Conjuring 2” was just about better than the first one and it had a lot to do with bringing James Wan back. The sequel manages to do what most sequels fuck up on every time: It improves on every aspect of the first one. This film was pants shitting, soda spitting, popcorn launching scary and James Wan was an absolute master behind the lens.

In 2004, the horror genre was on life support. And then the doctor showed up, gave it CPR and revived it with one little low budget film about how far you’d go to survive. And in 2017, he is showing no signs of stopping. As a horror fan, I thank James Wan for giving my favorite genre a chance at survival.

No one keeps it creepy like James. Pic via this site.
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