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James Wan For the Win   Leave a comment

James Wan is killing it right now.  Freaking killing it.  Not only did he pump out The Conjuring and Insidious Chapter 2,  the two scariest movies of the year, but he is also working on Fast & Furious 7 and another, as yet untitled, horror film of his own making.

This dude. Is. Killing it.

But he looks so friendly!

One scary dude.

via IMDB

He first came onto the horror scene when he directed the first Saw movie and stayed on as a producer for the rest of the franchise.     Which explains why when I ask people why the like the series they always say “Well the first one was really good.” Sagging quality after he stopped directing aside, over the course of seven years the films earned $873.3B world wide.  You have to admit the guy knows what he is doing.

Wan is hands down the strongest horror/suspense director working right now.  The question is, what is important to know about this guy as he brakes through to major main stream success?

1) Beware of Puppets and Dolls.

Puppets and dolls as tools of a malevolent force appear throughout Wan’s films.  Most famously in Saw, but also prominently in the Insidious films, The Conjuring,  and his lesser known film from 2007’s Dead Silence.  It stared Ryan Kwanrten (True Blood‘s Jason Stackhouse) as a widower who who unravels the mystery of a spectral ventriloquist.

Puppets and dolls are Wan’s trademark.  When they pop up, bad things are sure to follow.  Which is fair.  That s**t is creepy.

2) Expect a Vintage Quality

Wan considers Dario Argento and  David Lynch as two of his major influences and it shows. Argento’s work played a major influence on the horror genera and beyond in the 70s and 80s, working with the likes of George Romero and Sergio Leone.  The films of David Lynch, especially Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvet and the infamous Eraserhead, all have an otherworldly timeless quality to them created by borrowing stylistic elements from various eras and sensibilities.

Wan’s work, specifically The Conjuring which was set in the 70’s, has a very old-school thriller vibe.  There is less focus on blood and guts and more focus on making the audience anxious while they wait for the fright.  The sort of thing you see in The Exorcist or the original Amityville Horror.

3) Understated Acting Shines Through

Many of Wan’s characters have a lost quality to them.  They seem distant and disconnected from the events around them.  This serves to amp up the tension as strange things occur around and to them and the characters start breaking through the haziness of their own beings.

Take for instance Wan’s frequent leading man, Patrick Wilson.

????????????????????????????via Collider

Wilson spends much of Wan’s movies looking like he is moving through a bit of a fog (sometimes literally).  Often unaware of the severity of the danger around him.  He moves slowly taking his cues from others, and it takes a lot of external pushing for his characters to start acting with any sort of determination.  This way, when he starts actually doing things rather than just allowing to plot of move on around him, you can things are getting serious.

4) Fast & Furious 7 Will be Noticeably Different from the Previous Installments 

James Wan and Justin Lin are very different filmmakers and that is going to set F&F7 apart from the rest of the franchise.  Lin cut his chops on F&F movies, taking what had amounted to a series of loosely tied together car chase scenes and transforming them into one of the best performing action franchises of the 21st century.  Wan was handed F&F7 after Universal wanted to speed up production and Lin didn’t want to compromise his work on the then unfinished Furious 6. Lin also stated he wanted to take a break from the series.

I am a fan of Wan and the F&F series, but when I read things like the studio wants to speed up production it makes me very apprehensive as to the film’s outcome.  Wan, who has not directed any action movies thus far, has stated that he wants to bring his distinct style to the series.

This is a risky move for both the studio and Wan, and I can guarantee that I’ll be there to see it opening weekend to see if it pays off.  But, like I said, I’m apprehensive.

I can think of one place where Wan's understated directing style may come in handy...

I can think of one place where Wan’s understated directing style may come in handy…

via ModernMythMedia

5) Look for Sequels and Rip-Offs, be Wary of Both

Wan’s films are original and successful, which means that Hollywood is going to start trying to capitalize on that and milk his work for all its worth.  This has already happened with Saw, which spawned six sequels and subsequently helped give rise to the surge of torture porn films in the 2000s.

A The Conjuring sequel went into the works before the film was even released and Insidious Chapter 2 leaves the door open for a third film.  The quality of any future films in these franchises will rest with Wan’s involvement in them.  If he hands the films off to other writers/directors there risk of a drop in quality that is less likely to occur should he stay at the helm.

UPDATE; A half hour after posting this I learned that Insidious 3 is a go.  So, yeah, think I made my point.

As for rip offs, expect to see a lot of haunted house movies in the coming year.  Although I suppose that is true every year since the success of Paranormal Activity.  It will be hard to pin point anything as specifically a Wan-rip-off considering his ideas are not new, just very well done versions of old tropes.  Wan is about to inspire a whole generation of horror filmmakers, and you can expect to see their movies show up on Netflix instant Watch real soon.

Fan of James Wan? Looking forward to more of his work? Tell me why or why not below!

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Posted September 16, 2013 by atomicsam in Film, Lists

Tagged with , , , , ,

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