With The Conjuring 2 scaring the hell out of box office, James Wan has proven his might in crafting horror pieces that intimidate people effectively (at least in majority of his works). Launching 3 big franchises and directing 6 horrors since 2004, he has made a big name in the hall of fame of modern horror directors.
This post is an appreciation towards his almost immaculate directorial efforts, which have inspired many other filmmakers to go beyond ordinary, especially in the same genre. Even his weaker work is still a fine work of horror which would still be able to terrify horror aficionados. Sinekdoks attempts to rank his directorial effort to make modern horror matters.
06. Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)
Insidious is praised for its neat terror – restraining cheap jump scare while relying more on atmosphere-building and creepy set-piece, the sequel fell short on being too ambitious. In the same year as The Conjuring, Insidious: Chapter 2 feels more like a scream-fest rip-off of it. While its attempt to expand the metaphysics theme is intriguing, some plot devices are not working well – resulting in a convoluted story-telling. But, still, Insidious: Chapter 2 scares the hell out of me in some ways; although it’s not even half as good as the predecessor.
05. Dead Silence (2007)
Long before Annabelle stole the show in The Conjuring, before finally had its own lambasted standalone, James Wan with his frequent collaborator, Leigh Whannell, have already made terrors with living dolls back in 2007 with his ‘night-of-the-living-dummies’-esque Dead Silence. The film is a pure, resourceful, supernatural horror with a very malignant premise: human ventriloquist doll. However, Dead Silence fails to explore its potential and ends up served like incoherent, chopped off ideas.
04. The Conjuring 2 (2016)
This is the best sequel that James Wan has ever made (in comparison with Insidious: Chapter 2). The Conjuring 2, which is also subtitled Enfield Poltergeist, has proven its worth as a horror sequel which inherits the predecessor’s brain, heart and sixth sense. It’s scary as hell and it’s sentimental as well. The only thing that hinders this sequel from being on a better level is: it owes its predecessor too many wonders.
03. Insidious (2011)
Insidious marks James Wan’s return in his Saw-integrity form (following the lambasted Dead Silence and Death Sentence) and establishes his signature in modern horror threads. Wan, in collaboration with Leigh Whannell (writer of Insidious franchise, director of Insidious: Chapter 3), creates a very creative, atmospheric horror with a fresh theme and approach. It relies much on character, atmosphere, and gradual terror which culminates in the end; instead of cheap jump scares, blood-splattering graphic images, and decayed apparitions. Insidious has mixed a new formula/template for similar other modern horrors.
02. Saw (2004)
Saw is a brilliant and genuine psychological horror which marks Wan’s directorial debut and first collaboration with Leigh Whannell. It’s far too twisted and too gory for casual horror aficionados; but its genuine scares come upon realization that it’s a very stressful film. The tension surges up and down as the film presents flashback to flashback in revealing its cruel intention. Alas, the final twist, the ‘traps’ and Billy the Puppet are what make Saw memorable, instead of it perplexed structure.
There’s a moment where both Wan and Whannell experienced career free fall in post-Saw as if they failed moving on from this low-budget horror. Yet, with 6 sequels follow and Guinness World Records as the “Most Successful Horror Franchise, it’s hard to see that downfall right now.
01. The Conjuring (2013)
Quintessence of James Wan’s savvy in making effective scares is The Conjuring. It brings back the depth of old-school horrors and combines it with elements Wan crafted for his modern horrors. The Conjuring, as I always praise, is having a brain and a heart in story and in technicality, but the most important thing is: it has the sixth sense which distances it from other horror—a prominent couple of protagonists. At the bottom line, The Conjuring amplifies all James Wan’s prowess in horror-making at its finest.
FINAL VERDICT: Never had James Wan made a lame horror movie; even his weakest still scares the hell out of people effectively. I point out his tendency to use practical effect and keeping the horror at atmospheric depth is his prowess.