James Wan Reveals What He Looks For When Creating Horror Movie Franchises


James Wan explains how he approaches making horror franchises from The Conjuring movies to Insidious and the Saw movies, all of which are hits.

Director James Wan explained how he approaches creating the horror franchises he has built a name for himself on. Wan may be known for blockbusters like Aquaman and Furious 7, but his approach to the horror genre has led to much success for the director. His directorial debut, Saw, led to a nine film franchise, the most recent of which released in theaters this past weekend. Those films have grossed nearly $1 billion worldwide. After Saw, Wan went on to direct Dead Silence in 2007 before launching the Insidious franchise three years later.

With four currently released films and two in the works, the Insidious franchise remains strong. Wan’s most successful franchise may be The Conjuring films, though. With three in the main branch of the series, including the upcoming The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, and four spinoffs with more in the works, Wan’s impact on the horror genre is undeniable. The Conjuring franchise has grossed almost $2 billion worldwide and the third upcoming film will only add to that total. So how does Wan do it?

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At a press conference, the director explained how he goes about crafting these mega successful franchises, saying that, first and foremost, he finds stories he wants to tell. By finding characters he can relate to and putting himself in the audience’s shoes, Wan says it gives him insight into what could lead to success. The director cites both Insidious and The Conjuring as two examples in which audiences have main characters that they can root for, something he believes is key to pleasing viewers. Wan says that having the audience be able to put themselves in the perspective of these characters allows for the biggest thrills and chills.

I just want to tell the stories I want to tell. I want to tell the stories that I want to watch as an audience. If I have to put my finger on something, it’s telling stories with characters that people can relate to. I believe that’s why whether it’s Insidious or The Conjuring with Ed and Lorraine, it’s creating these characters that are really beloved. They’re real people – I mean, definitely in the case of Ed and Lorraine, which are based on real people. And so, the more grounded you can make it, the more the horror scenes or the kind of scares you put these characters into play more fearfully. And so, I think, that is the most important piece or ingredient is to let the audience be in the shoes of these characters, then you can take them on the craziest, scariest ride.

Julian Hilliard as David Glatzel in The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It.

Wan is set to launch another potential horror franchise with Malignant, also releasing this year. If his previous track record is any indication, it’s more than likely going to be a success and, alongside The Conjuring 3, that could give Wan a perfect 2021 track record. Although the director stepped into the producer role for the third film, he’s still actively involved in the franchise, having decided to focus on the characters this time around instead of introducing the franchise’s next big ghoul in The Devil Made Me Do It.

After The Conjuring 3 bows, though, all eyes will be on Malignant. The film is currently shrouded in mystery ahead of its release this September, with nary a trailer or a first look clip having been released yet. Even details about the film’s plot remain under wraps. It’s possible a teaser for Malignant could appear ahead of The Conjuring 3, but one thing is sure: the horror genre is all the better thanks to James Wan‘s contributions to it.

More: How The Conjuring 3’s Trailer Pays Homage To The Exorcist

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