James Wan is Finished with Horror Movies, And it Breaks My Heart [Op-Ed]

Published 2 years ago by , Updated September 16th, 2013 at 7:29 am,

James Wan Set of The Conjuring James Wan is Finished with Horror Movies, And it Breaks My Heart [Op Ed]

There has been talk about James Wan leaving the horror genre ever since news broke that he was recruited to direct Fast & Furious 7, but of course he’d need to leave the genre if he committed to make an action film. However, the problem is that apparently Wan isn’t just going on a horror hiatus while making the next Fast & Furious movie. He’s leaving horror for good.

Moviefone  ran an interview conducted in July for the release of Wan’s latest directorial effort, Insidious: Chapter 2, and in that interview, Wan is quoted as saying:

“I’m going to go on record and say I am finished with the horror genre. Conjuring and Insidious 2 are my two last scary movies.”

Naturally, Moviefone followed up asking for a reason for Wan’s decision to go cold turkey, to which the director replied, “I spent the last ten years of my life doing this. It’s time for a change, for goodness sake!” Wan also added, “Hollywood puts you in a box. If you do a successful comedy, then you’re known as The Comedy Guy. If you do a successful car chase movie, then you become that guy. So I’m a student of cinema, so I just want to make sure I get the chance to make other kinds of films.

This is a major problem for a number of reasons. First off, as a diehard fan of the genre and Wan, it’s as simple as not wanting to lose a talented director. Of course the guy isn’t perfect, but he’s  clearly better than most and it’s for two main reasons – one, he cares about characters and two, he has an exceptional sense of what scares him – and, in turn, what will scare his audiences.

James Wan Vera Farmiga The Conjuring James Wan is Finished with Horror Movies, And it Breaks My Heart [Op Ed]

Speaking to the first point, just look at The Conjuring. The movie is above and beyond thanks to a slew of standout elements, but one of the film’s most impressive takeaways is the connection to both the Warrens and the Perrons. Wan doesn’t just put a helpless family in a house with a witch and fill it with jump scares. He makes you fall for that family and then uses that connection to earn stronger, deeper reactions.

This is even more evident in the Saw franchise, because what makes the only Saw film Wan directed a standout is that he doesn’t lean on the clever concept. He brings it to life in the most visceral manner possible and goes beyond the shock value by using the situation and environment to support the main characters rather than have it the other way around. As the Saw franchise progressed, it didn’t matter how far the filmmakers pushed Jigsaw’s death traps; when you don’t care about the person in them, they can only have a fleeting effect.

Wan also has a knack for putting his victims in scenarios that feel real and it’s likely that has to do with his approach to scares. During a Q&A session after the premiere of the Insidious 2 trailer, Wan explained:

“When I was designing some of the scares for Insidious and my previous scary movie that I shot, one of the things I would do is literally walk through my house late at night with all the lights out and think up these really trippy, creepy scenarios and if I get really creeped out then I know it’s working.”

It sounds simple, but there’s irrefutable truth to it. If the thought of a particular scare doesn’t frighten the filmmaker, how will it every have the intended effect on an audience? Think about the horror films that have debuted this year – Texas Chainsaw 3D, Mama, The Last Exorcism Part II, and The Purge, just to name a few. Evil Dead is an exception because it actually manages to wow via exceptional visuals alone, but the rest suffer from vapid gory imagery and/or hollow concepts.

Insidious Chapter 2 Still James Wan is Finished with Horror Movies, And it Breaks My Heart [Op Ed]

No matter the genre, a director with a pristine attention to detail who’s dedicated to ensuring that he or she fills in the cracks in an effort to truly put the viewer in their world, is going to come out with the better movie. Wan isn’t the only one who does that in the horror genre, but he is one of few, and therefore, will sorely be missed.

But even then, we’re still left with the question, why completely swear off horror? As a big fan of Wan, of course I want him to see him fulfill his goals, but why not just go off and make Fast and Furious 7 and whatever other non-horror material he can get his hands on and just leave us eagerly awaiting his return to the genre?

As a scary movie devotee, going as far as to sat “on the record” that “I am finished with the horror genre” is the slightest bit insulting. It makes total sense that if Wan’s got more expansive aspirations that he wouldn’t want to be pigeonholed Hollywood-style – but, from an outsider’s perspective, being associated with the horror genre only brought Wan the best. He didn’t have to renounce the genre to get Fast and Furious 7, did he?

vin diesel fast five sequels James Wan is Finished with Horror Movies, And it Breaks My Heart [Op Ed]

The fact that there’s really no need to say such a thing makes saying it hurtful. It’s highly unlikely this is what Wan meant, but it could be interpreted as, “horror movies were just the stepping-stones to get me to the good stuff.” That could certainly be warping the connotation of the quote to the extreme, but there’s still no denying that the statement does put the genre in a negative light and further highlights the stigma that horror movies aren’t as good as films of other genres.

Then there’s the fact that anything definitive in Hollywood is eventually proven false. Wan swearing off horror is alarming, but come on; we all know he’ll be back. Producer Jason Blum even told us that himself while promoting Insidious Chapter 2:

“I think the horror movies that he makes next and certainly the ones that I make are better for working on other genres … I think he says he’s not gonna make another horror movie, but I’m sure that he will and it will be even better for having done Fast and Furious.”

In Blum I trust, so hopefully that statement will prove true – but it still doesn’t alleviate the fact that this very public move is somewhat off-putting.

James Wan Set of Insidious James Wan is Finished with Horror Movies, And it Breaks My Heart [Op Ed]

James Wan, please do ride off into the sunset in a 1967 Chevrolet Camaro, bathe yourself in a bucket of melodramatic tears, or whatever else it takes to make the kind of movie you want – you’ve certainly earned it – but what good does it do to completely write-off horror entirely? In a way, Wan is doing exactly what he doesn’t want to do: pigeonholing himself as a non-horror director. If the statement was more of a plea to the industry to start sending him more material outside the horror genre, then what if there’s a gem like The Conjuring floating around somewhere? Wan’s not going to take it because he ‘doesn’t do horror anymore?’

Admittedly, this could be an overly emotional and intense reaction to a mere two sentences, but it’s because  horror needs James Wan. We’ve got guys like Scott Derrickson (Sinister), Timo Tjahjanto (VHS 2), Adam Wingard (You’re Next), Ti West (The Sacrament), E.L. Katz (Cheap Thrills), and more on the rise – but that’s partially because Wan paved the way, making micro-budget hits that broke down barriers between a niche genre and wider audiences.

youre next sharni vinson James Wan is Finished with Horror Movies, And it Breaks My Heart [Op Ed]

A scene from 2013 indie horror hit, ‘You’re Next’

The aforementioned filmmakers are all talented in and of themselves, but after what Wan started with the Saw franchise and the fact that he proved it’s possible to make well-reviewed horror movies with the power to appeal beyond the usual crowd, we’ve hit a point where we can start breaking down negative associations, expanding the horror fan base, and producing even more quality material. It’s just a shame James Wan doesn’t want to continue the movement.


Insidious: Chapter 2 is now in theaters (read our review). 

Follow Perri on Twitter @PNemiroff.

Follow Perri Nemiroff on Twitter @PNemiroff
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  1. I’m done with the horror genre… until a studio give me a big fat check to do it again.

    • He will be directing a mega blockbuster in Fast 7 and his paychecks for the action genre will be so much bigger than that the horror genre can bring.

  2. So I guess this means the Conjuring sequel(s) are going to be directed by somebody else then? Please don’t make this the next Saw franchise.

    • Yep. SAW all over again.

  3. OH MY GOD. what if- and this is just a dream for all I know- but what if Wan directed a Dead Space movie. There’s elements of both horror and action, as well as a plethora of other genres!

    • Awesome idea !
      I love it !

    • Well, Cojuring was sooooo fudging overrated that it was not even funny anymore.

  4. Wan actually just wrote another horror film that was direct by Will Canon. No official date is set but it is suppose to be released next year starring Maria Bello.

  5. Yeah, that’s just shame, him giving up the horror genre, but the Dead Space film? I’m in

  6. Believing Wan meant any sort of disrespect to the horror genre is a pretty big assumption to make. It’s hard to imagine anyone valuing the genre more than him. And I think it’s a bit unreasonable to expect him to keep making horror movie after horror movie when he said himself he’s been doing it for a decade already and wants to try other things. However, I DO find it very hard to believe that he won’t ever direct another horror movie. I wouldn’t take Wan’s word on that. :)

  7. Once again the horror genre gets treated like the red headed stepchild of cinema. You never would hear a director say ” I’m done making period pieces or dramas” but of course it gets said about horror.
    I love your work Mr. Wan but Boooo to your statement. :(

  8. This is sad! Atleast make one more Insidious… :(

  9. Not once in the op-ed did I see one reference to Death Sentence.
    Audiences didn’t go that picture, so Wan had to do more horror. Now he gets a chance to branch out again and… you want to keep him in box?

    I suspect after the next two Fast films (they way they talked about Kurt Russell being moved to 8, I got a hunch Wan will direct that too if 7 works out) Wan could go to suspense thrillers, courtroom dramas and more action films.

    • i thought Death Sentence was a pretty good revenge flick. that long continuous shot in the parking garage was awesome, and the behind the scenes of how they did that was pretty cool. that film gets a bad rap because it didn’t make $, but i think it’s a highly underrated film.

  10. There is a measure of frustration woven into in Wan’s remarks
    likely fueled by an avalanche of horror offers resulting from his
    success, great success on small budgets which has the notice
    of studios at this particular time, and his declarative statement
    is more for that audience than the general movie going audience.

    Once studios get the word and the horror offers stop for a time
    and after Wan has worked enough in other genres I imagine he
    will be open to revisiting the horror genre where he excelled.

  11. It’s sad to see him go I guess but two things strike me here:

    1) He’ll definitely be back at some point, he’s just saying he’s done the way I said I was done with something I eventually ended up going back to because the love of it and the pull of trying to better what I did before dragged me back.

    2) I hope that when he does come back, he gives us a horror movie that’s actually scary and creepy and terrifying because we haven’t had one in a long, long time (I’m including his own movies here too because none of them were scary, they were just the occasional jump scare thrown in to create the “Quiet, quiet, quiet, BANG” thing that a lot of horror the last few years has done).

    As someone I completely respect in the genre has said, Wan’s movies – along with others that got popular in the last decade – are horror movies for people who don’t like horror movies.

  12. Good he is leaving the horror genre he is too overrated. He already started the ridiculous Saw jumping the shark series and now the studios are going to milk the crap out of Insidious with probably 10 plus films on the horizon. To me his horror films are just too campy comedy like to be considered horror. It’s just loaded with cheap thrills and jump scares to me, there is no real substance all or real intelligence to the stories. AHH boo scary puppet ahh be scared OMG…wow so lame. The only James Wan film I ever liked was Death Sentence and that’s because Kevin Bacon saved that movie literally. He should definitely stick to action only which is where I find he has the most strength in when it comes to camera work and storytelling. Well that’s my 2 cents on this subject.

  13. If he want to go do other movies, why not celebrate. As it seems alot of people love him as a director and/or writer. Be glad that he’s at least still doing movies.

    Personally I don’t get it.
    And I especially don’t get how Mama was just vapid gory imagery and/or hollow concept. When Saw is described as an almost super deep character drama.

    Saw 1 was a terribly written movie that tried to make a story around the concept of elaborate deaths. The characters were at times nonsensical and awful 2 dimensional attempts at depth, by just writing in tragedy.

  14. im glad he’s making a sh*tty fun movie like fast and furious- because he’ll do it sensibly. that’s the only reason his or any other movie are good, because the director handles the circumstances sensibly and not like a fantastical idiot. i don’t really care for horror movies so i’m glad he’s making pop movies- because i enjoy them, but so often do not.

  15. Nobody at the moment can make a horror film like Wan, pretty gutted if true but I reckon he’ll be back, money talks, probably do him good to do other things then come back fresh with some more twisted ideas, for me the Conjuring was a horror masterpiece, will be hard to top that one..

  16. His movies are very well-crafted but they are not the slightest bit scary. I have no problem with him leaving the genre.

  17. Mark my words, James Wan is the next James Cameron. He has proven that he can masterfully direct a genre film that oozes originality in it’s execution.

    All his films (Saw, The Conjuring, Insidious, Insidious Chapter 2 etc.) have his distinct fingerprints all over them. I foresee a career trajectory similar to Cameron’s. James Cameron started out in low budget genre films (Piranha II: The Spawning, The Terminator), then graduated to big studio hits (Aliens, T2: Judgement Day), misstepping slightly (The Abyss, True Lies) before coming back triumphant (Titanic, Avatar).

    I predict ‘Fast & Furious 7′ will be Wan’s ‘Aliens’ or ‘T2′, and that with in a decade’s time we will be seeing this visionary director winning his first ‘Best Director’ Oscar. Just you wait and see.

  18. It will be sad to see Wan leave the horror genre. One of my friends put it best in saying that James Wan is the Del Toro of this generation. Some love him because he brings a certain passion in his work like DT and some hate him because they think his work is vastly overrated like some people think about DT. With Wan expanding is world I suspect it will only make him better. I agree with Dustin in which I also think Wan will be the next James Cameron or even Ridley Scott if he continues to grow. He is now working on a bigger budget with FF7. If it turns out to be a success, then watch out. He may be up for even bigger directing jobs

  19. James van finished with horror movies so horror movies is finished to :)

  20. yeah sure. wait until he screws up fast 7 and then he realize big budget movies are no joke. not so easy to toy around when you have studio agents crawling all over you.

    he’ll miss th freedom. he’ll return for insidious 5 or 6 in 2022.
    he’ll be back…

  21. All respect to Wan for trying different avenues, but I’m more interested in seeing Cronenberg return to horror than Wan (at this point).

    Who wants to see a bland glossy car movie take its 7th outing. He’ll be back at some point I’m sure, those sequels will get him solid pay days, but he’ll get nothing like the respect he got for something like Conjuring.

  22. Hello James Wan, i am from mumbai india.. I am in complete love with ur sense of directing a horror movie and its script process… Without you, horror genre will die.. I request you to please don’t abolish horror film making..