Known for films like Saw and Aquaman, James Wan has acquired quite a movie-making career under his belt over the years.
James Wan has become a household name through his work in franchises like Fast & Furious as well as bringing Aquaman to the big screen so successfully. He’s a man who started off with his friend and collaborator Leigh Whannell launching the Saw franchise and changing horror forever.
Let’s take a deep dive and look at every film this prolific director has made throughout his storied 20-year career in the film industry. James Wan is a filmmaker who uses every tool in his arsenal when it comes to the language of film and the power that you have to speak to the audience with it, knowing they understand it whether they realize it or not.
9 Dead Silence (20%)
The film with the worst score out of all of James Wans’ work is a sleepy ghost town story about ghost ventriloquist Mary Shaw and how whenever her dolls appear someone dies gruesomely. After Jamie receives a package with one then his wife is mysteriously brutally murdered he must return to the town of Raven’s Fair for the funeral and get to the bottom of what happened. The film stars Ryan Kwanten as Jamie as well as Donnie Wahlberg as the detective who believes Jamie may have murdered his wife, both of whom deliver good performances. But the real standout is the cinematography and the performance of Judith Roberts as Mary Shaw, which is no Surprise as James Wan seems to love to focus on the parts of the story that he deems the most intriguing.
8 Death Sentence (21%)
Starring Kevin Bacon as a well-mannered businessman who witnesses something horrific that changes him forever. This revenge fueled film was the third film that Wan directed and the first that was not horror.
A movie that in hindsight gave him the basis of skills for a lot of the shots for his action films that he would go on to make and get praise for, it is hard to see so much hate for this film. Kevin Bacon gives a tour-de-force performance as a father that is willing to go to any lengths to protect is family. There is one particular scene in this film that is shot in a car that is very fast-paced but slow moving and if you have seen it then you know it, if you watch it then look for it, it is extremely intense.
7 Insidious: Chapter 2 (40%)
The second entry in the Insidious Franchise picks up where the first one left off with the Lambert family seeking out the truth of what happened in the past and why the connection to “The Further” is so strong and dangerous. This film was extremely well-made and thought out especially when it comes to the connective tissue to the first one. James & Leigh once said they wanted to make sure with the Insidious franchise to stay close to it so they had more control with it and not leave it behind like they did with Saw. Building a larger universe just like Leigh did with Saw but keeping control is an awesome thing for fans to see.
6 Saw (49% Rotten)
Having a rating of 49% when a film changed the entirety of the genre of horror is honestly just baffling. A lot of these ratings seem odd a little bit, but this rating is blasphemous. Saw even as a stand-alone film is one of the creepiest most original ideas that film had seen in a very long time. Two men wake up in a bathroom together chained to pipes on both sides of said bathroom, a man lies in the middle dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
This film gets released today, same concept, same budget, same actors, shot-for-shot remake produced by Blumhouse Productions & Twisted Pictures and it gets the critical praise of an A24 film. But back in the day, like most new things, it was looked at as disgusting, repulsive, too much for people to handle, “Torture-Porn.” Forget about the phenomenal premise and performances from veteran and first-time actors alike.
5 Insidious (66%)
The first rating that an already loved by fans filmmaker got that was not rotten as a director was for the original Insidious which was actually another original idea just like Saw. Not a remake or reboot, but an idea all his own, and it is a mind-bender that uses classic horror techniques to reel you in and then melts away your expectations in the best way as a viewer. As the tagline described the film during its marketing “It’s not the house that’s haunted, it’s your son.” A great example of Wan continuously evolving as a filmmaker in the world of horror and overall.
4 Aquaman (66%)
Coming in with the exact same rating as Insidious, Aquaman is the third time that Wan has dipped his toes into an action film and the second time that it has been a major success. This time it was much different though, he was taking the reigns of an already established character from a universe that was constantly in flux due to the ousting of Zack Snyder creatively and the shutting down of Justice League 2.
But he focused on what he could control, working closely with Amber Heard, Jason Momoa, and keeping in contact with Snyder whether WB wanted him to or not so as to keep some of the character traits that were already there in line with the creative through-line. That is creative integrity and filmmakers caring about one another, solidarity.
3 The Conjuring 2 (80%)
Sequels became a lot more commonplace for James Wan after not getting to direct Saw 2. You see due to the success of the original Twisted Pictures wanted to turn around a sequel fast but Wan was working on Dead Silence (yes the rotten one) and could not just back out. Of course he helped polish the script and did what he could, but since then he has worked on this sequel, Insidious: Chapter 2, and is very close to all of the productions he produces seemingly having abandoned the Saw franchise and just allowing the EP credit of his name on each film. This is a great sequel in which Ed & Lorraine Warren travel to London to help a family being plagued by spirits, worthy of its predecessor but not quite measuring up.
2 Furious 7 (81%)
Jumping into the action of La Familia is not an easy thing to do, just ask Dwayne Johnson. But in all seriousness, Wan accepted his first extremely big budget film and it ended up being a production that was filled with tragedy due to the loss of beloved actor Paul Walker. This not only brought with it a looming cloud of sadness on set, but also a new batch of challenges that Wan needed to figure out how to solve. Looking at the audience and critical reaction to the film and the way he handled the final scene of the film in which it is both a tribute to Paul Walker and shows Brian O’Connor leaving was a brilliant almost fourth wall break that sort of allowed this big family to all grieve together.
1 The Conjuring (85%)
The highest rated film on Rotten Tomatoes for the filmmaker is no surprise at all considering many believe this movie helped audiences and filmmakers remember that horror doesn’t need to be complicated. A meat and potatoes film about possession and Ed & Lorraine Warren helping a family out with getting rid of a spirit. All horror needs to be is frightening, this film is very much scary, well thought out, and based on true events.
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