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James Wan and the Wonderful World of Multicultural Horror

James Wan Speaking at ComicCon. (Image via Gage Skid-more/Flickr)
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Director James Wan is best known for his unique variety of multicultural horror, with films from the massive “Conjuring” universe and “Insidious” franchise at its center. Wan’s renown as a director is palpable, but his origins are not as well known.

Wan’s early journey

Director James Wan is best known for his unique variety of horror. Multicultural horror is beginning to become more popular in the mainstream.
James Wan speaking at WonderCon in 2013. (Image by Gage Skidmore/CC BY-SA 3.0)

James Wan was originally born in Sarawak, Malaysia, to Malaysian-Chinese parents. Wan spent his early life in Sarawak, moving with his family to Perth, Australia, in 1984 when he was seven.

In Perth, Wan showed an early interest in horror films, as well as a burning desire to create his own. Revering the great directors and writers of the genre — John Carpenter, Stephen King and Dario Argento — Wan felt that he could do the same.

After moving to Melbourne and graduating with a degree of Arts in Media, Wan began his journey as a director.

His success came quickly, with major features and a resurrection of the niche genre.

Creating ‘universes’

Wan’s first major victory came in 2004 with his co-directing of the “Saw” franchise. Fans still love the gory horror series over a decade after its release. The franchise made nine films under the “Saw” surname, with nearly US$722 million in lifetime gross profit across the series.

Horror sequels, however, are not uncommon. Some of the most iconic films in horror history quickly churned out successful sequels. “Halloween,” “Scream” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” have redefined the genre and created decades worth of award-worthy sequels. Wan’s films are no different.

Wan’s 2001 “Insidious,” arguably the redefining film in recent horror history, spawned three sequels. It made over $542 million at the box office as a series.

The “universe” title is typically only given to film franchises which have woven an intricate, creative and interconnected fabric. The Star Wars and Marvel franchises are perhaps the most well known of the universes, though Wan is forging ahead with the terrifying, vivid creations of his own.

Only a select few studios and directors are able to capture an idea in such cinematic depth, though Wan is certainly one of them.

Conjuring success

Director James Wan is best known for his unique variety of horror. Multicultural horror is beginning to become more popular in the mainstream.
An advert for “The Conjuring 2” in London.

Wan’s crowning achievement thus far, however, has been the creation of the aptly named “Conjuring” universe. No other series directed by Wan has been so powerful in shaping horror’s representation in the mainstream media.

“The Conjuring,” released in 2013, gave way to a massively popular line of two sequels and five spinoffs, though there are more movies of the same brand currently in the works.

For Wan, “The Conjuring” was just a beginning. In a Warner Bros. video featurette for his film “The Nun,” Wan said, “When we were making the first ‘Conjuring,’ it became very apparent to us that there could be a bigger universe – so many other great stories that would be awesome to look into.”

The “Conjuring” universe has generated record-breaking profits. It has become one of the most popular horror series of all time at a whopping $2 billion in profit to date.

“Generally, the horror community and fans in general look to the indie world for their horror fixes, and that kind of bums me out,” Wan said in an interview with DailyDead.com. “Not because they’re indie movies, but the fact that no one looks to the studio system anymore for great horror movies.”

James Wan is creating a universe in which quality multicultural horror is given to the masses on a wider scale. No longer are the days when cult classics ruled the horror scene. Wan has given the genre a whole new look.

No one looks to the studio system anymore for great horror movies.

James Wan

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