James Wan Calls His Return To Horror "Comforting," Shares Influences For 'Malignant'

When you think of 21st century masters of horror, the first name that'll most likely pop into your head would be James Wan. Since 2004's Saw, Wan has blazed a trail in horror filmmaking by creating and helming ample successful horror franchises. From Saw to Insidious to The Conjuring, James Wan has captivated and terrified moviegoers with his incredible horror films. All of his features were so damn frightening to me as teen that they resulted with me being unable to get a good night's sleep for weeks.

While it has been great seeing his career glow up in realtime, going from small time indie horror filmmaker to a billion-dollar action filmmaker with Furious 7 and Aquaman, Wan has not helmed a new horror film in five whole years since The Conjuring 2. To horror fans, five years without a James Wan horror flick is like a millennium.  Thankfully that horror dry spell is about to come to a close for Wan's grand return to the genre is well on its way with Malignant (out September 10) and he's just about as excited as his fans.

In an interview with Total Film, James Wan opens up about his return to horror. 

"To go back to what is my place of love... it was comforting. I felt like it might be cool to make something under the radar, that's not based on any IP, an original story. Keep it as low-key as possible and make it really fun. The goal was to go back to my indie horror roots but at the same time, do something that I've never done before."

Malignant centers around a woman named Madison (Annabelle Wallis) who is paralyzed by shocking visions of grisly murders, and her torment worsens as she discovers that these waking dreams are in fact terrifying realities. The cast of the film includes Annabelle Wallis, Maddie Hasson, George Young, Mckenna Grace, and Michole Briana White. The film is penned by The 100 writer and producer Akela Cooper and is based on a story by Cooper, Wan, and his spouse Ingrid Bisu.

"It's my take on that particular '80s trope of storytelling where a victim starts seeing through the vision of a killer," grins Wan, who reveals a few of the inspirations for the film:

"There was a period where there were a lot of movies like that, and I'm a big fan of that particular sub-genre. Movies like The Eyes of Laura Mars. I wanted to do my own version, crossed with my love of [Brian] De Palma and [Dario] Argento and [Mario] Bava."

Based on the interview and trailer for Malignant, you can tell this is straying away from his usual style, even down to the lack of Patrick Wilson (who might as well be Wan's muse due to their collaborations across a ton of his filmography). It is very refreshing to see Wan return back to his roots with an R-rated horror that's completely original and not based on any of his own IP. Though he has just recently co-wrote the latest Conjuring entry The Devil Made Me Do It along with David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, which released earlier this summer, it's great to see him take the director's chair once again to give us a new nightmare for our minds.

What's Next for James Wan

Apart from his return to horror with Malignant, James Wan has been very hard at work developing a variety ample upcoming projects for which he's either serving as producer or director. Of course, he's returning to helm the sequel to Aquaman titled Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. The film has just recently began principal photography and is slated for a December 2022 release. Speaking of Aquaman, he's a producer on the upcoming animated miniseries Aquaman: King of Atlantis.

Outside the superhero realm and back into horror, Wan's workload is stacked. Wan is also an executive producer for Amazon Prime's television adaptation of I Know What You Did Last Summer, with his production company Atomic Monster helping finance the series along with Original Film. The show is slated to release on October 15 2021. He's also producing Patrick Brice's upcoming slasher film for Netflix, There's Someone Inside Your House, which currently slated for this year. And lastly, he's an executive producer on the upcoming Netflix CG-animated series Samurai Rabbit: The Usagi Chronicles, based on Stan Sakai's comic, Usagi Yojimbo, of which Wan was a fan since childhood.

This is just a taste of the many projects James Wan has up his sleeves and while it ranges through many genres outside of just horror, there's still a real quality and excitement when it comes to seeing his name attached to something.

You can catch his upcoming original horror-thriller Malignant in theaters and HBO Max September 10, 2021.