THE INSIDIOUS JAMES WAN
2013 has been a good year for James Wan. Dubbed one of the most frightening movies of the year, The Conjuring has been released to critical acclaim. On the 13th of September Wan will release Insidious: Chapter 2 in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Canada. It cannot be denied that Wan is kickin’ some major arse in the horror, thriller, and most specifically, possession, genres.
A fellow Melbournian, Wan studied at RMIT before he propelled into fame with Saw in 2003. Alan Jones from Total Film has named Wan as an honorary member of the ‘Splat Pack’, a term coined by Jones for filmmakers that have created low-budget, excessively violent films since the start of the millennium. Members of the ‘Splat Pack’ also include Robert Rodriguez, and Eli Roth, and with less than ten directors named as part of this group, Wan has secured a bloody spot as one of the most innovative, and shocking, horror directors of the present-day.
While no release date has been set for Insidious: Chapter 2 here in Australia, the 13th is quickly approaching for horror fans that hail from the other side of the world. Forced to wait in agonizing anticipation, at least we have a fabulous excuse to (re)visit some of Wan’s past creations. Shocking and radical, with a promising injection of the spine-tingles, these five films provide each and every horrorphile with an exceedingly high case of the creeps.
Let me just say that possession films have always scared the absolute crap outta me. I always feel a little exposed after the viewing, like my soul is going to be taken over by some crazy-arse demon spirit shit. Going to see The Conjuring was an experience, to say the least. I was caught between staring, fascinated, at the screen, and clutching at my face in terror. While I could happily sit through hours of a psycho killer hacking at limbs, the paranormal is almost a hard limit. And friends, let me tell you, The Conjuring has to be one of the greatest possession flicks that I have had the pleasure (horror) of viewing. Based off a true story, The Conjuring follows the work of Ed and Lorraine Warren, who were paranormal investigators, ‘demonologists’, with over 10,000 cases under their belt. In The Conjuring some exceptionally evil spirits are trying to kill the Perron family of seven. And, actually, the real-life Perron family has supported the film stating in marketing campaigns that (except for some minor divergences) the events depicted were of absolute truth. But, the freakiest moment in this film? That damned doll, Annabelle. Wan really has a way with dolls.
Ah, Saw. I remember that when this film came out, it was the hottest horror/thriller of the year. And, just like Annabelle in The Conjuring, that damn puppet, dubbed “Billy”, was creepy as hell. I remember when I saw him enter the frame, riding his little tricycle, and thinking, “Damnit. Now we have to deal with the doll, too?” Okay, okay. I know it is a personal hang up of mine, the whole being creeped out by dolls thing. But, come on… look at that it! A reference to Dario Argento’s puppet in Deep Red, and used to convey messages by antagonist, Jigsaw, Billy the puppet has a forbidding sense of doom. Add torturous scenes to the mix, a dingy bathroom, and the victims slowly going crazy from being placed in their compromising situations, and you have an ingenious thriller that has expanded into seven Saw titles. The inventive torture devices, Jigsaw’s chilling statement (“I want to play a game”), and feeling forced to live by suffering, or die from the hesitancy to put up with intense pain and/or discomfort, Saw is always worthy of a revisit by any horror/thriller film buff.
Ventriloquism, possession… Yes, puppets again. Dead Silence follows the legends surrounding a murder victim, Mary Shaw: the “ventriloquist who lost her voice.” Accused of abducting a young boy, the townspeople of Ravens Fair cut out Shaw’s tongue, before brutally killing her. Shaw is buried with the unsettling tools of her trade, a substantial doll collection. Fast-forward to the present-day, and the dolls are possessed, wicked little objects that try to murder (and de-tongue) the family members of those that tortured and killed their mistress. The film is so eerie and unsettling, I almost feel so powerless, that I have the urge to grab a shotgun so I can destroy each and every one of Shaw’s puppets myself. Wan does have a real art of getting the atmosphere, and the puppets, in his films just enough of a sinister kick. There is gore a’plenty, and enough terrifying moments to give us a bit of an adrenaline kick, and to make us jump. The sets are gorgeous, and they are a little surreal, just as creepy as the haunted eyes of the ventriloquist puppets.
You know, the more I look over Wan’s filmography, I have come to realize just how great he is at bringing us those creepy-as-hell possession flicks. Wan always inserts just the right amount of spine-tingling madness, and eeriness. Of course, Insidious is no exception. A young boy, Dalton, falls into a coma and his family must try to ensure that some wretchedly evil spirits do not try to keep the child in a realm dubbed “The Further.” Haunting, and edgy, Insidious may not completely satisfy our gore-lust, but it certainly puts the viewer on enough of an edge as to scare the fricken’ bejeebers out of them. Like the rest of Wan’s films, the atmosphere in Insidious is absolutely enthralling, probably because it is just so damn disturbing. Suspenseful, and edgy, Insidious places the bar just that lil’ bit higher for those that are willing to dabble into the possession narrative.
And so at the end, we come back to the beginning. Stygian was Wan’s first feature length film, co-directed with Shannon Young. The action-horror flick won Best Guerrilla Film at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival in 2000. Stygian follows the tale of a couple that discovers that they are imprisoned in another world. Dubbed Exile, this alternate world is strange, and immense. Unfortunately Jamie’s girlfriend, Melinda, is lost in this very bizarre place and he must go on an epic quest in order to find her. Just like Melinda, the film may be a little hard to find, but it is worth viewing, especially if you enjoy the wonders of special effects make-up. Actually, for the make-up alone, I would give Stygian a 10/10 for inventiveness. If you’re in the mood for a low-budget horror flick, then I’d highly suggest this one. But watch out for the killer axe-wielding clown! That clown is just as grotesque, and frightening, as all of those damnable puppets.