Malignant: James Wan teases horror film format

Writer and director James Wan has a rich cinematic history, especially when it comes to horror films. For example, he launched two major film franchises as the director of Seen and Conspiracy. After a five-year hiatus from horror and focusing on making more action-oriented films Aquaman, Wan has yet another scary movie hitting theaters soon, Smart.

At a press conference attended by CBR and other media, Wan spoke about how he wanted to return to what started his career as a filmmaker and teased Smart‘s intimate structure. “I just wanted to go back and make another movie that was in the spirit of what I was doing – what I started my career with,” Wan said. “Every time I do one of my big budget movies, like Aquaman or whatever, all I want to do is just go back and make a smaller, more intimate movie. And that’s what happened when I was doing Aquaman and spend two years making this movie and a whole year doing post-production. All I wanted was to go back and do something unique. Something that reminded me of the beginning … Then it was about finding a story that would fit that aspiration, if you will. “

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While Wan wanted to go back to what he started out in, that didn’t necessarily mean he wanted to tell the same story all over again. “I know people have kind of known me as the ghostly supernatural type for the last few years,” Wan said. “Part of the reason I did Smart was really about breaking that expectation, it was sort of starting the movie off by saying, “Oh, you think that’s what you get from James Wan? No, you get this instead. It makes you ask these questions at the beginning, like, “Is this a supernatural being?” Is it a ghost? Or is this a demonic possession movie? ‘”

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Keeping the audience going is another challenge Wan faces. As mentioned, he wants to subvert expectations; However, nowadays audiences are pretty good at sorting through clues and theorizing even before a movie is released, which is a unique hurdle for marketing a movie with many twists and turns.

“In the case of Smart, it’s a very windy story, “Wan continued.” It’s largely me hiding, holding the cards, trying not to show it and just trying to find degrees of what we show and what we don’t show. . It is difficult because today’s public is very knowledgeable; they are very intelligent. They watch trailers, and they can kind of watch posters, and they can kind of put things together, can’t they? So the key is how to stay ahead of today’s audience who are so savvy, but at the same time, still come up with things that people haven’t seen before. “

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Warner Bros., New Line Cinema and Malignant by James Wan

One thing that has been a big help in dealing with this is to start his films with a solid structure that is familiar but not too restrictive. Finding this balance allows Wan to play more with expectations in a unique and worthwhile way. “I like to start with a somewhat familiar story structure,” Wan said. “It gives me a solid foundation to start with, so people can come in and look like a Smart and say, ‘Okay, I can kind of follow this because it’s like a mystery murder, and it’s also like a crime thriller.’ “

“And we’ve seen a lot of it, we can understand the structure of it, can’t we?” Wan added. “But inside of that, that’s where I mess things up. That’s when I start pulling that off, and I start to take you on this electrifying journey, and it’s that aspect that makes it fun for me. And it’s not just my horror movies I’ve tried to do even in Fast and Furious 7, and to some extent in Aquaman, but certainly more in Aquaman 2. There is more complexity in Aquaman 2 than in the first movie. It’s just things that I’ve learned along the way, and that’s what I find intriguing as a filmmaker, and I try to take everything I’ve learned from each movie and from it. take it with me in my next movie. “

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With each film, Wan not only developed a greater reputation, but he also increased and improved his filmmaking skills. Thanks to this, he is able to tap into his past work to create something new. “I think [Malignant’s] my 10th movie, ”Wan shared. “I now have a lot of knowledge and experience behind me that I bring to this film. It is therefore obviously not at the amateur level that Seen was done, but that said, I still wanted to keep that youthful optimism that I had when I did Seen, or I didn’t really care what people thought. I just wanted to make a full movie, really for me and for hardcore horror fans. I’m ready in my head that there will be people who really hate this movie because I know it’s going to be a very polarizing movie, but that’s what it is, and I made the movie for us. “

It wouldn’t be Wan’s first time making a polarizing film. Seen, for example, has been labeled torture porn by some, even when Wan didn’t see the movie the same way. During this time, Smart, as Wan points out, might be his most violent film. The way this is received, especially after working a lot with the supernatural in recent years, could be a divisive audience. “When I did the first Seen movie … They started labeling us with this label of porn torture, “Wan shared.” I had become the guru of blood and gore and torture and all that. “

“At the time, I felt it was very unwarranted because I didn’t think Seen was as hardcore as everyone thought it would be, “he added.” So on entering Smart, In fact, I think it’s easily my most violent and bloodiest movie. I know part of this is going to turn some people off – people who love my Insidious and Conjuring movies, especially the more mainstream audience and mainstream critics who like horror movies more low-key and less bloody and brave in your face; but it wasn’t the movie i wanted to do Smart. I made this version. I made my Conjuring. I made my Insidious. I don’t want to repeat myself. I wanted to do something that wasn’t a jumpscare horror movie. At the same time, there is also a lot of visceral shock. The whole movie is a preparation for that big reveal at the end, and it’s not just “Oh, that’s that person”. It’s more about how I present it, so people can either follow the path to see how outrageous I could be or people can be put off by this, at least that’s how I feel. . either we love him or hate him. “

Malignant, directed by James Wan, hits theaters and on HBO Max on September 10.

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