James Wan’s reputation precedes him – in a way that’s evolved. Thanks to Saw, he was slapped with the "torture porn" label. After scratching his haunted house itch with Dead Silence and The Conjuring, he became the guy who built haunting set-pieces that lead up to jump scares. For his new movie Malignant, Wan insisted on stripping away those tropes.
"For better or for worse, I set out to make a movie that is an antithesis to all my other films," he tells SFX in the new issue of the magazine, which features Dune on the cover. "If people are going to this expecting the kind of scares they see from my "Insidious or Conjuring movies, they are going to be disappointed.
This movie, I wanted it to be a traditional investigative thriller that just so happens to have violent, action set-pieces. It’s more of an action-thriller than anything. It’s a pleasure for me to play with prosthetic effects that I’ve never really played with before on this level. So, it’s more of a blood and guts, gory movie from the ’80s than it is more of a quiet haunted house movie.”
Wan has become synonymous with horror franchises. Saw spawned nine feature films and may generate more. The Conjuring Universe has generated more than a billion dollars worldwide. And actor Patrick Wilson will be helming the upcoming fifth installment of Insidious. So, if fans demand it, could Malignant show similar legs with multiple sequels?
"It’s kind of a tricky question," Wan says. "Ultimately anything can become a franchise. They will find a way. Look at Saw. When Leigh Whannell and I made Saw, we were like, ‘Jigsaw gets up and he shuts the door. The end.’ Then when the movie did so well, the producers and studio were like, ‘Guys, we have to make another one.’
"So, yes, Malignant could become a franchise, but I set out to just make this movie," he concludes. "Having said that, when I make one film, I do think of a bigger umbrella story. I’m always just telling a section of this bigger story."
For more from Wan, plus 20 pages on the upcoming sci-fi epic Dune, make sure to buy the new issue of SFX Magazine. Malignant is in cinemas from September 10, and also available on HBO Max in the US.