James Wan is having a big year.
Right now, he's gearing up for "Fast & Furious 7," whatever they end up calling it, which is the biggest film he's ever made if we're just talking about budget and scale. Before we see that film, though, two films that he's already finished will be released.
The first is this summer's "The Conjuring," which is a tremendous piece of entertainment, smart and sleek and scary as hell. That one's based on the true story of Ed and Lorraine Warren, who made their reputation as paranormal investigators. Patrick Wilson stars in that one as Ed Warren, and it's starting to look like Wilson and Wan are building a great relationship as actor and director, since "The Conjuring" will be followed up this year by the September release of "Insidious Chapter 2," hitting theaters on the appropriate date of Friday the 13th.
I quite like the first "Insidious," and it feels to me like that's the moment where Wan really turned a corner and started this new chapter in his career as a filmmaker. I think he's always had chops as a filmmaker, but there is a new focus, a new confidence, and I think his voice is getting stronger from film to film. Part of what makes the "Insidious" films extra-enjoyable is that he's working on them with Leigh Whannell, his screenwriting partner and actor from "Saw," and I like that they've been able to redefine themselves and shake "Saw" off at this point. I know they're justifiably proud of that film, but anything that becomes a mechanical franchise like that did can turn into a bit of an albatross. People see that as all you can or all that you are as a filmmaker, and instead of railing against it, Wan and Whannell just redefined themselves.
I like that Wan relies on scares and atmosphere instead of gore. I appreciate some red meat in a horror film as much as anyone else, but I think there's something special about being able to terrify an audience without getting graphic. If you saw the first "Insidious," it looks like this one builds nicely from that ending, and also like it's playing its own game.
I'm excited to get a look at the film, and I'm equally excited to see where Wan goes after "Fast & Furious 7."
"Insidious Chapter 2" opens September 13, 2013.