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Dead Derrick Discusses: James Wan & Leigh Whannell

With the upcoming release of Insidious, I decided to talk about the two horror masters who have made many terrors come to life behind and in front of the camera. I speak of two friends, cohorts, and partners in crime of the macabre. James Wan (director) and Leigh Whannell (actor/screenwriter) have made one of the most influential horror films of the past decade and have also made some really great horror films next to that achievement.

James Wan and Leigh Whannell
Wan and Whannell have been business partners when it comes to filmmaking in the horror genre for quite some time now. Creating movies together and coming up with some dark visions of true horror, I will now cover some horror films featuring Wan or Whannell (but most of the time, both of them together).

Saw
2004- Saw (Directed by James Wan, Written by James Wan & Leigh Whannell, Starring Leigh Whannell)
In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last 7 years, Saw is a horror film that has inspired one of the biggest money-making horror properties in movie history. The plot of Saw is quite ingenious; it is mainly set in one-location between two men who have been informed that one man must kill the other within a certain period of time or they will be made to suffer the consequences (and so will their loved ones). Taut suspense, bone-chilling scares, a tense atmosphere, and one of the darkest endings put to horror cinema make this a modern horror classic. Seek it out if you haven’t already viewed it.

2005- Saw II (Written by Leigh Whannell)
Hollywood tends to get greedy every now and then and cash in on a film that made a lot of cash. They make these films into a franchise. Saw was such a film. Saw II is not better than the first entry, but it is excellent, well-made and reminds us that this overplayed series once had original ideas, real scares, and great twist endings.

2006- Saw III (Written by James Wan & Leigh Whannell)
The third installment of the franchise was the last that directly involved either Wan or Whannell doing anything other than just producing the series. Saw III is easily the darkest, most brutal, sickest, and nastiest entry in the series and left a huge mushroom cloud just begging for the series to end…too bad Hollywood didn’t listen.

Dead Silence
2007- Dead Silence (Directed by James Wan, Written by Leigh Whannell)
An old-fashioned, spook-house ghost story involving ventriloquist dummies, mayhem and murder most foul. A man returns to his hometown after his wife is brutally killed. He soon discovers that the legendary ghost story the town has tried to keep secret is coming back with a vengeance. This movie is really underappreciated and plays out like a classic 1950’s Universal horror story. Most people compare this to Darkness Falls; though while I can see some similarities, Dead Silence is a much, much better film and has some real scares, good twists, excellent visuals, and real spooky stuff lying within the film.

2007- Death Sentence (Directed by James Wan, Written by Leigh Whannell)
More of a revenge-thriller than an actual horror film, Death Sentence deserves some long overdue recognition. This is a fun, action-packed, and at times silly crime-thriller that has a message and isn’t afraid to show some real acting skill and character development (particularly from Kevin Bacon and John Goodman). Containing some absolutely insane action and chase scenes, particularly a stand-out sequence set in a parking garage, Death Sentence is violent, dark, and brutal enough to deserve a look from horror fans and non-horror fans alike.

Dying Breed
2009- Dying Breed (Starring Leigh Whannell)
One of After Dark Horrorfest’s best movies…ever (not saying much, but still). Dying Breed is an inbred, redneck cannibal story from Australia. Starring Whannell (who acts in the film rather than writes this time around), this movie tackles some urban legends lying around the outback while also scaring the ever living hell out of you. This is an unforgiving, twisted romp that is intense and outstanding the whole way through leading up to a particularly gruesome and insanely disturbing ending — really good stuff that has tragically been ignored here in the USA.

2011- Insidious (Directed by James Wan, Written by Leigh Whannell)
We now come to the final and possibly the scariest entry by Wan and Whannell (we will see if the latter is true April 1st) …Insidious. Insidious is Wan’s love letter to his favorite movie of all time, Poltergeist. This one promises some true terror and unlike the previous films mentioned here, this one is supposedly tame when it comes to violence and gore. This is what supernatural terror is all about. The word on the horror streets is that this is one of the scariest films to come along in quite some time. Dread Central gave the film a rare 5 out of 5 rating and Fangoria gave an almost-never-seen 4 out of 4 to this movie. Either way this goes, I (and tons of other horror fanatics) cannot wait to see what the dynamic duo deliver here!

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