Monday Morning Quarterback Part III

By BOP Staff

September 18, 2013

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Kim Hollis: Do you think it's fair to say that James Wan belongs among the greats of horror, such as John Carpenter, Wes Craven, George Romero and Sam Raimi?

Brett Ballard-Beach: A slight yes and a more emphatic no. James Wan has accomplished something that few other directors ever have: having multiple box office smashes within one 12 month span (Spielberg with Minority Report and Catch Me If You Can in 2001-2002 and Soderbergh in 2000-2001 with Erin Brockovich and Traffic come to mind). Wan has done it two months apart and had $40 million plus openings in both case, a feat achieved prior only by the Wachowskis in 2003 with the Matrix sequels..

I would be hesitant to put him in the ranks of the names mentioned just yet, if only because all four of them strike me as very individualistic writer-directors with an easily identifiable point of view (and yes, 30-40 years of an oeuvre as opposed to Wan's 10). All of them have worked outside of the horror genre, of course (and in Wan's case, I was a big fan, probably one of the few, of 2007's Death Sentence, with several action set pieces that give me great reason to think he was a perfect choice for Fast & Furious 7), but he strikes me as more of a craftsman than an auteur at this point, and one whose films can rise and fall on the strengths of the screenplays he chooses or those of his collaborators. I have also read that he is looking to steer clear of horror films in the short term and wants to branch out to a variety of material. I am more than a little curious to see where his career takes him in the next decade.


Matthew Huntley: At this stage in James Wan's career, I'd be more apt to label him one of the "goods," as opposed to one of the "greats." Like Brett mentioned, he has yet to create something that stands out as truly original and groundbreaking. He's a faithful upholder of the horror genre, but he doesn't exactly transcend it or take it in a new direction. That's not to say I don't think he has it in him, and I await from him a film that can be categorized along the same lines as, say, Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street or Scream.

Jason Barney: In order to be one of the "greats" a much larger body of work is required.

Edwin Davies: I'd say that he meets at least one of the criteria for being considered a "great" in that he has already proved to be incredibly influential. He didn't invent the sort of extreme horror of Saw, that whole genre has existed for decades, but he brought so-called torture porn to a mass audience in a big way, and fundamentally altered mainstream horror for the better part of a decade as a result. That's no small feat, and it's comparable to the sort of impact that John Carpenter had with Halloween, Wes Craven had with A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream and that George Romero had with Night of the Living Dead. However, he has until recently struggled to follow up that success, and it's impossible to say at this point whether The Conjuring will have quite the same impact that Saw did. (Though I'd guess that it will be pretty influential, if only because it probably prompted studios to start fast tracking any haunted house scripts they've got lying around.) His body of work is still too small to determine if he'll go down as a true great, but he's demonstrated that he's a great craftsman and his handful of films have had a significant impact, so that suggests that he definitely has greatness within him that will hopefully continue to flourish over the rest of his career.

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