James Wan made his feature film debut in a big way, directing the 2004 movie Saw which would spawn a nine film, billion dollar franchise. Some filmmakers are lucky to just start one franchise but Wan didn't stop there, kickstarting the Insidious films in 2010, leading to four movies total and over $550 million at the global box office with a fifth film on the way, and The Conjuring in 2013. That film would start the only major modern cinematic horror universe, resulting in multiple spin-offs and nearly $2 billion in global box office totals. So what's the secret to it? Speaking during a press conference for The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, Wan said that there's not one.
"I don't think that's a secret ingredient," Wan, who's a producer and has co-story credit on the third film in the series, said. "I think for me, I just want to tell the stories I want to tell. I want to tell the stories I want to watch as an audience, and if I have to put my finger on something, it's telling stories with characters that people can relate to. I think, I believe that's why whether it's Insidious, or The Conjuring with Ed and Lorraine, it's creating these characters that are really beloved, that they're real people. Definitely in the case of Ed and Lorraine, which based on real people."
He continued, "The more grounded you can make it, the more the horror scenes, or the scares you put these characters into, play more fearfully. I think that is the most important piece of ingredient, is to let the audience be able to be in the shoes of these characters, then you can take them on the craziest, scariest ride."
"There's a reason why these movies work as well as they do. People want to be scared," Wan said. "It's like comedy. People want to go see a comedy to laugh, people want to go see a scary film to scream, and cry, and then laugh. I think what works for The Conjuring films, at least for me, and I know it is for Michael (Chaves, director) as well, is start with something that is real."
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, based on the real-life case of Arne Johnson, a man who claimed demonic possession as a murder defense, will be released in theaters and on HBO Max on June 4.