James Wan is Taking a Long Nap as Aquaman Wraps Post-Production

James Wan is a very busy man. It’s a wonder, with all the producing he does on films like The Nun and The Curse of La Llorona, that he has time to make a big tentpole film like the upcoming DCEU film Aquaman, but he does it.

Wan took to Instagram for the announcement, writing:

“After two years of consuming and devouring my every waking hour, this little indie movie is finally done. It was a monster undertaking. I can’t THANK enough the amazing post team of VFX/editorial/sound for working tirelessly around the clock – crazy long days, 7 days a week, for many many many weeks without a day off – towards making this a unique and beautiful film. Everyone poured their heart and soul into it, and I can’t wait to share this 21st December! In the meantime, I’m gonna go take a really long nap now.”

The first few trailers garnered some poor reviews for their CG. I personally didn’t find trouble with it, but I also understand that most trailers have unfinished CG. Wan’s film will be very CG-heavy, so it’s no coincidence that the film is just now wrapping Post-Production.

I’m very happy for James Wan. I’ve been a fan of his since the original Saw film, which he directed. I’ve traced his path through a lot of horror and seen a director that consistently grows from each experience. His last big-budget feature Furious 7 was hampered with filming troubles after the sudden death of star Paul Walker, so I know he has dealt with stress quite well and his work shows focus and determination to deliver a superior product. I haven’t been excited for a DCEU film in some times as the cinematic universe has garnered its own share of criticism since its inception back in 2013. Well, it certainly makes me excited to see James Wan’s Aquaman next month.

Aquaman surfaces in theater on December 21st.

So what do you think? Are you excited for Aquaman. Let me know/drop a comment below.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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[Early Review] Insidious: The Last Key (2018)

Director: Adam Robitel

Cast: Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Josh Stewart, Caitlin Gerard

Screenplay: Leigh Whannell

103 mins. Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic content, violence and terror, and brief strong language.

 

The Insidious franchise is now four films in, and the newest installment, The Last Key, had me a little concerned when it was bumped back to January, oftentimes the graveyard of shitty horror films. I happen to be a big fan of this franchise, and I want to see it continue with more well-received reception. So I entered the theater with some trepidation tonight.

Shortly after the events of Chapter 3, Elise (Lin Shaye, There’s Something About Mary, Abattoir) and her newly-formed team of Specs (Leigh Whannell, Saw, The Bye Bye Man) and Tucker (Angus Sampson, Mad Max: Fury Road, TV’s Shut Eye) are drawn into a new case set in Five Keys, New Mexico. Elise initially turns down the case when she discovers that the house being haunted is her childhood home, a place with horrific memories from Elise’s past, but she quickly realizes that she has a responsibility to help others, and her team sets off on a trip through Elise’s past, where she will encounter familiar entities and new horrors.

The great thing about the newest installment in this franchise is the focus on the character of Elise. It’s become quite clear after four films that the star of the series is Lin Shaye, and choosing to further develop her is a terrific idea, as much as I’m turned away by the prequel aspect of the recent two films. Shaye’s performance is a powerhouse of the genre, and we spend a lot of the film focused on her inner demons, particularly surrounding the relationship with her father, Gerald (Josh Stewart, Interstellar, War Machine).

The big feeling I felt leaving the theater was one of calmness, though, and the lack of true terror in the film is noticeable. The previous installments all kept me close to my seat, but The Last Key is missing a lot of that. While there are indeed some incredible moments in the film, there just isn’t enough to spur up any actual dread. Diehard horror fanatics may find themselves unfulfilled in this respect.

Thankfully, director Adam Robitel (The Taking of Deborah Logan) keeps the pace moving and the plot thread twisting and turning enough to make the movie interesting, but it just isn’t all that scary.

Insidious: The Last Key is a classic fourth installment, searching for a place of purpose and struggling to find a tone. The film is entertaining and I think it will please fans of the series looking to unravel the mystery, but the general public and hardcore horror hounds may not find this scary enough to please.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of James Wan’s Insidious, click here.

For my review of Leigh Whannell’s Insidious: Chapter 3, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Saw (2004)

Director: James Wan

Cast: Cary Elwes, Danny Glover, Monica Potter, Leigh Whannell, Michael Emerson, Ken Leung, Tobin Bell

Screenplay: Leigh Whannell

103 mins. Rated R for strong grisly violence and language.

 

Jigsaw is out now, the eighth film in the Saw franchise. Since Saw is one of my favorite series, I thought it best to revisit the convoluted mythology before attending the newest release.

Adam (Leigh Whannell, Insidious: Chapter 2, The Bye Bye Man) awakens in a tub in total darkness. He soon learns that he is in a large unknown bathroom and his leg is shackled to one corner. Shackled at the other end is Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes, The Princess Bride, Anna Nicole), another man who has no recollection as to how he ended up there. Lawrence and Adam are in a trap designed by the infamous uncaptured Jigsaw killer and that they must use all the tools they have to escape, even if that means cutting off their feet.

Saw is absolutely brilliant horror filmmaking. Director James Wan (The Conjuring 2, Furious 7) proves his worth in his first feature-length film based on a short he created with actor/writer Leigh Whannell. This is independent filmmaking at its finest, especially given the rushed schedule. The film had five days pre-production, the entire production schedule lasted eighteen days, and musician Charlie Clouser had three weeks to score the film. In essence, he created one of the most catching and memorable musical themes ever.

It’s extremely difficult to pull off a feat like this, with only two actors getting most of the screentime, but lead Elwes commands the screen and the whodunit nature of this first installment is exhilarating, as is the shocking finale.

Many people have taken issue with Saw’s reliance on gore over actual horror, and while it would be difficult to deny that, even the franchise’s haters can attest to the low level of gore in this first installment. It only came later that the increasing nature of sequels that the franchise got the reputation for torture porn (a term I will fight tooth and nail against).

Saw is a fabulous horror film, one of my absolute favorites. I watch it quite often as it is the best of the franchise. Wan’s masterful directing shows why he is such a name in Hollywood right now. If you’ve avoided Saw due to its graphic nature, I implore you to give it a try…if only a few minutes.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of James Wan’s Insidious, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s The Conjuring, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s Furious 7, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s The Conjuring 2, click here.

 

 

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[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 14 – [Happy 10th Birthday!] Paranormal Activity (2007)

Director: Oren Peli

Cast: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Mark Friedrichs

Screenplay: Oren Peli

86 mins. Rated R for language.

 

Ah, Paranormal Activity, the franchise that killed Saw. I’m over it. I’m so over it.

The original Paranormal Activity has a fairly straightforward plot: A couple, Katie (Katie Featherston, Psychic Experiment, TV’s Solace for the Unloved) and Micah (Micah Sloat, The Death and Return of Superman) get a video camera to document the eerie happenings at their home. The strange activity seems to be centered around Katie, and Micah, having only just hearing about it, decides to attempt to capture it on film. What follows is a found-footage collection of the three weeks the camera is on.

The frights in Paranormal Activity are interesting, unusual, and a little intense at times. Director Oren Peli (Area 51) shot the film in 10 days using a script that was essentially a guided outline and created the characters alongside Featherston and Sloat to create as much realism as possible. Katie is depressed and sad as the movie shows the horrors she has experienced most of her life while Micah is kind of an asshole as he fails to see the toll inflicted on someone he supposedly loves. Neither performance is particularly exemplary but they are serviceable enough.

Credit should be given to Paramount Pictures and director Steven Spielberg for shepherding the film to release, as well as the horror fans who requested it in their homes. Paramount went all in on the finished product, opting to show the finished film without title cards or any credits in fact, playing up to the gimmick, and Steven Spielberg suggested a more marketable ending that this writer actually prefers to the original, if only slightly.

Overall, Paranormal Activity would be a good starting off point for horror fans. It is creepy but not altogether scary, and its thrills do not rely heavily on gore or dread but more a fun atmospheric ambiance. In fact, this is a film that is better outside of the theater, so gather some friends, turn the lights off, and enjoy!

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Christopher Landon’s Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, click here.

 

 

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[Early Review] The Conjuring 2 (2016)

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Director: James Wan

Cast: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Frances O’Connor, Madison Wolfe, Simon McBurney, Franka Potente

Screenplay: Carey Hayes, Chad Hayes, James Wan, David Leslie Johnson

133 mins. Rated R for terror and horror violence.

 

Good evening, everyone, I just got back from an early screening for The Conjuring 2! Did I like it? Spoiler: Yeah, I did.

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This sequel from director James Wan (Saw, Furious 7) is set after Lorraine (Vera Farmiga, TV’s Bates Motel, The Departed) and Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson, Watchmen, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) have wrapped up their famed inspection of the Amityville house. Now, a far more terrifying case comes calling all the way from Enfield in north London. Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Mercy) and her family have been experiencing a new level of paranormal disturbance that threatens the lives of the entire family. This entity has centered itself on Peggy’s daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe, The Campaign, Keanu) and plans on forcing her to do the unthinkable. Now, the Warrens have found themselves in their most dangerous journey, facing an enemy that wants more than just the Hodgsons.

First of all, I have to congratulate Wan on not tackling The Amityville Horror. This sequel touches on it just enough to provide a context for the series. The Conjuring 2 is one of the more amazing horror films in recent times. It may also be Wan’s best film to date, and I mean that.

The acting from Farmiga and Wilson are again incredible, but it’s the relationships built between them and the Hodgsons, particularly Janet and Peggy, that make the film. It’s rare to call a horror film heartwarming, but that’s exactly what The Conjuring 2 reaches for amidst its shocking and tense mood. Young Madison Wolfe holds her own in her scenes with the more accomplished performers here. There’s also a terrific turn from Simon McBurney (The Last King of Scotland, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation) as Maurice Gross, a man searching for proof of life after death but who may be too easily convinced. On the polar opposite in the troupe is Anita Gregory (Franka Potente, TV’s Copper, The Bourne Identity) who is out to prove the Hodgson haunting a hoax.

Wan’s always had great cinematography in his films, and The Conjuring 2 is no exception. It would seem that the horror director’s entire filmography has led to this, from his smaller pictures like Saw to his action-packed extravaganza with Furious 7. Wan’s work has created a unique style pulling from everything he has done before and creating something wholly new.

Another progression is that of Joseph Bishara, who scored the film. Bishara is much more restrained than in previous works like Insidious, his score only enhancing scares instead of instigating them. It works very well here.

James Wan swings for the fences, even if he misses on the special effects. There is a hint of swift CGI to this film involving one particular element that I won’t mention here. You’ll know it when you see it, this piece of CGI will not age well, even if it didn’t completely take me out of the movie.

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The Conjuring 2 feels so personal and so profound, the master stroke of a filmmaker in full control of his craft. It’s incredible to have been a fan of this storytelling for over a decade and to see his metamorphosis into a skilled and strong filmmaker who impresses me more each time I enter the cinema. See The Conjuring 2. It’ll make you believe in studio horror again.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of James Wan’s The Conjuring, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s Insidious, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s Furious 7, click here.

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 28 – The Collection (2012)

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Director: Marcus Dunstan

Cast: Josh Stewart, Emma Fitzpatrick, Christopher McDonald, Randall Archer, Lee Tergesen

Screenplay: Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan

82 mins. Rated R for strong bloody violence, grisly images, language and brief nudity.

 

The 2009 film The Collector was written as a prequel to Saw, but when the producers vetoed that option, it became The Collector. While The Collector had its moments, it had just as many faults. Director Marcus Dunstan seems to have learned from his mistakes for the 2012 sequel The Collection, a highly stylized game of cat and mouse which sees Arkin (Josh Stewart, Interstellar, Transcendence) escaping from the clutches of The Collector (Randall Archer). Immediately after, Arkin is enlisted by Lucello (Lee Tergesen, Monster, Red Tails) and his boss Mr. Peters (Christopher McDonald, Requiem for a Dream, About Last Night) to find Peters’ daughter Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick, The Social Network, Before We Go), the Collector’s newest claim. When they get to the slasher’s lair, they discover that the Collector has a few more tricks in store for them.

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I’m not going to tell you that The Collection is a perfect horror film. It has faults, but it takes a major step up from its predecessor. Arkin has become a much more likable lead, having evolved from his criminal ways. The addition of equally likable Elena and Lucello, we have several characters that we care about. We want to see them live. When they fall into danger, I genuinely wanted them to survive.

I enjoyed the Collector’s background and the extensive look at how he operates as a serial killer, and though I agree that his lair and the traps he sets seem almost like he has second sight, but if you can suspend your disbelief enough, you can find fun here.

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The Collection won’t be for everyone. The film has a lot of detractors, but fans of the original will find a lot to like. Its creative team has evolved in the three years between the films, and it looks good for future endeavors.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

For my review of Marcus Dunstan’s The Collector, click here.

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 13 – The Conjuring (2013)

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Director: James Wan

Cast: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ron Livingston, Lili Taylor

Screenplay: Chad Hayes, Carey W. Hayes

112 mins. Rated R for sequences of disturbing violence and terror.

 

James Wan (Saw, Furious 7) is THE horror director of today. The man is known for creating tone and utilizing it perfectly to create a terrifying atmospheric experience. He also shows that he can learn from mistakes, and nowhere is that more apparent than what is likely his best work, The Conjuring.

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Carolyn (Lili Taylor, Say Anything, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials) and Roger Perron (Ron Livingston, Office Space, Vacation) are loving their new home. But there is a presence in the home, and it is taking its toll on Carolyn. In steps Ed (Patrick Wilson, TV’s Fargo, Insidious) and Lorraine Warren (TV’s Bates Motel, The Departed), two paranormal investigators (demonologists, technically) who are looking to solve the family’s dilemma. But this demonic force isn’t willing to go lightly, and wants to take the Perrons, and perhaps the Warrens, with it.

The screenplay by Chad and Carey W. Hayes (House of Wax, Whiteout) is where it starts. This screenplay combines that perfect mixture of horror with lightheartedness and humor that James Wan thrives on.

What also helps Wan thrive is the perfect blend of great actors and professional genre performers that blend into such a realistic and thrilling experience.

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James Wan’s previous film Insidious was great but had issues, namely the overuse of music and the overappearance of the big villain. In The Conjuring, he learns from these mistakes and excels here with pure vision. The Conjuring is a pure modern masterpiece in just about every way.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s Insidious, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s Furious 7, click here.

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 2 – Insidious (2010)

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Director: James Wan

Cast: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey

Screenplay: Leigh Whannell

103 mins. Rated PG-13 for thematic material, violence, terror and frightening images, and brief strong language.

 

On this second day of our 31 Days of Horror, I want to talk about a modern classic from one of my favorite filmmakers currently working: James Wan (Saw, Furious 7). The film is Insidious.

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The Lambert family is almost finished unpacking after their big move. Josh (Patrick Wilson, TV’s Fargo, The Conjuring) is busy with his new teaching position. Renai (Rose Byrne, X-Men: First Class, Spy) is juggling packing boxes, her infant child, and her struggling passion for music. But when her son Dalton mysterious enters a comatose state and she begins hearing loud noises and seeing suspicious figures around her home, she learns that her son has become a conduit that insidious and nefarious spirits are using to enter our realm. Now, Josh and Renai have enlisted the help of paranormal investigators Elise, Specs, and Tucker to rescue Dalton from a place called The Further.

Insidious is one of my absolute favorite recent horror films. Director James Wan utilizes tone and style to create his scares, launching some very effective jump scares because of it.

First of all, if you want to build an effective horror film, there are a few great ways to do it. Having Grade-A quality performers helps a lot. I’m talking about Wilson, Byrne, Barbara Hershey (Black Swan, Riding the Bullet), who plays Josh’s mother Lorraine, and of course veteran character actress Lin Shaye, who knocks it out of the park as Elise, the lead paranormal investigator.

The second way to build fear is through creating an effective and powerful tone. Wan balances his tone with heavy use of sound and music and juxtaposing them with scenes of more lighthearted fare featuring Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson).

Now, it’s true that the film forces fear through its sound work (often, the music cues the scare before the scare actually happens) and the final reveal of the beast vying for Dalton’s vessel (played by orchestrator Joseph Bishara) could’ve been better if not fully revealed, but these are minor flaws that lessen over multiple views.

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Insidious builds a mythology very solidly over the course of its runtime and inhabits its world with interesting characters and frightful apparitions. This is a great film for those filmgoers that can’t handle the gore of heavier films that we see in today’s horror films. Big buy.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Leigh Whannell’s Insidious: Chapter 3, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s Furious 7, click here.

Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015)

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Director: Leigh Whannell

Cast: Dermot Mulroney, Stefanie Scott, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell, Hayley Kiyoko, Lin Shaye

Screenplay: Leigh Whannell

97 mins. Rated PG-13 for violence, frightening images, some language and thematic elements.

 

Horror sequels are often looked at as a lesser film than the original. Horror prequels have it even worse. So how does Insidious: Chapter 3 (a sequel that is actually a prequel) stack up?

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Set two years before the haunting of the Lambert Family, Insidious: Chapter 3 follows Sean Brenner (Dermot Mulroney, TV’s Shameless, My Best Friend’s Wedding) and his daughter Quinn (Stefanie Scott, Wreck-It Ralph, No Strings Attached). Quinn has been trying to contact her deceased mother, but something else has reached back. She needs the help of gifted but retired paranormal investigator Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye, There’s Something About Mary, Ouija).

Being a prequel limits this installment to certain franchise pitfalls. Many prequels make the mistake of referencing future events in a tongue-in-cheek way. This is one area where, for the most part, the film doesn’t disappoint. There are two scenes at the end that make this mistake, but the earlier sequences of the film that make reference to the Lamberts and the haunting. It is a smart decision to tell an original story within the series as opposed to tell a story that leads directly the opening of the first installment.

New director Whannell, known for writing the first three installments of the Saw franchise, Dead Silence, and all three Insidious films, takes over for directing partner James Wan who makes a cameo known but was busy on Furious 7 at the time. He does a somewhat mediocre job handling the many hats of a filmmaker, but there is some serious potential here. The film’s scary sequences are hit-and-miss, but Whannell shows that he can learn from mistakes, so I have faith in his abilities.

The big winner here is Lin Shaye, who has an exploding career so far into her career. She carries this film so well that it is easy to overlook many of the failures, and it is fun to see her initial interactions with Tucker (Angus Sampson, TV’s Fargo, Mad Max: Fury Road) and Specs (played by Whannell).

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Insidious: Chapter 3 is the third best film in this franchise. It stumbles at times but shows definite talent for its cast and crew. I can see the forward trajectory of this series making its mark. Fans of the series should enjoy themselves; everyone else need not apply.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what did you think of Insidious: Chapter 3? Did it take you Further or did you sleep well after? Let me know!

 

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