Few filmmakers working today are able to scare the hell out audiences quite like James Wan. Born in Malaysia, though raised in Australia, the 36-year-old director has been inching his way towards becoming Hollywood's elite horror director since his independently made 2004 debut, Saw, exploded at the box office, spawned six sequels, and now stands as the new millennium's most influential and important scary movie. Not bad for a film that cost only $1.2 million to produce and was written by Wan's close friend, Leigh Whannell.
After the first Saw, Wan fell back from directing any of its sequels, instead taking detours into major studio collaboration (Dead Silence, 2007) and a '70s-style revenge thriller (Death Sentence, 2007). It wasn't until 2011 that Wan reclaimed his horror dominance with Insidious, which brought he and screenwriter Whannell back to their indie roots and turned around a whopping $95 million profit. For horror fans, that's reassuring, too—Insidious is engineered solely to haunt your dreams, and with it's memorable imagery and perfectly timed shock moments, it accomplishes just that.
Tomorrow, Wan's back in theaters with The Conjuring, a highly effective exercise in haunted house movie creepiness that includes demonic possession, pale-faced ghosts, an exorcism, and some of the best scare payoffs to come from Hollywood in a long time. Though it's powered by Wan's new-age directorial slickness, The Conjuring is nicely old-school, giving the lifelong horror junkie the chance to cleverly pay homage to films like The Amityville Horror and The Changeling.
With Insidious and now The Conjuring, Wan has established himself as a supreme master of cinematic frights. Which begs the question, what scares him? In this exclusive Complex video interview (see above), Wan reveals the things that give him sleepless nights, as well as explains the techniques he uses to conjure up true fear.