"There's only so many PG-13 movies I can make before I get bored," says filmmaker.
James Wan
| Credit: Matt Kennedy/Warner Bros.

Filmmaker James Wan has enjoyed a hell of a decade, first establishing a pair of wildly successful supernatural franchises with his films Insidious and The Conjuring, and then stepping up to direct the blockbusters Furious 7 and Aquaman. So why is Wan, who first made a name for himself with 2004's Saw, returning to his early, gritty and gruesome splatter roots with the R-rated horror film Malignant (out in theaters and on HBO Max Sept. 10)?

"Right after Aquaman 1, I knew I was jumping in to Aquaman 2 at some point, but I needed to take a little break, I needed a palette cleanser," says the director, who is speaking to EW from London where he is indeed shooting the second Aquaman film. "There's only so many PG-13 movies I can make before I get bored of that. I wanted to go back to the kind of movies I used to make that I haven't made for a while. The Conjuring films and the Insidious films are so ghostly and supernatural and they play at a different level of horror. I honestly I just miss my Saw days, my Death Sentence days and my Dead Silence [days], and I wanted to go do those again. I had so much fun making those films. My career has kind of dictated what kind of film I should be doing now. But I thought, you know what, I know I'm coming back to Aquaman 2, so why don't I take this opportunity now. " Did any of Wan's "people" say that maybe such a return to his roots might not be the wisest career choice? "I'm sure they were secretly thinking it," the filmmaker says with a laugh. "I don't know. I think they were just excited that I was excited, that was the bottom line. My people know that I'm very much driven by the projects that excite me. They've tried in the past to get me to do things that I'm not interested in and they have seen firsthand it gets nowhere."

Annabelle Wallis as Madison in 'Malignant'
| Credit: Ron Batzdorff/Warner Bros.

Malignant concerns a woman named Madison who starts having terrifying visions. The character is played by Annabelle Wallis, with whom Wan had previously worked when he was a producer on the 2014 Conjuring universe film Annabelle. "I've loved her ever since and I've always wanted to find something to work with her on," he says. "When we first sent her the script I was fingers-crossed hoping that she would be attracted to it. When she read it, she loved the theme of the movie, where it could allow her to play as an actor, to [walk] that psychological line. Am I crazy? Am I not? Am I stalked by a killer? What's going on?"

Wan didn't entirely recreate the experience of making the first Saw movie, the low budget, Leigh Whannell-written hit which introduced the world to Tobin Bell's villainous Jigsaw. "I didn't make Malignant for a couple of hundred thousand dollars, like I did with Saw," says the director. "The shoot was not different from my first Conjuring film. I definitely had more resources to play with. But at the same time we wanted to not let it get too big. I wanted to keep it down and dirty so that I could actually make a movie that is somewhat down and dirty, but yet have a little bit of money to allow me to do all the effects that I want to do in the film."

| Credit: Ron Batzdorff/Warner Bros.

Saw, Insidious, and The Conjuring all spawned multiple sequels. Does Wan have thoughts about more terrifying tales in the world of Malignant?

"Yes and no," he says. "I've no idea how movies are going to do these days, right? Listen, at this point, I just want people to enjoy the film, I want people to go 'Holy shit, Wan went back to his roots, he did something different to what he had been doing the last ten years of his career.' I don't want people to take me for granted. That's the bottom line. I don't want people to think, oh, he's a one-trick pony. I want people to know that, hey, I was the guy that was labelled the 'torture porn guru,' or whatever the hell it was that they were labelling me back then, before I became the 'supernatural ghost-guy.' Once again, I'm trying to constantly reinvent myself. I don't want people to start having a fixed idea of who they think I am."

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Watch the trailer for Malignant above.

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