Seriously talented (and cute), James Wan has gotten his reputation filling a need that the majority of moviegoers have - true suspenseful horror with a nostalgic feel, terrors that send tremors, chills that send thrills, and a delicious slice of macabre.
Sadly, he reports he'd like to leave the horror genre. He doesn't want to pigeon-hole himself into a genre for too long.
I have mixed feelings. No one else has quite the mood and atmosphere and vintage thrills feel that he does, but at times his plots are rather overused, seeming to borrow parts from other famous horror movies to the point of being almost unoriginal. There is a bit of ego involved for some directors, like Hitchcock and M. Knight having cameos in their work, other directors wanting to utilize the color red or in Wan's case, dolls and vintage music. I'm okay with a director wanting to have a "shtick," but original work is key. Wan's plots were overused, but he knew how to pull out suspense, so you could forgive the deja vu feelings you sometimes have while watching one of his movies.
Still, with no one stepping up to the bat at good old-fashioned suspense horror, utilizing nostalgic elements, and innate fears like clowns, dolls, and the dark, it's a shame to lose any director/producer who might offer something new for all of us who have seen the oldies a million times.
Some of his best known horror works are -
He uses some interesting elements in his films, twists on suburbia and happy couples/families, no character is truly safe from the danger, dolls and props that unsettle us, creepy vintage music, and an overall dark suspenseful tone.
His upcoming movie next year, "Annabelle," looks to be a heavy dose of "Dead Silence," as "Insidious" had hints of "Amityville Horror." This is a spin-off from the doll in "The Conjuring."
What I would tell potential horror moviemakers is this - go back to the 70s era when most of us cut our teeth on horror. Look at Hammer, look at made-for-tv horror, and the very earliest slashers like "Silent Night, Bloody Night." We have overplayed "The Haunting," "The Legend of Hell House," and "The Changeling," "Halloween," "The Fog," and "Phantasm" because of the combination of suspense, darkness, scary locations, and music that plays our emotions like an finely honed horror instrument.
I certainly hope someone steps up to the bat!