Movies

The Conjuring director’s Malaysian ghost stories

TODAY talks to James Wan about 'The Conjuring'
Phin Wong TODAY talks to film director James Wan about his new paranorma horror movie, 'The Conjuring'.
James Wan owes his Hollywood success to his uncles and aunties in Sarawak
Published: 6:02 PM, August 7, 2013
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SAN FRANCISCO — It is, in some gloriously perverted way, a proud admission to say that James Wan, the “grandfather of torture porn” (his words, not ours) was born from our loins. And by “our loins”, I mean across the Causeway. Okay, way across. In Sarawak, specifically.

But, hey, when it comes to things we in the region really love — chilli crab, bak kut teh and scary movies — it is worth the over-reaching claim.

This is, after all, the guy who, thanks to the Saw movie series (he directed the first one and was executive director of Saw II, III and IV), has been responsible for more missing body parts than the digital imaging department at those fashion mags.

“I am extremely squeamish. I know you guys will have a hard time believing that since I’m the grandfather of torture porn, but I’m extremely squeamish about gore and blood and guts and stuff like that,” he said. “So when I watch a movie that I did not make, I have to look away.”

The 36-year-old Wan moved to Australia at a young age, and has since made a name for himself in Hollywood not just with the Saw franchise, but also with the 2010 sleeper hit Insidious (its sequel hits screens in September).

He is, with his latest — and best — scary movie, The Conjuring, the reigning king of terror. The film opened huge in the United States with US$41.9 million (S$53.1 million) and crossed the US$100-million mark in just two weeks. Not too shabby for a little US$20-million haunted house flick.

The Conjuring, which stars Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Lily Taylor and Ron Livingston, tells the apparently true story of what happens when the Perron family moved into an old farmhouse to get away from city life.

The reason for the movie’s phenomenal success is simply that is it the scariest thing to hit cinemas in a long time.

“Growing up in Malaysia, when I was much younger, my aunties and uncles and grandparents would tell me ghost stories and I loved that. I can’t help but be fascinated by that world. As I got older, I thought, ‘Hey, I want to make scary movies and scare other people as well’. It’s fun!” said Wan.

“When I was growing up, my mum used to work in a hospital in Malaysia, and she would tell me these stories (about what happened) in the hospitals she worked at, and in some ways I’ve put them into Insidious, I’ve put them into The Conjuring. In a lot of ways, the stories that I’ve heard have found their way into my films.”

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