Malignant: James Wan’s Scariest Horror Marks
Warning: The following contains spoilers for Smart
James Wan has become one of the most famous filmmakers of the modern era. He’s also almost certainly one of the most successful directors who started out in horror. Wan is an author of the genre, and there are many consistent flavors in his horror releases.
From the color palette present in Insidious and Smart to the type of setting most of his films are set in, Wan is consistent in the best possible way. Although its trademarks are not present in furious 7, viewers can watch the trench scene in Aquaman as a further plunge into the genre. Smart is his dive into horror before perhaps revisiting the trench in his superhero sequel.
7 A haunted protagonist with a circle of trust
As with other James Wan films, SmartThe main character of is his best and, too, is quite haunted. However, in Smart, it is a possession of a different variety.
Like the protagonists of other Wan films, Madison is surrounded by both people she loves and heartwarming authority figures. Both are essential at a time in her life when things go wrong. While there is no separate entity terrorizing Madison in Smart-at least not in terms of physical embodiment – she always has a circle of people to surround her.
6 A suburban environment
While Conspiracy took place on a farm in Rhode Island, most of Wan’s films are set in the suburbs. Insidious and Insidious: Chapter 2 are among those. Same Death sentence (a full-fledged horror film) took place largely in the suburbs.
The allure of the suburbs is not lost on horror fans. A lonely place is one thing, like The thing, but the suburbs are meant to be heartwarming. There are other people on all sides, so there shouldn’t be a real risk of danger. From Michael Myers to Insidiousdemon to Gabriel himself, the suburbs work horror.
5 To scare progressively
Wan will open his movie with a scare to get the audience’s attention, but there’s usually some character training before the next scare.
Smart follows this trend, but doubles. The first scene features Gabriel at the office via bouncy cuts and his moaning cries. Then the narrative moves to Madison and her husband, Derek. The audience is cradled in a sense of security, but Derek is brutally murdered. It basically serves as a one-two punch, and the second punch is the real shock.
4 Flashes of the Antagonist
One of Wan’s visual hallmarks as a director is the hidden, fuzzy protagonist. A character moves to the front of the house, and at some point the villain’s face will blink (or just crouch down next to a laundry basket).
Smart Wan remains loyal to this brand for the first two-thirds. Gabriel is usually either shrouded in darkness or so far in the background that viewers can’t even get close to a good glimpse. Then, halfway through, Wan will show his face up close (but only briefly and intermittently). The third act, where Gabriel’s true identity is revealed, dispenses with the cover-up entirely.
3 Revisiting the past territory
In Insidious, Elise (Lin Shaye) reveals to Josh and Renai Lambert (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) that her shoot to save their son is not her first. In fact, she did one in the past for Josh Lambert himself.
A personal connection to the terrifying surrounding events makes it reappear in Smart. In fact, this personal connection is essentially the common thread of the film. At first, Gabriel is an enigma; Madison fears that she will be next after her husband’s death. Next, Gabriel is believed to be a reborn imaginary friend. Next, it is revealed that he is not an imaginary friend, but Madison’s twin brother. Finally, her connection with him turns out to be more than just psychological or supernatural. Smart takes it one step further by making Gabriel not only a part of Madison’s past, but also a part of Madison herself.
2 The villain is behind you
Far from a single horror trope, what separates Wan’s use from the impending antagonist is what comes before it. In Smart, the trope is frequently used, especially during the big scene of Derek Mitchell. It’s also what the public can expect if Smart become another franchise Wan.
A figure sits on the sofa and watches TV. Then the television turns off, only for Gabriel to break his neck from behind (and to the side). Gabriel frequently stands behind his victims throughout the film, from his terror in Madison to the murder of the three medics. But Derek’s scene is key to Wan: the hunted character often gets a brief glimpse of the hunter.
1 Red and blue
Insidious has arguably the best example of Wan’s affinity for a red-blue color scheme. “The Further” is bathed in an ominous red, while the Lambert house is predominantly blue (at least one shade, sometimes even in the daytime scenes).
Wan’s most recent has a similar visual layout, but one more box is checked: Smart serves as a Giallo alarm clock. The Lakeside House is an early indication that a comparable color scheme will be used. Throughout Gabriel’s harassment of Derek, the shots are dark but there is an equally dark shade of blue that permeates the screen (especially when the TV is on in the shot). During Madison / Emily’s vivid and waking nightmares, the image is almost entirely made up of piercing red, apparently a direct callback to Dario Argento Suspiria (1977).
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