‘The Conjuring’ Creator James Wan Gives 2 Reasons for the Horror Movie Franchise’s Success

James Wan firmly established himself as a master of horror. Three of his films became franchises: Saw, Insidious and The Conjuring. He’s also produced Lights Out, Mortal Kombat and a slew of others in development. With The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It out in theaters and on HBO Max, Wan reflected on what makes his movies scary.

James Wan points on the red carpet for Annabelle Comes Home
James Wan | Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

Wan participated in a Zoom press conference for The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. Having produced the latest entry for director Michael Chaves, Wan reflected on the success of his horror output. 

James Wan has no secret to horror movies

If there was one secret to making hit horror movies, Wan would have sold it to every horror filmmaker. Wan said he goes by instinct, whether it’s Saw, Insidious or The Conjuring. Fortunately, his instincts have proven strong.

“I don’t think there’s a secret ingredient,” Wan said. “I just want to tell the stories I want to tell [and] I want to tell the stories I want to watch as an audience.”

Reason #1 the ‘Conjuring’ movies are so scary

The Conjuring movies are about real families. When families exhaust every practical explanation for the spooky occurrences disrupting their lives, they call in Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga). The Warrens are a family devoted to ridding the world of supernatural evil.

Ed and Lorraine Warren pray by candlelight
Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson | Ben Rothstein/Warner Bros. Pictures

“If I have to put my finger on something, it’s telling stories with characters that people can relate to. So I believe that’s why, whether it’s Insidious or The Conjuring world with Ed and Lorraine, it’s creating these characters that are really beloved. They’re real people. I mean, definitely in the case of Ed and Lorraine they’re based on real people. And so the more grounded you can make it, the more the horror scenes or the kind of scares you put these characters into play more fearfully. So I think that is the most important ingredient is to let the audience be able to be in the shoes of these characters. Then you can take them on the craziest scariest ride.”

Reason #2 people love ‘The Conjuring’ movies 

Wan also credited the horror audience with a lot of the success of The Conjuring and other horror movies. A willing audience makes it a lot easier to deliver scares to them. 

“I would say that my north star for what makes scary movies scary ultimately is or in the case of The Conjuring, is people love to be scared. That’s the bottom line. The reason why these movies work as well as they do is people want to be scared. It’s like comedy. People want to go see a comedy to laugh. People want to go see a scary film to scream and cry and then laugh.”

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It: Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson investigate occult artifacts
Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson | Ben Rothstein/Warner Bros. Pictures

‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It’ Is the Darkest Film In the Horror Trilogy For 1 Reason

The Conjuring audience buys into the fact that these movies come from the real Warren case files. So director Michael Chaves recreates events witnesses described and an all new audience gets to experience them.

“I think what works for the Conjuring films, at least for me, is starting with something that is real,” Wan said. “So he’s basing some of these scares off reports that people have talked about. If you start with that, then you can kind of embellish on it, but you always keep coming back to that foundation where it was grounded and real to begin with. I think people can tell the difference between things that are based on ‘reality’ and something that is just outlandishly made up.”