How James Wan’s Horror Background Plays Into Aquaman

Jason Momoa is Aquaman

While always invested in the horror genre, director James Wan has been expanding his oeuvre in recent years. It began with Furious 7, and soon we will see his latest contribution to the blockbuster world with Aquaman. That being said, the man certainly isn't letting go of his horror roots, and you can definitely expect them to play into his DC Extended Universe work in specific ways. Said the director during an on-set interview,

It just so happens that you're dealing in a world that is beautiful, magical, but at the same time scary as well. People are terrified of the ocean because they don't know what's down there. There's all these creatures that live down in the ocean that are dangerous to humans... that's one of the things I want to capture; I want to capture the fear that we have of the ocean, the scariness, but at the same time the magical and wonder that comes with it as well. The ocean is such a beautiful place, and so naturally built into the story. My story for this film, our heroes go on this rite of passage journey, on this quest, and along the way they meet all sorts of fun creatures of the deep, let's say; creatures of the deep that Lovecraft would be proud of.

The subject of James Wan's history in the horror genre was one that came up frequently last year when I joined a small group of journalists visiting the set of Aquaman last summer in Melbourne, Australia. It was discussed in multiple interviews throughout the tour, leading to our conversation with Wan himself after production had wrapped for the day. He explained that his vision of Atlantis is going to be a beautiful and wondrous place, but he's also not ignoring the instincts that tell him to explore the terrors that lurk miles below the waves.

So what are these "creatures of the deep" to which James Wan refers? As described by producer Peter Safran, they are the inhabitants of the kingdom known as The Trench, and they are just a bit more monstrous than the other individuals found in the other six undersea kingdoms. Discussing the influences of Wan's horror past on Aquaman, Safran said,

One is very specific sequences, like The Trench, which is his homage to Creature From The Black Lagoon-type scary movies. That whole sequence is classic James Wan, from the way characters are revealed, the way the creatures are revealed, to the actual action that goes into that entire sequence. That'll be a signature James Wan scary sequence.

The producer continued, however, and explained a very different way that Aquaman will feel familiar to those who have followed James Wan's career. More than just being scary, the director's past films have a way of making you legitimately care about the characters, which in turn makes you care more when they are in danger. According to Peter Safran, who has worked with Wan on all of the Conjuring Universe titles, that approach is very much in play in his debut superhero movie:

In terms of how he brings his other genre filmmaking abilities to bear in a superhero movie, his horror movies, generally speaking, whether it's the two Conjuring movies or Insidious, they are incredibly well-reviewed because he's got craftsman-like quality the way he makes it. They're always character driven; he always spends time introducing you to the characters so that when they go through what they ultimately go through you actually feel for them. That's something he clearly does here. He's not a big believer in quick cuts; he's a big believer in letting the action unfold in the cool camerawork.

James Wan's finished work on Aquaman will arrive in theaters on December 21st -- and between now and then be sure to be on to look out for a lot more of our set visit coverage.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.