Australian screenwriter/producer/actor, Leigh Whannell can now add “director” to his list of talents with the release of Insidious: Chapter 3. Responsible for spawning two of the most profitable horror franchises of the new millennium, Whannell is out to prove that he is more than just “that guy who works with James Wan.” Whannell is quite the prolific worker and if Insidious: Chapter 3 is half as good as any of his previous films, we’re going to be in for one hell of a ride. Submitted for approval: Leigh Whannell’s 10 Best Films.
10) SAW III (2006)
The smash success of Saw greenlit a series of sequels that earned nearly $900 billion worldwide at the box office. Whannell and Wan were the masterminds behind the original film, but Whannell lent his talents as the screenwriter for both the second and third films. Saw III is arguably where the franchise took a turn for the extreme. The kill traps are bigger and more gruesome than ever before, and Whannell’s overactive imagination is to thank.
9) DOGGIE HEAVEN (2008)
Whannell may be known for his horror, but he’s an incredibly talented comedic writer, too The one-liners and jokes littered throughout his horror films always land well with audiences, but he and Wan’s short film about a guy winding up in the “wrong” afterlife is ridiculously funny. Lin Shaye (Insidious) stars as a gun-toting granny, and Whannell stars as our leading man.
8) DEAD SILENCE (2007)
A year after Saw, Whannell and Wan were pushed to crank out something new, and fast. The ventriloquist/creepy doll film Dead Silence failed to match the success of Whannell and Wan’s other films, but the film has gained a pretty die-hard legion of fans. It’s like the Goosebumps episode “Night of the Living Dummy” for people over the age of 11.
7) SAW 0.5 (2003)
The short film that started it all, Whannell and Wan’s source material for the biggest horror franchise of the new millennium completely shaped the films ahead. The infamous “reverse bear trap” scene is shown with a man named David (played by Whannell) and the scene is almost shot-for-shot, word-for-word exactly what we would later see in Saw with Amanda (Shawnee Smith). The original short can be viewed on the second disc of Saw: Uncut Edition.
6) INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 2 (2013)
The sequel to Whannell and Wan’s supernatural film, Insidious, set the record for the most successful September opening film of all time. Chapter II expanded the universe of “the further” and cemented its place in horror history as more than just a throwaway franchise. The film also marked the return of Wan and Whannell as a tag-team, as Wan made The Conjuring in between the Insidious films.
5) THE MULE (2014)
The most “different” of any of the other films on this list, The Mule was Whannell’s foray into crime/thriller. Angus Sampson (who plays Whannell’s ghost-hunting partner, Tucker, in the Insidious films) co-wrote (and co-directed/starred) the film with Whannell, aiding to their Australian takeover. The Mule follows a would-be drug mule that refuses to relieve himself and expel the cargo stored up his, well, his ass. The Mule balances the line between hilarity and genuine thrills effortlessly, and proves Whannell is so much more than just a horror writer.
4) SAW II (2005)
Right on the heels of the first film, a sequel to Saw was immediately greenlit. Whannell and Wan were busy working on Dead Silence, but with the assistance of director/co-writer Darren Lynn Bousman, his script “The Desperate” was modified and transformed into Saw II. The success of this film propelled the film into a franchise and it remains the most financially successful of the entire series.
3) COOTIES (2014)
From the trailer alone, this film looks like it will jump right into the hearts of horror lovers everywhere. Co-written with Glee creator Ian Brennan, Cooties combines Whannell’s comedic talents with his perfect grasp on horror films. Of his entire filmography, Cooties is arguably his most fun. The film made its premiere at the Stanley Film Festival this year and will hit video on demand on September 18, 2015.
2) INSIDIOUS (2010)
The best “haunted family” film since Poltergeist, the horrifically creepy Insidious showed that Whannell and Wan are true horror forces. Insidious is a horror film devoid of the gross-out gore that made them famous, and instead relied on genuinely terrifying writing and execution. Insidious was the most profitable film of 2011 and gave audiences everywhere some pure, unadulterated nightmare fuel.
1) SAW (2004)
The franchise is remembered for its extreme gore, unique kill styles, and iconic puppet, but we often forget just how incredible the first Saw film truly is. A twist ending that left audiences jaw-dropped and the first time gore-hound pleasing cinema was accepted by the masses, Saw is arguably the most important horror film to come out, post-9/11. The film is fascinating, disgusting, thrilling, and scary as hell. The original Saw film is a masterpiece, and Whannell and Wan’s partnership is a gift to horror fans everywhere.
B.J. Colangelo is a filmmaker, performer and contributor to Icons Of Fright, Bitch Flicks, Day of the Woman and others. She tweets at @bjcolangelo.