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Why James Wan Is a Good Fit for a Dead Space Movie

Dead Space was, at one point in time, expected to be the next big franchise from Electronic Arts. For a little while, it was. Three mainline games, multiple spinoffs, a pair of feature films, and several tie-in comics accompanied the original Dead Space series. But, just as it was reeling towards a climactic ending in Dead Space 3, the studio behind the series was unceremoniously canned, resulting in a nearly decade-long hiatus. We would only see the franchise revitalized a few months ago with a remake of the series’ first entry, no doubt spurred by interest in a spiritual successor game, The Callisto Protocol.

With rumors of a live-action film still churning, the latest one to enter the discussion is related to the film’s director. John Carpenter shut down the possibility of joining a Dead Space movie, but someone else is currently being considered for the role. No, it’s not who you might think. James Wan is rumored to direct a live-action Dead Space film, and while the thought may initially disappoint fans of the franchise, he may actually be a good choice in bringing the games to the big screen.

Wan’s Directing Style Is Perfect for Dead Space

Electronic Arts

If James Wan is known for anything, it isn’t subtlety. Similarly, even the most subdued scares in the Dead Space series often precede loud, scary noises and monstrous creatures bursting through air vents. In an odd way, Wan’s directing style feels like an appropriate fit for the kind of fun and atmosphere the Dead Space franchise is closely associated with.

It may help to have a quick refresher on what makes Dead Space so scary. Set in the distant future, a mining expedition on the planet Aegis VII accidentally introduces humanity to a galactic threat beyond human understanding — the “necromorphs.” Similar to a cancerous growth, necromorphs are an alien threat that exists solely to consume and reproduce, springing to life through electromagnetic signals produced by monolithic structures called “markers.”

Dead tissue is bent and twisted into monstrous shapes, operating under the influence of a collective consciousness that gives them deadly efficiency. Because of this, the most dangerous part of necromorphs isn’t their monstrous visage or their terrifying features. In fact, it’s their unrelenting ferocity. As long as they have the ability to hunt, no amount of missing limbs or bullet holes will put them down.

The terror in Dead Space largely stems from fighting these monstrous creations, along with fending off the dangerous influence of their respective markers.

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Without diving into the grotesque details, let’s just say that translating Dead Space into live-action is a lofty task. Luckily, Wan has some experience in giving a malformed monster realistic movements and choreography. Whether you loved or hated his 2021 film Malignant, the climactic fight scene in the police station is an excellent showcase of his talents.

The villain rips through an entire police station with a large bladed weapon, all while doing so with their limbs bending and writhing in the opposite direction they’re supposed to go. At points, the villain eerily resembles Dead Space‘s most iconic necromorph, the “slasher” — a monstrous creature with a similarly gnarled musculature and long, bladed appendages.

That, combined with Wan’s reliance on jump scares, dramatic stings, and over-the-top escalation, feels surprisingly appropriate for bringing a Dead Space film to life. After all, if you’re looking for subtlety in a Dead Space experience, you may want to look for a different series altogether.

Body Horror and Psychological Horror

isaac clarke dead space 2 asylum necromorph
Electronic Arts

A highly-praised element of Dead Space 2 and the third game’s expansion, Awakened, was how it represented a crucial part of Dead Space’s terror. The necromorphs rely on dead tissue to grow their numbers. If there’s nothing dead, necromorphs can’t exist. That’s where the markers come in.

Through psychological manipulation, the markers can induce mass hysteria and homicidal rage in those who remain exposed to its influence, directly facilitating the creation of our favorite fleshy monsters.

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Isaac Clarke, in particular, the protagonist of the franchise, is frequently tormented by his experiences with the necromorphs, even going so far as to purposefully isolate himself from everything in Dead Space 3. Frankly, we can’t blame the guy. If your deceased girlfriend kept trying to jab you with needles while the walls became scrawled with alien markings and splatters of blood, we’d want a break from it all too.

We’ll be blunt — messing with someone’s perception of reality is usually an excuse to “go wild” in terms of filmmaking. Given that Wan has had plenty of experience in melding the supernatural with reality across The Conjuring and Insidious, there’s no doubt he’ll put his personal touch on the franchise’s terrifying hallucination sequences.

The influence of the markers isn’t given nearly as much screen time as our necrotic aliens, despite their discovery and mind-altering influence setting the stage for the terror to come.

There are certainly worse directors that could be tasked with adapting the Dead Space franchise to film. Wan’s consistent filmography gives him a realistic chance of doing the newly-revived series justice. If anything, Malignant, in particular, showed that he’s not afraid to dive into a similar kind of unhinged body horror that Dead Space perfectly embodies.

The rumor mill will keep churning for now, but one thing remains certain: a Dead Space movie is still on people’s minds.

This story originally appeared on Movieweb

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