Every Leigh Whannell Horror Movie Ranked From Worst To Best

Image via Blumhouse Productions

Few voices have been more influential in the horror genre over the past decade than Leigh Whannel. Although he only started directing in 2015, Whannell’s scripts defined an entire era of horror, and he moved from the genre of supernatural horrors and hauntings to much more visceral and adjoining material. real. Whannell is one of the great modern minds in horror, and here’s a look at everything he’s been involved with writing, directing, or both, from worst to best.

dead silence

After the success of Seen, it’s clear that Whannell and James Wan felt the need to raise the bar for their next project. Unfortunately, this project was dead silence, which is tasteful enough, but is canceled largely because its characters and dialogue don’t sing. Whannell doesn’t deserve all the blame for this movie’s flaws, but the end result speaks for itself. He and Wan are usually great collaborators, but this time around they missed the mark.


Whannell was more directly involved in the third installment of Seen than in the second since he wrote the screenplay and co-wrote the story with James Wan. This time, Jigsaw tests a man whose son was killed in a drunk driving accident. The twist, however, is that this movie also follows the villain, who appears to be bedridden but desperately wants to be kept alive so he can orchestrate one last test. The movie works in spurts, in part because Darren Lynn Bousman’s direction feels a bit anonymous, Saw III does not take off like any of its predecessors.

Insidious: Chapter 3

Whannell’s directorial debut came with this Insidious prequel, which tells the story of a psychic who is reluctantly recruited to help a teenage girl contact her late mother. Whannell’s solo entry into this saga has divided critics. While it’s certainly refreshing to have a different perspective on the Insidious universe, the film doesn’t vibrate the way the first two installments did. Whannell shows a lot of promise in that initial effort, though, and that promise would eventually pay off in his later directing efforts.

Saw II

Following the twist revealed at the end of Seen was a tall order, and it initially looked like Wan and Whannell wouldn’t be available to do it. Eventually, however, Whannell became free enough to provide rewrites for the script. The sequel tells the story of a group of prisoners who are trapped by Jigsaw and must complete a series of challenges in order to retrieve a nerve agent that would otherwise kill them in two hours. It’s not as thrilling as the first installment, but thanks to an expanded budget, Saw II is still a good time.

Insidious: Chapter 2

The financial success of Insidious made a sequel almost inevitable. When the movie arrived, it proved that Whannell had an interesting place to tell the story. Although the film was not the smash hit that the first installment did, Chapter 2 deepens the lore of the universe by focusing more directly on Patrick Wilson’s Josh and his story as an astral projector. The film takes on a number of surprising twists. While it doesn’t have the same subversive spark that made the first film a triumph, it still proves to be quite exciting.


The first of Whannell’s collaborations with James Wan, Seen is often remembered for how it helped redefine the horror genre. The film tells the story of two men who find themselves trapped in a room and are essentially forced to solve puzzles to find their way. It’s a bloody, divisive film that comes with a twist in its final moments that will endure for years to come. Wan does a lot with his camera to make Seen compelling, but Whannell should also be given credit for all he did to make the film feel more psychologically grounded than much of what horror was at the time.


Whannell’s second directorial effort saw him combine his horror skills with a sci-fi twist to terrific effect. Upgrade tells the story of an auto mechanic who is attacked in his car and loses his wife in the process. After being implanted with an AI program that allows him to walk again, he seeks revenge on the men who killed his wife. Along the way, he begins to discover that he isn’t in control of his body as well as he once believed. At the end of the film, he fights against a machine that wants to completely take over his body.

The invisible Man

Elisabeth Moss got a lot of credit for her performance in The invisible Man, but Whannell’s work as writer and director on the project was perhaps more important to the final product. This version of the story – which sees a woman stalked by her brilliant, sociopathic, invisible husband – is chilling in part because there’s nothing supernatural about it. This is the story of a manipulative man and the woman who finds herself totally bound to him against her will. Watching her break free was one of the big thrills of cinema in 2020.


James Wan is often considered one of the authors of contemporary horror, but Insidious is a great example of the influence a good script can have on the end product. The film plays with incredibly familiar horror concepts, but it introduces just enough of them to make them feel newly alive. Insidious is basically a twist on The Exorcist, but which puts the parents of the comatose child much more directly into the action of the story as it unfolds. Depictions of astral projection are thrilling, but Whannell knows enough to keep this story rooted in the family at its center.

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