Leigh Whannell has been a recognizable name among fans of the horror genre for close to two decades having gotten his big break co-creating the Saw franchise alongside James Wan, before going on to write the first two Insidious movies and make his directorial debut on the third, but he hasn’t yet made the shift into blockbuster territory that his old creative partner has.
Wan has helmed two billion dollar box office smash hits after overseeing the seventh installment in the Fast & Furious franchise and Aquaman, but Whannell hasn’t been afforded a similar opportunity. That being said, his modern spin on The Invisible Man was massively profitable thanks to earning over $143 million on a $7 million budget, while he’s sticking with the Universal Monsters to tackle The Wolfman with Ryan Gosling.
The 44 year-old has only directed three features so far, but 2018’s sci-fi thriller Upgrade proved there were many more strings to his bow than simply gore and jump scares. Logan Marshall-Green stars as a quadriplegic fitted with an experimental chip that gives an artificial intelligence control of his body, which he uses to hunt down the people responsible for the death of his wife.
Made for just $3 million, Upgrade is one of the more underrated lo-fi actioners of recent years, with Whannell delivering a string of accomplished set pieces that belie the minuscule production costs. The movie is now blowing up on Netflix, too, having exploded out of nowhere to become the thirteenth most-watched film on the platform around the world. A sequel might not be happening, but the good news for fans is that a TV spinoff is in the works, although we haven’t heard much about it since the series was first announced last year.