Full spoilers for the new Scream follow! After 2011's Scream 4 lampooned horror movie remakes fans were very curious where the 2022 Scream movie would set its sights. Though the film does make a few references to modern terms like "elevated horror" and critical darlings like The Babadook, the main thesis for Scream (2022) is fandom entitlement, and the way they set this all up is by invoking one figure that knows a little something about being on the receiving end of fan scorn, Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson. Though his name is never said, the Academy Award nominated writer/director is central figure to the movie's premise. Again, spoilers!
As fans of the Scream franchise know, there's an ongoing "movie within the movie" with the "Stab" movies. Based on the book by Gale Weathers, the Stab movies started out as hilarious riffs on the films as the sequels continued (Scream 2 begins with the premiere of Stab, Scream 3 is set around the production of Stab 3, and Scream 4 begins with an extended opening showing how ridiculous the series got with Stab 6 and Stab 7). In the new Scream however, the eighth film in the Stab series was released in the not-too-distant past and drew the ire of "hardcore" and "true" "fans" of the franchise. When dropping the seeds for this as a catlyst for the plot, the characters tease that this eighth stab movie was the one 'by the Knives Out guy," not only referencing Rian Johnson without saying his name but drawing a parallel to his work in the Star Wars franchise as The Last Jedi was Episode 8 in the main series.
In a new interview, Scream co-writer James Vanderbilt opened up about the decision to use Johnson's status within some fandom circles as a plot device, telling The Wrap:
"We loved the idea that someone had made one that was not well received. Much like certain directors have made big IP movies that fandoms have rejected in an enormous way. There is a very tiny percentage of people who feel such an ownership over an IP and have such anger toward people that if they don't do things exactly the way they want to, spew this [stuff], and that feels like something that didn't exist 10 years ago."
"I think watching how people attacked him as a person was, oh we're in new territory here," Vanderbilt added. "In 'Scream' 1 they talk about Wes Carpenter movies, in 'Scream 2' they talk about Robert Rodriguez directed Stab. There is a great tradition of commenting on other filmmakers who are peers of the time, and that felt like a very natural thing. Rian directed this big IP that was divisive. We felt like if someone directed the 'Stab' movie and it were divisive, it would be fun if it were Rian."
To his credit, Johnson seems amused by the joke, retweeting a meme about it on Twitter after the film opened.
Scream is now playing in theaters.