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  • Where Should the 'Scream' Franchise Go Next?; Zack Snyder's 'Rebel Moon' Underperforms on Netflix

Where Should the 'Scream' Franchise Go Next?; Zack Snyder's 'Rebel Moon' Underperforms on Netflix

Plus, Barack Obama's favorite movies of the year, and a plea for Oscar voters to watch 'Nyad' before casting their ballots.

It’s the last Thursday of 2023 — do you know where all of your awards screeners are?

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, but last night I enjoyed an epic doubleheader of two “classics” that I had never seen before — Michael Mann’s The Last of the Mohicans followed by Martin Scorsese’s After Hours. I liked them both, but I’ll be honest… neither really lived up to their esteemed reputations and while I’m sure both blew some minds back in the day, I would say those films are very much products of their times.

I also watched Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s The Beasts yesterday and thought it was excellent. A gripping edge-of-your-seat thriller that had me squirming on my couch during its climactic scene. French actor Denis Ménochet (the farmer from the opening scene of Inglourious Basterds) was fantastic, as were Luis Zahera and Diego Anido as his antagonistic neighbors. Tonight, with my better half working late, I plan to watch Albert Serra’s Pacifiction.

I plan to unveil my Top 10 list during the first week of January, so I hope you’ll subscribe for that and much, much more, including some interesting intel on one of Hollywood’s biggest franchises and what its next chapter may look like.

Speaking of which, in tonight’s edition, you’ll read about would-be Scream 7 director Christopher Landon, Coralie Fargeat, Zack Snyder, Christopher Nolan, Paul Giamatti, Diana Nyad, Kevin Spacey, and Barack Obama, whowsletters is rumored to be putting The InSneider on his Top 10 list of entertainment ne. But again, that’s just a rumor. We’ll see if he ever gets around to publishing that one. He’s a busy man, after all. Read on for more…

With Scream 7 in Utter Disarray, Where Should the Franchise Go Next?

A few days ago, director Christopher Landon revealed that he had “formally exited” Scream 7 “weeks ago.” He called it “a dream job that turned into a nightmare,” referencing the very public firing of star Melissa Barrera and the exit of Jenna Ortega —the former no doubt the result of “a divided world.”

While Landon said he “was honored to have even the briefest moment basking in their glow,” referring to Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson, he noted that “it’s time to move on,” though his two tweets on the matter don’t explicitly say it was his choice to walk away after everything that happened. That said, I can’t imagine that Spyglass let Landon go for simply throwing up his hands online — i.e. “this was not my decision to make” — after the movie he signed on to direct suddenly looked very different for reasons beyond his control.

Landon wrote that his exit would “disappoint some and delight others,” but that’s where he’s wrong. I happen to think he was a good choice, and I think that’s how the rest of the fanbase felt as well, so I strongly suspect that his exit will disappoint many and delight very few.

But now the question turns to where Spyglass should go from here.

I know one Scream fan who would like to see Spyglass sell off the rights to the franchise, given everything that has happened. The argument in favor of that is that Scream is coming off a high note at the box office, seeing as how Scream VI was the highest-grossing film since the original. The latest sequel proved there’s still very much an audience for these movies.

The argument for selling the asset while it’s highly valued isn’t a bad one, but it may have also been made in the misguided hope that fans will boycott the next film after everything that has happened, and continue to ignore the franchise so long as Spyglass is in charge of it.

Personally, I don’t really think that Scream fans care which production company’s logo is in front of the movie. If Spyglass makes a new one, fans will go see it, and as long as it’s made for a responsible price, I expect it will once again do very well. So I don’t think that Spyglass should sell off the rights — if they play their cards right, this could be a cash cow for them for years to come.

But the fact is that, whether right or wrong, Spyglass allowed politics to get in the way of business. The Scream franchise is their golden goose and they risked killing it to speak out on behalf of what they felt was right… and such is their right.

But now they have a problem.

I mean, they had a problem before all this went down because the last two movies have sucked, but I know my opinion means nothing to them and those sequels performed quite well for Spyglass, so why would they give a shit what anyone thinks about them so long as audiences keep showing up? But I digress…

So again, now they have a real problem.

Though two of the so-called “Core Four” remain, Spyglass can’t really continue the saga of the Carpenter sisters without the Carpenter sisters. The company just laid a bunch of groundwork over two movies, but now, they have to start all over. Do they go back to the basics and bring back Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox? That seems like the safest bet. Spyglass may not want to break open the bank for those two, but they’re left with very few options otherwise, and it’s not like Ortega was going to come cheap.

The other option would be, of course, to reboot the entire thing and start from scratch. Either with a new Sidney Prescott, or a new final girl altogether. Or guy! Who knows? Maybe the next Scream film should take you behind the mask and unfold from the killer’s point of view. To retain the air of mystery that the franchise has become known for, you could have two killers, and reveal the identity of one early on, keeping us in suspense for the partner-in-crime reveal, just to mess with the formula. I mean, for a series that has been all about rules, maybe it’s time for Scream to break all the rules and operate as if there aren’t any for a change.

For years, I’ve said that I’d like to see Scream mix it up a bit — starting with the costume. I realize that Ghostface is the one constant in this franchise, but could the mask get a makeover of sorts? Could we get a rainbow cloak instead of a black one? I’ll take anything at this point. And a new knife would be great, too. Perhaps something a bit more distinctive than the ol’ black handle.

I also wouldn’t mind seeing Scream change up its victim/killer profile a bit. I know these movies are designed for teenagers, but I could see a fun Scream movie where the teens themselves are red herrings and it’s their parents who are the real targets. Here’s a quick pitch off the top of my head.

You do go back to the original, and in particular, the opening scene and the first two people you see in this franchise — Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore) and Steve Orth (Kevin Patrick Walls).

I know Casey Becker was technically an only child, but let’s ret-con that element and give her a kid sister named Sasha, who was five years younger than her. Casey was 17 in 1996 and Sasha was 12… like me. So in 2024, she’ll be 40 years old.

Sasha carries the scars of her sister’s murder but she doesn’t have time to dwell on the pain because she has a little girl of her own now. I’ve spent years advocating for the Scream movies to have a bit more heart and acknowledge the loss of past characters, so there would be a touching scene in which Sasha gives her daughter a beaded bracelet that Casey either used to wear herself or made for Sasha when they were kids.

Either way, Sasha has a family, including a husband who owns a gym. Is he having an affair with one of the gym’s 25-year-old trainers? Does he want to kill his wife Chris Watts-style and restart his life? He’s just one of our red herrings. There are a bunch of them, naturally.

But the killer turns out to be… Steve’s older brother, who was off at medical school when Steve was killed and forced to miss his brother’s funeral due to finals. Initially, I thought I created that character out of thin air, but apparently, Steve actually does have an older brother in this series, and the character had a quick cameo as a doctor in Scream 4.

Before he went off to med school, Dr. Orth warned Steve not to date Casey, as anyone who would dump her loving boyfriend — Matthew Lillard’s Stu Macher — would only turn around and do it again to him, eventually. He wanted to spare his brother that pain, but Casey had Steve wrapped around her finger.

If only Steve hadn’t dated her, maybe he’d still be alive today. It’s all Casey’s fault, and if he can’t punish her then he’ll punish her sister, having harbored a grudge against the entire Becker family ever since.

During their final confrontation, Sasha begs Dr. Orth to put down his surgical knife (see… it’s different), as they’re actually more alike than he thinks. They share each other’s pain and trauma, as they both lost a sibling that night.

But Dr. Orth doesn’t listen, and just as he’s about to stab Sasha, her young daughter kills him. Will she be traumatized for the rest of her life, or did she get a little taste for killing while saving her mother? Spyglass could explore it in a sequel led by Sasha and her daughter, or it could simply make this movie a one-off. I just like the idea of moving off the Prescott family saga while maintaining a connection to the original Woodsboro murders.

Heck, maybe Principal Himbry (Henry Winkler) had kids who are now looking to avenge his death and slaughter a bunch of entitled teenagers. I could do this all day…

But my Casey and Steve-centric pitch aside, here’s the one thing I think it’s high past time for the Scream franchise to have — a female writer and a female director. This series could use a feminine touch, one that would think to introduce a bracelet scene like the one I sketched out above.

James Vanderbilt will always have my eternal respect for Zodiac, but he is simply not the guy for these Scream movies, and if Spyglass’ development executives don’t recognize that, then I don’t know what to tell Gary Barber. Call me.

Furthermore, Scream could use a little bit of style — other than the first film, these movies have largely been devoid of style. There’s an anonymity to the filmmaking, which boasts no directorial signature or flare. I think Scream would benefit from a different aesthetic. Julia Ducournau (Raw) would be an inspired choice, but I don’t think she wants to “go Hollywood” any more than Kathryn Bigelow wants to direct a superhero movie.

If I were a Spyglass exec, I’d call over to Universal and see if I could get a look at The Substance from Coralie Fargeat, the director of Revenge. That film stars Margaret Qualley, Demi Moore, and Dennis Quaid (Did he replace the late Ray Liotta? It seems like it…), and if that movie is even halfway decent, I’d hire her in the hopes of bringing some intensity and a sense of danger back to the Scream franchise.

And if not Fargeat, then Spyglass should be looking at Karyn Kusama (The Invitation) and Ninja Thyberg (Pleasure), the latter of whom would be another outside-the-box choice, though she’s also an uncompromising filmmaker who may not take kindly to the kind of studio interference that would come with this assignment.

And now, to quote Landon, “I have nothing more to add to the conversation other than I hope Wes’ legacy thrives.”

This is my Star Wars, and now is the time to course-correct. Don’t blow this unique opportunity… again.

Inside the Disappointing Numbers for Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon - Part One: A Child of Fire

If Part Two wasn’t already in the can, would Netflix even bother making it?

It would be unfair to call Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon - Part One: A Child of Fire a “flop” because it’s not… but it’s a lot closer to a ”flop” than the “hit” that the trades are bending over backward to spin for the streamer.

According to What’s on Netflix, which does a great job of tracking The Big N, Rebel Moon took in 23.9 million views over its opening weekend. When you compare that figure to other Netflix original movies such as Murder Mystery 2 (42.9 million), The Mother (42.9 million), Extraction 2 (42.8 million) Leave the World Behind (41.7 million) Heart of Stone (33.1 million), You People (28.3) million, and The Killer (27.9 million), Rebel Moon does not stack up favorably.

Of course, Netflix would argue that all of those movies feature major stars, which Rebel Moon certainly does not. With all due respect to the talented Sofia Boutella, she’s not a household name like Adam Sandler, Jennifer Lopez, Chris Hemsworth, Julia Roberts, Gal Gadot or Eddie Murphy.

Meanwhile, both halves of Rebel Moon reportedly cost $166 million in total or $83 million per movie. The producers of Rebel Moon could then say, ‘Heart of Stone cost $150 million, so we only cost $16 million more, and if you double our opening numbers (assuming that the same number of people who watched Part One also watch Part Two when it arrives in April), that’s 47.8 million, which would be 14.7 million more people than Heart of Stone — well worth that extra $16 million, no?’

And there are all kinds of other hidden factors to consider, making it difficult to make such comparisons. As I said, Heart of Stone benefits from having a movie star, while Rebel Moon would seem to benefit from the fact that Netflix has more subscribers now than it did when Heart of Stone was released, right?

The more interesting comparison may be The Killer, which is why I extended the list as far as I did. Yes, Michael Fassbender is a bigger star than anyone in Rebel Moon, but he’s also not quite a household name the way that the A-listers named above are. I wonder how many subscribers even watched that movie because of Fassbender — most people I know watched The Killer because it’s the new film from David Fincher, much in the same way that it doesn’t really matter who stars in Rebel Moon, only that it’s the new film from Zack Snyder. 

If you look at it through that lens, The Killer clearly performed better, and its budget is comparable. I had been certain that it didn’t cost nearly as much as Rebel Moon, and was prepared to joke that a Netflix accountant would say I’d be surprised by how much it cost, but a quick Google search suggests that The Killer cost even more — a reported $175 million according to the internet, which may be notoriously unreliable, but feels correct on this one for some reason. If it is, Fincher could argue that the $9 million more that Netflix spent on his film garnered them 4 million more views — money well spent if we’re using Rebel Moon as a baseline.

Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that Netflix can make almost anything a hit by hitting a few buttons, as they can program Rebel Moon to auto-play after every single movie and TV show on the service, no matter what you watch — algorithm be damned. It is that easy. So I’m not sure how invested I am in these self-reported numbers, even though we all jumped for joy when Netflix announced it would begin being more transparent with viewership levels.

Here’s what matters the most to me and says just about everything. I consider myself a Zack Snyder fan… and I haven’t seen Rebel Moon. That’s due to a combination of everyone saying it’s terrible, and Snyder announcing plans for a Director’s Cut that I definitely do plan to watch. But why would I want to watch a neutered version of the film if I know there’s a better one that not only exists but is likely coming soon? 

Snyder could argue that people have been busy celebrating the holidays with their families instead of being glued to Netflix, but one could obviously offer up a counterargument that families gather around the TV set and love watching movies together on Christmas — though this holiday, for the first time in a long time, all the new movies, both streaming and in theaters, had to compete with a juicy slate of NFL games.

Here’s the thing… even if 12 million people had watched this thing (which also benefitted from way more promotion than, say, The Mother or You People), Netflix was always going to call this movie a hit. No matter what.

The streamer has to be all-in on Snyder right now because he’s one of few filmmakers who brings his own fanbase to the table, and they’re counting on a viewership bump for Part Two. The streamer is so invested in this particular property that it is developing comic books and video games set within the textured world of Rebel Moon, so it is in its own self-interest for the film to be seen as successful, if not actually successful.

Netflix may not be fudging the numbers but by not providing the context that What’s on Netflix so helpfully provides, they’re allowing the media to carry water for them and for Snyder, knowing that his army of trolls will go after any outlet that dares to earn their wrath. That’s how you wind up with certain trades describing 23.9 million as “a strong debut.”

I happen to like Snyder as a director. Dawn of the Dead. 300. Watchmen. These are good movies. And y’know what, I enjoyed The Snyder Cut much more than the theatrical cut of Justice League. But imagine if Rebel Moon was undeniably great and all the reviews were glowing. Then I’d watch the movie and I’m sure millions more would, too. Instead, Snyder practically sabotaged his own release with those Director’s Cut comments. I simply have no interest in watching something if I know a better version will be released in due time.

And by the way, does Netflix even bother with the R-rated cut now, given how many people actually bothered to watch A Child of Fire?

Let’s fast-forward now to a few months from now when the second film debuts to similar numbers — possibly better, because now it’s a recognizable IP, but possibly worse, because the first film landed with a thud. If you’re Netflix, do you keep drinking your own Kool-aid and sign up for more Rebel Moon adventures, or do you let Snyder walk with the idea that he’s not worth the money or the trouble?

And perhaps more importantly, if you’re a rival studio/streamer, is that 23.9 million (on Netflix, no less!) good enough for you? Do you step up and buy his next pitch? Rebel Moon was given multiple premieres across the globe as well as a limited theatrical release, plus, as What’s on Netflix notes, the film was released early — during U.S. primetime hours on Thursday night rather than early Friday morning like most Netflix movies. So Rebel Moon benefitted from more time on the service than any of the films listed above, and yet it narrowly edged out the third weekend of Leave the World Behind (19.7 million), which can’t be what the streamer had in mind when it greenlit the two-part sci-fi epic.

Meanwhile, if you’re an exec, do you risk having the slightest disagreement with Snyder? After all, isn’t that kind of what happened with Walter Hamada — by all accounts a good guy whose name was fed to the blood-thirsty wolves online, prompting ongoing harassment from the director’s fans?

Again, you won’t see me writing too much about the Netflix Top 10 and this kind of stuff, as I feel like it’s all a lot of marketing spin, but from a media perspective, it’s fascinating to see outlets continue to treat Netflix with kids gloves. And as of now, it’s clear that Rebel Moon isn’t hitting with Netflix subscribers like other original films. If my Dad hasn’t called me to ask what it is — “What’s this movie Leave Behind the World [sic]? Any good? Would I like it?” — then I know a movie is in trouble. 

Meanwhile, to close the loop on Snyder, The Atlantic ran a profile on him this past week in which Oppenheimer director Christopher Nolan goes to bat for his buddy, with whom he worked on Man of Steel.

“When you watch a Zack Snyder film, you see and feel his love for the potential of cinema,” said Nolan, adding that “There’s no superhero science-fiction film coming out these days where I don’t see some influence of Zack.” 

That’s high praise from a future Oscar winner! And Nolan is correct in believing that Watchmen was ahead of its time.

Snyder, in turn, recently called Nolan his “only filmmaking friend,” which wasn’t always the case, as he used to be tight with James Gunn. That could be seen as a telling comment, in that Snyder’s fans have only helped to isolate him from the rest of the Hollywood community. When they review-bombed Adam Wingard’s Godzilla movie and Snyder didn’t publicly denounce them, that didn’t go over well with Wingard or other filmmakers. Has he been cast out of the filmmaking fraternity like Michael Cimino was after Heaven’s Gate?

Perhaps Snyder has earned the benefit of the doubt from me and I should give this neutered Netflix cut of Rebel Moon a chance, but I’ve yet to hear a ringing endorsement. Yeah, Nolan can feel Snyder’s “passion,” and I certainly respect hard work, but he doesn’t speak to the quality of the film, of which I remain skeptical.

Bits and Bobs (A Daily News Roundup)

If you saw Obama checking his text messages during a movie, would you yell at him?

  • Does the Secret Service Sign for His Screeners? - Former President Barack Obama unveiled his Favorite Movies of 2023 the other day, and the list was as notable for its omissions as for what did make the cut. Oddly enough, Obama didn’t list them in alphabetical order, so it’s unclear if this is random or if it reflects his preference, but he went with The Holdovers, BlackBerry, Oppenheimer, American Fiction, Anatomy of a Fall, Monster, Past Lives, Air, Polite Society, and A Thousand and One. He also noted that he loved Rustin, Leave the World Behind, and American Symphony, though he admitted he’s biased, as he produced all three of those Netflix movies. He also added The Color Purple a day later, having been late in screening the musical (or so he claims). All in all, Obama’s list is pretty good, and he champions smaller titles that have been lost in the shuffle this season, such as Polite Society, A Thousand and One, and Monster, even though it’s tough to picture him sitting at home watching a Hirokazu Kore-eda movie given his busy schedule. Could a crack team of film-literate interns have put this together after combing Letterboxd? Sure. But I doubt that President Obama would risk his integrity to stay on the right side of Film Twitter. Having said that… where’s Barbie? Or Killers of the Flower Moon? Or perhaps most notably, Ava DuVernay’s Origin? I guess that, like me, Obama just preferred watching Glenn Howerton dominate a bunch of tech nerds in BlackBerry. Nothing wrong with that…

  • Animation Update - Disney’s Bob Iger said he wanted Pixar to innovate, but it seems like the studio is playing it safe with sequels, from Inside Out 2 to Toy Story 5. Now comes word that Cars 4 is in the works. Great. I don’t think I even saw the last one… Legendary indie animator Don Hertzfeld has announced that his next film, Me, will be released in 2024… And finally, Jordan Ruimy seems to think that Hayao Miyazaki isn’t retiring from filmmaking after all and that his next movie could very well be a sequel to Nausicaä. Head on over to World of Reel for more…

  • Out of Gas, Needs a Push - Michael Mann’s Ferrari is not one of the director’s finer films, and it wasn’t cheap to make either. The $90 million is currently stalling out in movie theaters, and evidently, STX nearly pawned it off to Showtime before Neon stepped in with a $15 million offer, beating out A24. I have no idea how the financiers behind this film are going to make their money back, but if I was Warner Bros., I would give Mann a modest budget for his next film… even if it is Heat 2.

  • Welcome to the Party, Pal - I’m a longtime fan of The New York Times’ Oscar pundit Kyle Buchanan, but I’m not sure why his hot-off-the-presses Paul Giamatti prediction is making news. I’ve been saying that Giamatti is the one to beat for Best Actor ever since I saw Bradley Cooper all but beg for an Oscar in Maestro. Cillian Murphy was very good in Oppenheimer but it is Giamatti’s time. Let’s be serious…

  • Frank Underwood Returns for Christmas - I don’t know what to say about this bizarre sitdown with Tucker Carlson other than Kevin Spacey is a stone-cold freak and I think you have to respect it. Who else would even think to do something like this? He’s a great actor, by the way, but in this house, we don’t see a comeback in the cards for him — not in the way that he's hoping.

  • Condolences - To the friends and families of Parasite star Lee Sun-Kyun, comedian Tom Smothers, Dixie Chicks founding member Laura Lynch, and Selma Archerd, the longtime wife of Variety columnist Army Archerd. I was Army’s intern and could always tell how much Selma loved him — their marriage was something to aspire toward. I also always enjoyed what I saw from the Smothers Brothers, whose sibling shtick was charming, and I’m truly sorry about the death of Lee Sun-Kyun, who is said to have taken his own life due to the shame of a criminal investigation into relatively minor behaviors such as smoking pot, among others, that are nonetheless seen as serious offenses in South Korea. It’s just a shame all around, as he was unquestionably talented. May they all rest in peace…

For Your Consideration: Nyad Will Remind Voters That “It’s Never Too Late to Chase Your Dreams”

I want you to watch this clip. I’ve seen it about 100 times and it still makes my eyes well up with emotion. That is the power of Diana Nyad’s remarkable story — whether you believe she swam the 100 miles from Havana, Cuba to Key West, Florida unassisted or not.

Granted, the above clip is from real life, not the wonderful Netflix movie Nyad starring Annette Bening and Jodie Foster, and it gets a major boost from its soundtrack — Labrinth’s “The Feels” — but it’s a hugely emotional moment, and not just because of Diana’s athletic accomplishment.

I want you to pay attention to her friend and coach Bonnie Stoll in this clip. It’s not her name that’s going into the record books, but she is every bit as invested in the outcome — because she’s a true friend. Look at how her face lights up and she opens her arms to hug Diana once the swimmer has both of her ankles out of the water. Have you ever seen someone so genuinely happy for another person? There are decades of failure and emotion in their embrace.

Hollywood is a tough town. Sure, we celebrate when our friends sell a script, or book a role, but how many of those smiling faces around the table are secretly seething with jealousy, thinking that it should’ve been them? The title of Nyad may make you think the movie is about a single woman, but it’s not — it’s about two. For Diana never would’ve finished that swim without Bonnie by her side for every stroke.

The point of this little trip down memory lane is to urge/beg you to watch Nyad on Netflix if you haven’t seen it yet. I’m not being paid to say that. This is not an advertisement. It’s just me using my little platform on the internet to go to bat for a smaller movie that shares Diana’s inspirational ethos — “You should never, ever give up,” and “You’re never too old to chase your dreams.” If that message doesn’t resonate with Academy voters, I don’t know what will.

So before Hollywood heads back to work next week and voters embark on new projects, having called it a wrap on their screener-watching duties for 2023, I hope they’ll take advantage of the next few days and catch up on the gems that they might have missed, starting with Nyad.

I’m catching up myself (prioritizing international films such as The Beasts, Pacifiction, and R.M.N.) so that I can deliver a well-considered Top 10 list next week as opposed to a rushed list that posts in early December and is based on just 11 months of movies to get ahead of the pack. Those who take shortcuts shortchange themselves and their readers. Do the work! That’s what December is for, anyway…

That’ll do it for me, folks! Be sure to follow TheInSneider on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok.

Got a hot tip, or an interesting pitch? Want to buy an ad or ask a provocative question for future mailbag installments? Email me at [email protected].