Here’s Why the New ‘Scream’ Movie Name-Drops ‘The Knives Out Guy’ Rian Johnson

Co-writer James Vanderbilt explains the meta moment involving the eighth “Stab” movie


This story contains SPOILERS about the new “Scream” film.

Like any great “Scream” movie, the fifth film in the franchise is movie-literate and wildly self-aware. The new film has fun with toxic fandom and the idea of a “requel,” or a movie that remakes the original film while pairing new characters with legacy, fan favorites — just like this film does and proudly wears on its sleeve.

But it also makes a sly reference to a real-life director whose own movie has become the poster child for attacks from toxic fans and the trend of requels: Rian Johnson, or as “Scream” refers to him, “The ‘Knives Out’ Guy.”

James Vanderbilt, one of the film’s co-writers along with Guy Busick and a producer on the film for his Project X Entertainment banner, explained to TheWrap why name-dropping Johnson in one of the film’s key scenes was “kind of too perfect.”

Fans of the “Scream” sequels know that there are a series of fake movies within the movies called the “Stab” franchise. The “Stab” films tell the true stories of Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), the Ghostface killers and the residents of Woodsboro.

The premise and running gag of the new “Scream” is that Hollywood has decided to make its latest “Stab” movie a “requel” and revert everything back to the original by bringing back the original characters. And to drive home the point even more, the new “Stab” movie is called quite simply, “Stab,” not unlike how “Scream” (2022) rips off the title of “Scream” (1996) or “Halloween” (2018) has the same name as “Halloween” (1978).

There’s only one big difference with this new “Stab” movie: people HATE it.

“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,” Vanderbilt explained. “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.”

Rian Johnson of course directed “Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi,” which is a follow-up to one of the most famous requels, “The Force Awakens,” and was also the target of massive amounts of online vitriol from toxic fans. But Johnson also directed the eighth Star Wars film, and guess what “Stab” movie was up next in the franchise lineage? “Stab 8.”

“I think watching how people attacked him as a person was, oh we’re in new territory here,” Vanderbilt said. “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.”

“Scream” breaks down the idea of a “requel” in a terrific scene where Jasmin Savoy-Brown, the film’s horror “expert,” explains the trend of soft remakes of a franchise as seen in everything from “Ghostbusters” to “Halloween” to “Star Wars” and beyond. The characters all seem to realize that the drama they’re playing out is its own requel story, and Vanderbilt had the goal of making a movie that he as a fan would most want to see and that could comment on where the movies and the horror genre specifically has gone in the last 10 years since “Scream 4.”

“The thing about the original ‘Scream’ was that it got to have its cake and eat it too. It deconstructed the slasher while also being a great slasher [film],” Vanderbilt said. “We wanted to deconstruct the requel while hopefully making a really great requel.”