(No, Katie Featherston has nothing to do with this news. Just keep reading.)
So, about a week ago, Paramount hired Saw VI director Kevin Greutert to direct a sequel to Paranormal Activity, perhaps the biggest success story of 2009 (or at least, Avatar aside, the biggest low-budget success story, anyway). This was funny because Paranormal Activity was the movie that finally knocked the Saw franchise -- Greutert's entry, actually -- from its four-year throne atop the Halloween box office. I guess the old saying, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" still applies.
Greutert's Paranormal sequel was positioned against Lionsgate's Saw VII 3D, which may or may not, depending on its financial performance, be the last theatrical Saw movie (that is, until they remake or reboot the first one, which, going by Spider-Man, may be as soon as, say, Thursday).
Or at least that was how things were until yesterday, when Lionsgate decided to exercise an option they held on Greutert, forcing him to direct Saw VII instead of Paranormal 2. Saw V director David Hackl, who was previously slated to direct VII, is relegated off to some other, as-of-yet undecided project.
While it makes for great, hilarious, public Hollywood shenanigans, this is a terrible, terrible move. First of all, how does Lionsgate expect to get a good performance out of Greutert when he's got the taste of sour grapes in his mouth the whole time? Greutert edited all five Saw films prior to his directorial debut on the sixth, so there's no doubt he's got the franchise in his blood. But is he going to be able to creatively and emotionally invest in a project he doesn't want to make? As low-rent as it may be, I am still a die-hard Saw fan, and if this is the last hurrah, I want it to be good.
Then there's Hackl. The general consensus is that Saw V is the worst of the series (I agree). Producers being producers, they'd never tell you straight up that a movie they worked on sucked unless they were fired or something, but I'm sure Hackl thought it was a good display of solidarity when he was asked back to direct the seventh, and in 3D as well. Of course, the moment it became "the last", I'm sure the stakes went way up, and all of a sudden, going with the fans' least favorite director starts looking like a bad idea, especially when your last director is running off to the competition. Greutert expressed his frustration via his website, although he chose to delete what he specifically said and left it at "pissed". I imagine Hackl doesn't feel much better (although for him, "used" be more accurate).
Of course, Hackl's involvement raises another question: the movie supposedly starts rolling on February 1st, so the film can make its traditional last-week-of-October date. Since it's January 26th, I imagine the movie's ready to go before cameras, but didn't Hackl do all the pre-production work? Not only does Lionsgate have an unwilling, angry director, but he's also gonna have to adapt using months of another director's pre-production work, on something as complicated as 3D.
In any case, I'm excited to see how this story develops. Personally, I'm hoping Hackl signs on to direct Paranormal Activity 2. I hear they're looking for a director.