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See-Saw: Lionsgate Torturing Saw VII Director

This is the kind of Hollywood dickishness that you can’t imagine really taking place, but it seems that it is. Apparently a turf war between the Saw and Paranormal Activity franchises has brought out the inner childish jerk in everyone, and left director Kevin Greutert stuck in the middle. For a series which is devoted to torture porn, it seems that life is imitating art.

Apparently Lionsgate have been taking lessons from Jigsaw...

The incident which sparked this whole furore was the scheduling of Paranormal Activity 2 for a Halloween release date later this year. That put it in a direct contest with Saw VII, as the franchise has become an annual fixture in late October. Paramount, the company behind Paranormal Activity, had been so bold as to hire director Kevin Greutert to work on the sequel to last year’s breakout cult hit.

This was a problem to Lionsgate because Greutert had worked on the Saw franchise from the beginning – working as an editor on the original film and stepping up to take the role of director on last year’s Saw VI. Originally it seemed that Lionsgate were being mature and cool about Greutert moving on – they’d assigned Saw V director David Hackl to take over work on the latest film (incidentally the first film in the franchise to be made in 3D – for all your gory needs) – but it seems that they couldn’t resist the cance to get the boot in.

On Monday, Lionsgate called in an option on Greutert’s contract – basically that clause which allows them to keep actors and directors around for sequels if needed – and made it clear that he will direct Saw VII. They also dispatched David Hackl to another project very, very quickly. This was only five days after the release date for Paranormal Activity 2 was announced. It’s hard not to get the feeling that Lionsgate weren’t just throwing a hissy fit and were ticked about their talent working for a competitor.

I haven’t watched a Saw movie since Saw IV – I don’t particularly care for the franchise. I will defend the original as a well-made (albeit gory) thriller that was a breath of fresh air, but the sequels quickly degenerated into Hostel wannabes. I haven’t yet seen Paranormal Activity, though my brother has described it as possibly the best horror movie he’s ever seen. But this isn’t necessarily about the movies themselves.

What strikes me about this story is poor Kevin Greutert, caught in the middle of this. He has issued two statements on the matter via his official site. The first (now deleted) has been recorded over on Bloody Disgusting:

I’m in the middle of something really terrible right now, as anyone who has come to this site probably knows. While I fight for justice in this, the important thing is to avoid giving in to hatred and anger, because these emotions are life killers.

Hopefully we will all arrive at an amicable solution. Thank you to everyone who is working with me on this.

Kevin

Evidently an amicable solution was not forthcoming, as the message on his site currently reads:

I just had the task of telling my 83 year old mother that no, I’m not going to be allowed to direct the movie we were all so excited about when my family last got together, and that I’m being forced to leave town before getting a chance to see her again. Yes, I’ll be filming people getting tortured YET AGAIN. So we’ll have to put off me making a film she can actually watch for another year.

I’m not making this sh*t up.

That does not sound like a director who wants to devote several months of his life to producing a film, which – even at the best of times – is a draining emotional experience.

Part of me wonders what Lionsgate hope to accomplish by this. Greutert clearly doesn’t want to direct Saw VII – surely that undermines the film? And Paramount will simply appoint another director to Paranormal Activity 2. It’s hardly a damaging blow to a competitor and it weakens their hand considerably.

In the end, it’s hard not to feel sorry for Kevin Greutert.

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