A ‘Scream 4’ Update If You Haven’t Been Keeping Track

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There has been a lot of movement as of late on Scream 4, so here I am, providing you with a lengthy update in an effort to make sense of the whole mess. What hasn’t changed is the film, set for an April 15, 2011 release, reunites director Wes Craven with the franchise’s principal stars (Courtney Cox, David Arquette and Neve Campbell).

As previously reported, Emma Roberts (Valentine’s Day), Hayden Panettiere (“Heroes”) and Rory Culkin (Signs) will join them as the next crop of potential victims for the murderous Ghostface. Early casting news also had Lake Bell (It’s Complicated) in line to play a police officer who knew Sidney (Campbell) in high school, but she had to drop out due to “scheduling conflicts” as she indicated herself in a Twitter post back on June 24th. Heat Vision report last week that the role has instead gone to Marley Shelton (Planet Terror).

Adam Brody and Erik Knudsen have also joined to cast, with Brody (“The O.C.”) playing a young cop and Knudsen (Youth in Revolt) filling the proverbial comic relief role previously anchored by Jamie Kennedy in the first two installments.

There was once a time when Lauren Graham (Bad Santa, “Gilmore Girls”) was set to play the mother of Roberts’ character, but she has left the cast as well. Arrow in the Head‘s Eric Walkuski notes that her departure is due to “date conflicts and script changes,” which leaves him (and certainly me) wondering if the script is being rewritten on the spot. The role is yet to be recast, but the initial casting of an actress like Graham would suggest that the role is (or at least was at one time) a somewhat meaty one.

Well, Eric might be onto something as Zap2It’s Carina Adly MacKenzie reports that original scripter and franchise creator Kevin Williamson has been replaced by Ehren Kruger (The Ring, Scream 3), who has taken over rewrite duties. Hayden Panettierre, for one, is allegedly not happy with the results as one anonymous source alleges she’s frustrated with the way her role has been “dumbed down significantly.”

Very little else is known about the film’s story at this point, though SlashFilm reminds us of what Craven told EW back in April:

“We have fun with the idea of endless sequels, or “sequelitis” as Kevin calls it in the script. Sid goes through these three horrendous things, and Stab was based on those horrible things. And then they’ve been taken by a studio and run into the ground in a series of sequels. She has been off by herself and living her own life, and she’s even written a book that has gotten a lot of critical acclaim. She’s kind of put her life back together in the course of these 10 years. But, certainly, there would be no Scream without Ghostface, so she has to confront him again, but now as a woman who has really come out the darkness of her past.” … “This is a film about the progress of, at this point, three core characters, and how all of these events have changed their lives, and how the events in their lives have been reflected in the movies around them, which they might like or might really not like at all. I think that makes it really different.”

Beyond that, Craven has been adamant about keeping the plot (and more specifically its requisite “twist”) a secret, so he certainly can’t be happy that the makers of the famous Ghostface mask have been dropping hints about it.

Nevertheless, principal photography has begun and Shock Till You Drop, Bloody Disgusting and Before the Trailer have the set photos and videos to prove it, and if you click those links in order they get more and more uneventful by the moment.

Amidst all the chaos, it’s nice to know there is some evidence that the film is actually being made. Perhaps the biggest questions is will it be any good? Then again, it’s hard to say that even matters in the front-loaded, curiosity-driven world of horror releases. One needs to look no further than the recent remakes of A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th to find that by the time word gets around about the quality of the film (or lack thereof), the film has already made the bulk of its money.

I, for one, am uncertain about the appeal of a fourth Scream film considering the current state of the horror landscape of torture films and spooky ghosts. The original was a refreshing movie when it was released, but I haven’t seen it in years and I barely remember the sequels and I’d be surprised of there weren’t many fans of the original sharing the same sentiment.

What do you think? Is there any juice left in the franchise or will Scream 4 be an inevitable train wreck that signals the end of a once strong slasher series? Does the talk of script rewrites and actresses such as Graham and Bell dropping off the project concern you?