by Matthew Thompson
I love the Scream movies. The first is one of my all-time favorites. Growing up watching slasher movies and being just the right age when Scream came out… I felt like a part of its target audience. Heck it felt made for me. Yet everything I saw and heard about the TV series adaptation before it aired had my expectations for this new MTV show about as low as possible. I feel the show hurdled that low bar I had set for it, but it remains difficult to recommend to anyone as something they need to watch.
Similar to the movies, Scream: The TV Series focuses on a group of high school teenagers who end up being terrorized by a masked killer. Emma Duvall is the lead character and clearly the main target. There is a pretty cool mythology behind why that is that ties into a murderer from the town’s past named Brandon James as well as Emma’s own family history. Along with the similar premise, the show features an opening scene reminiscent of the famous one in the original film. It has the killer calling Emma with a cloaked voice that recalls the movies. It has characters aware of horror movie tropes. These are just a few of the many ways Scream: The TV Series takes inspiration from the classic films.
Despite including many Scream must-haves, the show too often feels like it is trying to be a Scream TV show rather than a genuine part of the franchise. Where the films had a sort of effortless self-awareness, the show feels like it is trying too hard to hit similar notes. It is lacking the same smart sense of humor. It doesn’t have that trademark witty dialogue that writer Kevin Williamson brought to the table. The acting doesn’t measure up. And let’s face it Emma is no Sidney Prescott. Hell it is even missing the iconic Ghostface mask. That might make sense given the show’s lack of connection to the Woodsboro murders, but it adds to the knockoff feel of the TV series.
In the series pilot episode, Noah (the show’s horror-loving equivalent to the original movie’s Randy) talks about how the slasher genre wouldn’t work as a TV show. This is exactly the kind of thing a Scream TV series should tackle, but the problem he speaks of just ends up being an issue for the show. Stretching out the fast-paced bloodbath of this genre from 90 minutes to about five times that length without upping the body count completely changes what you are bringing to the screen. Particularly problematic in this regard is the finale. To be fair, they actually nail the feel of this being the big final showdown. Unfortunately they don’t have the guts to kill off main characters and the whole affair suffers for it. It feels like the writers fell in love with the main cast and decided to keep most all of them around for Season 2. But that takes a lot of oomph out of the finish. That makes the killer look less fearsome. It makes the whole season fall a bit flatter as a result.
The whodunit aspect is also hampered somewhat by the TV show setup. It is a little harder to lay down hints for a whole season and manage to keep the killer a surprise at the end. The movies also didn’t allow for fans to gather and speculate between episodes each week. It was pretty obvious who was behind the mask early on in the season and from that point on the show kept making it more and more blatant. Luckily Scream has the whole two killer thing they do, so I was still left guessing who was helping the more obvious culprit. They did a good job of making a number of people possible suspects for that second spot which made me think they probably could have done a better job of hiding the first one. At least there was still some mystery to the season though and I’m very curious how they will handle things going forward given where they left off.
The issues I lay out in this post mean that Scream: The TV Series fails to capture the magic of the classic horror film franchise. Still there are some things I liked here and I am holding onto hope that they might be able to improve on this in the second season. As of now, it remains hard to recommend to anyone whether you were a fan of the original movies or not.
- I think Emma, Audrey and Noah were the only characters who really needed to survive the finale. The idea that Brooke, Jake, Branson, Emma’s mom, and Kieran all made it too is just ridiculous. I’m not saying they all needed to die, but them all living is absurd for the type of show this is trying to be.
- Unless it is a trick, the ending infers that Audrey helped Piper in some way and one would assume is the person behind the mask when Piper and Will were attacked. Assuming she will be a killer or at least involved with the killings going forward that would certainly make for a different dynamic than any of the film sequels since we’d know one of the killers going into Season 2. That could be interesting… or not. Hard to say without seeing the direction we head next.
- I would also assume the second season will either have a copycat or have Audrey recruit someone to help her continue in Season 2 to keep the mystery element to the series going. This is where I think killing off more characters this year would’ve help. That would mean a greater influx of new characters and potential suspects in the second season.
- I am glad Brooke survived though. She grew on me a bit as the season went on. Her chase in the finale with the freezer was very fun.
- The bowling alley sequence was a lot of fun too. More stuff like that, but with deaths included in Season 2 would be a plus.
- I think I am old enough where current day teens (or at least how they are portrayed here) annoy me a bit (sorry to any teen readers!). The show feels like it tries a bit too hard to be hip as well.
- I wish the killers were more clumsy like in the movies. Part of the fun in my opinion.
- I liked this more overall before the finale where the lack of bloodshed coupled with the killer reveal falling kind of flat due to how unsurprising it was soured me a bit on the whole thing. It was never particularly good, but I found myself enjoying it to some extent anyway. Maybe I just want a series like this to be good. Perhaps Scream Queens will be what I am looking for.