I was more than a little hesitant when I heard MTV was producing a television adaptation of Wes Craven’s iconic horror film, Scream. Even if you’ve never watched Scream, you’re familiar with the killer, Ghostface. The film, which came out in 1996, opens with a young Drew Barrymore getting a wrong number call which turns flirty, then deadly when the voice on the other end demands she answer movie trivia correctly, or her boyfriend dies. You know it only goes downhill from there. The killer sets his sights on Sydney (played by Neve Campbell) and basically kills all her friends.
The interesting thing about Scream the movie is its awareness of being a horror movie. The characters continually reference then-relevant pop culture films and show no regard when presented with the killer himself. In fact, a group of people are watching Halloween and discussing the Rules of Horror, commentating on “gratuitous boob shoots” when the next scene cuts to Sydney undressing.
Randy (Jamie Kennedy) spells out those rules for viewers:
- Never have sex.
- Never drink or do drugs.
- Never say “I’ll be right back.”
So what did MTV have in store for a modernized remake?
Thematically, it’s pretty spot-on.
Their story revolves around a cyber-bullying incident that ends in murder. A video of Audrey kissing a girl goes viral, launched by Nina (Bella Thorne). Nina is later discovered by her parents, stabbed to death in the pool, echoing Casey (Barrymore) being found by her parents, though she was hanged from a tree.
Also set in high school, the plot unfolds onto a fractured friendship, a student-teacher affair, and the aftermath of Nina’s death. Think of a cliche, any cliche— it’s probably included. With Nina’s end comes a revival in the urban legend of Brandon James, the town’s most well-known killer. There’s even a mask, and an intrepid reporter, Piper Shaw. (She has a podcast, though.)
Story goes, Brandon James was teased for his disfigurement, which he hid with a medical-grade mask. He fell in love with a girl named Daisy. Brandon attends a school dance, where Daisy’s boyfriend and his friends proceed to beat the tar out of him. Brandon snaps, killing five students. Daisy lures him to the lake (it’s always the lake) and the police gun him down. Pretty average fair of these kinds of stories. I was curious (and a little afraid) of what the shape of the show would be.
I didn’t think it was possible, but MTV’s version is even more irreverent and totally self-aware of its genre.I didn’t think it was possible, but MTV’s version is even more irreverent and totally self-aware of its genre. The cast is composed of your common horror archetypes, from wise-guy Noah, whose obsession with serial killers and horror movies gives him insight into the mind of the murderer, to protagonist Emma (Willa Fitzgerald), who finds herself the target of these brutal crimes. In keeping with Scream’s original attitude, modern killer culture is name-dropped repeatedly in the series, from Hannibal to Pretty Little Liars to Dexter. Occasionally, it was almost too meta, and I kept expecting the characters to break the fourth wall and look at the camera.
The pilot was pretty cool, and not just because someone got a human heart in a box. The relationships were established well and the situation felt realistic. The revelation of who Daisy is was neat, if predictable.
The teenagers are still really, really stupid, but Scream does the scary thing: it makes you realize how attached we are to technology and how easily it can be used against us. Sure, Drew Barrymore could have just hung up the phone, ignored it or taken it off the cradle, and enjoyed her JiffyPop and movie, but these days, our phones are our lives.
Like Randy, Noah mentions everything the teens are doing “wrong” or against the Horror Rules. There’s drinking, lots of people having sex, and Noah’s the one to ironically promise to “be right back.” It’s basically a horror comedy, but with a lot more intestines. Enter the dynamic crime-fighting duo, Noah and Audrey, aka Bi-curious and The Virgin.
Okay, they don’t have superheroes, but if they did, I’d watch the heck out of that show.
Unfortunately, when Scream hits the soggy middle, everything becomes a blood-spattered mess. The one thing I despise in horror is the use of blood and guts to hide a lack of plot. Sure, it’s a slasher show, but even the original Scream didn’t have an abundance of entrails flopping around. Emma is forced to choose between friends, more blackmail and secrets are revealed, and somewhere, I totally lost the thread of the plot. There are some good moments if you can get through it, and luckily, it does come back together, sort of.
At the end of season one, I can’t say I was surprised by the identity of the killer, but the secondary twist did take me. It’s always when you think you’ve won that something horrific happens. What I’m interested in now is motive. The killer’s motive was Camp Crystal Lake clear, but the killer’s accomplice? That’s way more interesting.
I’ll definitely tune in for season two in the hope they take Scream to the next level, but there’s not a lot of meat left on the bone. Silver lining: if season two’s a dud, season one does decently as a stand-alone. If it ends there, I’d be content, but you know what they say: “These days, ya gotta have a sequel!”
Wanna get in on the bloodbath? MTV.com is currently streaming the complete first season.
Meghan Harker is a Horror writer for Girls in Capes. She graduated from Brenau University in 2011 with a degree in English. She attended Cambridge University for a semester, but still didn’t master an English accent. When not writing, she’s either drawing, reading, hosting the Counting Casualties podcast, hunting antiques, or lamenting that she wasn’t born in the 1800s. If you follow her on Twitter @ExquisitelyOdd, you might get the chance to play Guess Who’s Dead!, her favorite post-mortem photography game (no one else likes to play.)