It’s easy to understand the appeal of Wes Craven’s Scream franchise, especially when one considers all the factors at play. At the time of the original 1996’s film’s release, the concept of a horror movie where the characters knew they were in a horror movie was pretty groundbreaking. But Scream wasn’t a comedic parody of the genre. In fact, the original title for the film was Scary Movie, and we all know what associations we now attach to that name. The Scream franchise was one that worked as both a comedy and a horror film. A recent rewatch of the first film last October reminded me of just how sequence after sequence work so well as a slasher film. In addition to the self-acknowledging comedy and blood-soaked suspense aspects of the film, Scream also featured memorable characters whose journeys and stories were incredibly entertaining and rewarding to follow.
With the exception of Beavis and Butt-head and Jackass, I’ve never watched any MTV show on purpose. I do have an interesting story involving a five-foot glass bong and Jersey Shore, but that’s a story for another time. My point is that it’s interesting that a network like MTV would be the one to air a TV version of Scream. For starters, the demographic that watched Wes Craven’s trilogy have long since grown up and never labeled MTV as having anything resembling cultural significance. It’s hard to imagine a good majority of people who watch Teen Mom love satirical slasher horror. Could a show like Scream exist on a network that doesn’t have the wider range of content freedom found on networks like HBO and Showtime while still staying true to its original source?
Although the first 60 seconds of the pilot for Scream feature some strange and confusing editing choices, it’s obvious that show creators Jill E. Blotevogel, Jay Beatie and Dan Dworkin have successfully kept the spirit of Wes Craven’s franchise intact while still putting enough of a spin on a material so that it stands on its own. It’s in Scream’s nature to adapt to the new tropes and cliches that find their way into the horror genre, and this TV adaptation continues that tradition with that trademark self-referential humor and rule stating we’ve all come to love and associate with this franchise.
Though the concept of fleeting internet fame was touched on in the incredibly entertaining Scream 4, the show’s writers elaborate on the idea even more here. Technology here feels like its own character in this show, whereas in the films it was used more for satire and commentary. Though it does continue to tiresome to see made-up social media apps in popular entertainment, Scream uses social media to further an interesting plot point and insert engaging drama and palpable emotion into its story.
Speaking of story, the latest adventures involving Ghost Face revolve around a small-town being beset by a series of murders and the drama that unfolds as a result at the local high school. Whereas none of the characters in the 1996 movie were ever believable as high school students, the new TV show casts a bunch of no-name fresh faces chosen to fit each essential stereotype: nerd, jock, good girl, hussy, etc. The one exception to the no-name cast is Bella Thorne, who assumes the role of the girl killed in the opening sequence originated by Drew Barrymore. However, her presence signifies one of the main problems with Scream as a TV show. There’s no Sidney Prescott, Dewey, Gale or any other of the familiar faces we loved from the older films.
One scene winkingly acknowledges that television has the benefit of telling a story over a longer period of time, but the death of Bella Thorne in the opening act only makes getting to know these new characters feel like more of a chore. To be fair, the writing and the set-ups for some of the characters are promising, particularly There is well-executed horror, but the confines of a TV-14 rating result in more jump scares than actual slasher fare. For the time being, Scream could easily stand on its own as watchable horror without a recognizable brand name. However, starting off with a solid pilot certainly didn’t do the show any harm, and the writers have planted enough seeds to at least give its audience hope that entertaining television could be on the horizon.
The writers have planted enough seeds to at least give its audience hope that entertaining television could be on the horizon.