"You can't do a slasher movie as a TV series," Noah Foster says in the pilot episode of MTV's adaption/reboot of the iconic slasher film series, Scream. When it was announced that MTV would be making the show there were some obvious concerns from fans. This is a channel that produces shows such as Teen Mom while the original Scream revived what had become a dead sub-genre of horror. The slasher genre had been plagued by bad sequels that were cheap to make and belonged in the over-the-top 80's. The Friday the 13th series almost had a film out every year from 1980 to 1989. That's how easy it was to make them and by the 90's everyone was aware of the rules and the conventions of a typical slasher film.
Then came along Scream, written by Kevin Williamson and directed by Wes Craven, famed horror director of the original Nightmare on Elm Street, and it presented a new kind of slasher to audiences. This was a horror film that poked fun at horror films by pointing out the conventions, as an audience member would. The audience are aware of the "never have sex" or "never say I'll be right back" rules. It was a smash hit and was followed by three sequels with varying results. The fourth film did not make the financial killing (pun intended) that the studio was hoping for and, with the supposed fifth and sixth films cancelled, it looked like the series had been laid to rest.
So MTV had a lot of weight on their shoulders when it came to developing a TV series. Some were skeptical. I wasn't. I've watched MTV's Teen Wolf, an adaption of another (although not as fondly remembered) film and they managed to take what was originally a goofy, light-hearted comedy and turn it into a serious TV Show with a fantastic cast and writing team that doesn't talk down to its audience or spoon feed them. It handles subjects in a mature way and its small amount of episodes mean that its plot threads aren't stretched out to ridiculous lengths (I'm looking at you Vampire Diaries) and it constantly feels like its moving forward, so I was optimistic when it came to them "rebooting" Scream. It had ten episodes which meant it had more than enough time to establish characters and brutally murder them.
When it comes to horror I'm very picky. As a genre I don't particularly like it. I like horror films but as a genre it's bogged down by terrible sequels full of unlikable characters and unnecessary jump scares or are just overly gory for the sake of being gory (basically the Saw films) but at the same time some of my favourite films are horror films. Halloween, Halloween 4 and the first two Scream films are all in my top ten films and that's because of their characters. They are given time to either develop or come across as normal human beings, not stereotypes (although it could be argued that Halloween did have stereotypes, e.g. the repressed virgin with Laurie) so a TV series felt like the perfect place to tell a horror story.
So Scream the TV Series. What do I think about it? Going by the previous few paragraphs it shouldn't surprise you that I like this show. I'm only covering the first seven episodes and will cover the remaining three when they air so this is a "so far" review. The problem with reboots and remakes is that they walk a very thin line when it comes to making references to the previous instalments. They can come off as unoriginal with too many references or scenes inspired from the originals. At the same time they could fall into the trap of not respecting the original enough then it becomes unrecognisable to fans of the original. Scream the TV Series luckily doesn't have these problems.
"It's a very simple formula!" Randy exclaims about the slasher genre in the original film and ironically Scream developed its own formula. We expect certain things from a Scream film. We expect the killer to torment his/her victims with phone calls, we expect the meta tone, a dramatic death to open up the story and Scream has oddly always had this theme of secrets within a family. The TV series has all that and expands on them. The killer now more tools at his/her disposal. He/she now torments his victims with phone calls, text messaging and at one point even Snapchat! You have the meta tone with Noah, who acts in many ways as the Randy of the show and even the killer makes a meta remark at one point. Secrets in a family as a theme now is both literal with Emma's mother and metaphorically with Emma's surrogate family with her friends (and even some of their parents are holding back secrets).
It hits all the marks of what we expect from Scream and because of this the show's references come off feeling very natural and even scenes/dialogue that resemble the original don't feel like ripoffs because every Scream film technically followed the same formula and story beats. They all had a scene where they deconstruct horror films and Scream 2 had a discussion about how sequels tend to pale in comparison to the original. It was a film where characters in a horror sequel insulted horror sequels. This is a show based on a slasher film that has a character bluntly point out that a slasher film as a TV show wouldn't work. They all had secrets within Sydney's family come to light, whether it was her mother's affairs coming to light or her cousin's insane jealousy issues causing her to go on a murderous rampage. The show is very much focused on Emma finding out the secrets of her mother's past and her connection to the town's supposed notorious mass murderer, as well as Brooke finding out that her father might have murdered her mother and covered it up.
As I've already said the extra run time means that these story elements can be expanded upon. Usually the revelation of the family secrets would be only vaguely hinted at and then actually exposed with the unmasking of the killer or literally just come out of nowhere but in the series the killer actually gives Emma clues and/or answers throughout the episodes. In fact he/she teases Emma about the fact her mother is keeping secrets and in turn forces Emma to keep secrets from her. The killer even exposes the secrets that her friends are keeping from her.
Are there problems with the show? Of course. Nothing is ever perfect. The character of Jake in particular comes off as a too-obvious red herring. He acts a bit too over the top and suspicious to actually be the killer but that in itself could be a red herring and oddly enough there are some plot points that come and go way too quickly. A serial killer is tormenting the town so obviously the FBI are brought in and the Sheriff is kicked off the case because of his lack of results, but all it takes is one episode for the FBI Agent to be taken off the case and for the Sheriff reinstated. Plus Emma's love triangle (yes...sadly there is a love triangle involved) with Will and Kieran comes in like a flash of lightning. It literally starts in the first episode. There's no build up to it. Emma finds out that Will slept with their mutual "friend" and the next thing we know she's making out with Kieran in a greenhouse. Did I mention he had just moved to the town? Because THAT'S not at all suspicious...
Where it also fails is that it comes off a bit predictable. This isn't because of the story beats inspired from the original four films, however. In the first episode they establish that the town had a mass killer called Brandon James who was apparently obsessed with a girl called Daisy. He then went on a murderous rampage after she freaked out after seeing his disfigured face. They claim that no one knows who Daisy was and in the next scene we see Emma's mother getting out a hand carved heart with "Daisy" carved into it. It was at this moment I predicted that Brandon wasn't really the one who killed all them people and even predicted that Emma's mother might of had a sexual relationship with him and that could explain why Emma's dad is absent. Sure enough Emma's mother reveals to Emma that Brandon was her friend and she didn't believe that he really "snapped" and committed the crimes on the night of the murders. The next episode the killer sets up a sick game just to give Emma a recording of one of her dad's therapy sessions where her dad says he can't get the image of his girlfriend sleeping with "that monster" out of his head.
Despite this the show is very enjoyable. The characters (aside from Jake) are for the most part likeable. I say for the most part because they are flawed characters. They've made mistakes, some worse than others, but this makes them feel very real and it gives them room to grow. Will starts off as someone who has made many mistakes and allows himself to be influenced and led around by other people, but then he tries to make up for this and takes responsibility for everything he has done. Brooke, who at first comes off as the typical b*tchy blonde girl seen in every slasher film actually decides to change her attitude after the death of a close friend and we see her character grow and, this is where the show excels.
Even though the original film had its quiet moments where the characters could reflect on their lives, they were still limited by the run time of a film. The show does not have this problem. It has enough time to develop its characters and have them react to the deaths of their friends. There's a reason why the majority of the killings happen near the end of a horror film and that's because they can't afford to have the characters waste run time by saying things like "remember that time when..." every time a character dies. This show has a whole 42 minutes where characters reflect on the death of a character and we see the consequences. This, again, makes the characters feel very real and in turn makes us grow attached to them, which makes their inevitable deaths even more painful- something they tell us near the end of the first episode. That is the show's intention and they warned us about it in a very Scream way. We go into horror films knowing that almost everyone is going to die, but we're not given enough time to grow attached to them unless they're an actor we already know and are a fan of. The show gave Will an arc of redemption only to kill him with farming equipment afterwards.
Is the show a worthy successor to the original films? I'd say it's definitely better than the third and fourth instalments. The first two films can easily act as horror's answer to The Terminator/Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Alien/Aliens and The Godfather/The Godfather Part 2. If Scream 1 & 2 are horror's equivalent to the James Cameron Terminator films then Scream the TV Series can easily be seen as their answer to Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles...and that's not a bad thing.
Be sure to check back for my reviews on the last three episodes and my final thoughts!