Even though the late, great Wes Craven had a hand in it’s production, I honestly didn’t have high hopes for the MTV addition to the Scream franchise. I watched the trailer for Scream: The TV Series and simply saw a drawn out Scream 4 with a faceless cast of pretty young strangers. Don’t get me wrong, I adored the original movies – I’ve even unofficially co-designed a drinking game to mirror all the broken rules of horror throughout the series. But given some of the over processed garbage that MTV has been churning out in recent years, I was more or less ready to write this one off.
And I’m so glad I didn’t.
Apparently MTV haven’t totally lost their touch since they dropped the ‘M’, and the all-new Scream has turned out to be a golden nugget among some of their less appealing programming (though I hear Teen Wolf is pretty good, too).
The series does start out a little weak, taking one or two episodes to paint the high school soap opera while loudly asserting parallels to Wes Craven’s work. You might find the pilot a little heavy-handed on the technology angle, driving home the point that it’s not 1996 anymore – that these are the social networking teens of 2015. Irksome as this is, it’s an important foundation for any addition to a franchise that began as a high school slasher. In any case, the TV series works hard to honour the spirit of Scream from the offset, armed with homage and referential humour (including spiels about the impossibility of doing a Slasher film as a TV show). As with the 1996 Drew Barrymore opening, we’re introduced to a beautiful queen bee who, along with her boyfriend, is gorily murdered in her own backyard. In fact, much of the original Scream alumni are represented in this fresh cast. The most notable allusions are seen in Emma, “the survivor girl” with tragic connections to the small town’s dark history, Piper the true crime podcaster/intrepid reporter, and of course Noah, who fills some pretty big film geek boots as the disbelieving voice of the audience and meta observer of “the horror rules”.
The first thing the show gets right is that this is not Woodsboro – Woodsboro (not to mention Sidney Prescott) has been through enough already. This is Lakewood, small town home to the young mass murderer Brandon James, who was known to hide his severe deformities behind a ghostly mask. Twenty years after his killing spree and subsequent death, our 2015 answer to Ghostface has donned the mask and begun to terrorise the citizens of Lakewood – including the teenage daughter of Brandon’s only surviving victim.
Once you get past the high school ickiness, the core cast and characters are actually fantastic. Willa Fitzgerald as the resident Craven-esque heroine brings life, likeability and a deceptive strength to pristine good girl Emma. At first glance, John Karna’s Noah is simply Randy 2.0 but once he’s established as Lakewood’s authority on horror, we come to know him as perceptive, brilliant and often poignant, and Karna’s warmth has made Noah something of a darling among fans. Arguably the best performance comes from Bex Taylor-Klaus, who like the show itself is a slow-burner, growing on you over time until you realise with a jolt that you genuinely care what becomes of her hardened outsider Audrey.
It’s certainly drawn a lot of skepticism, and the show seems to be like TV marmite – though to be fair, those who hate it seemed unable to get past the first episode. If you’re willing to give it a chance, you might just find yourself pleasantly surprised. It’s definitely Wes Craven’s franchise in spirit rather than in narrative: it’s not as smart, some may find it more predictable, but even if you’ve guessed the big reveal by the season finale, the beauty of the TV format is that there’s more than one mystery unraveling here – and that’s where Scream: The TV Series really works.
Increasingly binge-worthy and watchable, the new addition to the Scream family totally exceeded my expectations.