“Because I wanna know who I’m looking at!”
With that one line – deliciously delivered by Roger Jackson – Drew Barrymore’s Casey was doomed. As an audience we witnessed someone tortured via the phone, before being butchered in front of us. Wes Craven killed the biggest name in the movie, all before the titles ran.
That was 1996.
Horror movies were awful at that time – generally speaking – the post 1980’s slasher sequels simply seemed to be produced to feed to a ravenous, and money carrying crowd. Gone was the genuine menace of Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees was little more than a trope in a hockey mask and no one cared what Halloween movie we were up to. And yet Craven managed to take a script by Kevin Williamson and turn in an incredible ode to horror that poked fun at a tired genre while also shooting it directly into the heart with a bolt of lightning.
The Scream series may have taken a wrong turn, but the new MTV TV show run of ‘Scream: The TV Series’ got my interest from the announcement, and now – having seen the premiere episode – I am willing to spill my guts (just like Steve).
So first things first this is not a remake of the original film series, nor does it follow the fourth entry. This series has the Scream DNA, but is a new setting, with new mysteries and presents a new ‘legacy’ to contend with. It’s a smart move as I am not quite sure how many more times a member of the Prescott/Reynolds clan could put a mask on/take their clothes off before the police just arrests the lot just in case. Now we are presented with a new group of teens in the familiar looking town of Lakewood. A video is shared via social media of a same sex kissing encounter and this sets into action the murderous path of a new ‘Ghostface’, and I popped that into inverted commas because we have a new mask this time around. Whereas the incredibly creepy mask from the original film series was found on a location scout, this one has been created to fit in with the show’s fictional history. It’s important because while the killers in the original selected an outfit that was on sale in many locations to help preserve anonymity, this killer (or killers) has a *reason* for the mask.
We are presented with a bit of this back story in the tale of a young man who was born with Proteus Syndrome (like John Merrick) and was kept in almost isolation by his parents. He fell in love, and ended up beaten. As a result of this people were killed and the man was shot ‘dead’ by police after the object of his affections agreed to meet with him. As he plunged into the lake she exclaimed that she never wanted him hurt.
So we have elements of Friday the 13th, Texas Chain Saw Massacre, I Know What You Did Last Summer and Valentine all wrapped up into an MTV friendly format. And it works, for the most part.
Now I am no longer what would be classed as MTV’s demographic, so I concede that this show is targeted at people younger than I, however it still feels like a Scream series. The nods to the original series are there, but it’s also done a far better job of updating the format than Scream 4 managed, and that still had Craven at the wheel. The use of more modern technology (Siri, I.M., Social Media) is admirable and grounds it in a post-The O.C. world.
The cast is somewhat relatable. I can’t quite shift the feeling that they have tried to copy the original group of friends a little too much, with the Randy character being replaced with a character who may have well had Randy’s personality switched from ‘geeky’ to ‘sexually ambiguous’. The socially awkward characterisation works in the setting, but I do wish he was more of the Randy we had before. So by copying the group, but changing the characters a little too much it feels jarring. But then I’m old enough to have seen the original at release. The core demographic has been raised on The Walking Dead and Bates Motel (as the show highlights when dealing with Gothic Horror discussions) and this will sit nicely.
What doesn’t sit nicely is the intrusive idents and pop up info that MTV inject into each episode, detailing the song that is playing in the background of a scene. Now I know this happens on other MTV shows, and I also remember when MTV played music, but in the context of a horror series it is very intrusive. In a world in which Shazam/SoundHound exist, surely MTV could simply pop up a logo to prompt those watching a horror series for the music in the background of a party scene to check their phones.
Essentially the show has to spread the plot out – as joked about in the trailers ‘you could never make a slasher tv series’ – so we get the ‘Drew Barrymore’ scene and then a lot of plot exposition and character introduction. So far, so True Blood. It ends with a montage of upcoming events that do genuinely put focus on a lot of potential murderers and a wider mystery. I like the look of it and will be keeping in touch, but they do spoil the next murder – as it seems. Which is a shame.
I know they need a hook, but if the prospect of a Scream TV series isn’t enough, showing another murder in a flashforward won’t do much.
I’ll be honest and say that I expected this show to fail, hard. But in spite of that I enjoyed it. It pays homage to the post-Scream world of movies and is smart enough to keep the meta-features that made the first film so successful. The time appears to be right, the stage may be a bit unsettling but I expect this series to be a… wait for it… Scream.