Meet the New Boss
The original Scream, directed by Wes Craven and written by Kevin Williamson, turns 20 this year. I was in high school when it was released but didn’t catch it in the theater. I remember watching the movie when it came out on video and being pleasantly surprised; it was a horror flick that actually lived up to the hype. It wasn’t quite as good as Halloween or Craven’s first classic, A Nightmare on Elm Street, but Scream was a mean little horror movie with some extremely meta elements before meta was even a thing. It’s easy now to look back on Scream and group it in with all of the other (mostly) bad sequels and knock-offs it spawned but, like Halloween before it, the original still holds up.
Considering how much I like Scream, I was obviously a bit skeptical when I heard they were making a TV series out of the show. I was even more skeptical when I found out it would be on MTV, but the fact that Craven and Williamson would be involved assuaged my fears somewhat. Overall though, my skepticism mostly has to do with the episodic horror television show in general.
Supernatural and The X-Files are two of my favorite shows of any era — both could be classified as horror shows. The thing about them, however, is that the plots are secondary to the characters. Yes, there are monsters and bad guys, but the reason you care is because of the characters not the situations. If a viewer didn’t like Sam and Dean in Supernatural, it wouldn’t matter if the demons eventually won. The same goes for Scully getting abducted by aliens in The X-Files. The audience feels Mulder’s pain because they care about Scully too. My problem with a long-form horror show centered around one main season-long event (Slasher and American Horror Story) is that the character development usually suffers, which in turn makes the horrific scenes lack bite when they come around.
I am happy to say Scream doesn’t suffer the same fate. This show, outside of the new season of Beavis and Butthead from a few years ago, is definitely the best thing MTV has put out in a couple of decades. Now don’t get me wrong, Scream is by no means a great show, but it is definitely watchable and for the most part a well written, teen-slasher soap opera.
Although throwbacks do happen, for the most part Scream stands on its own, apart from the film series. The reboot, like the film, begins with the murder of a popular high-school girl. The single murder quickly turns into multiple homicides and the town of Lakewood begins to recall another chain of murders committed decades earlier by a mentally deranged man.
At the center of the story is high school student Emma Duvall (Willa Fitzgerald), her mother Maggie (Tracy Middendorf), and several of Emma’s friends. As the season progresses it becomes more and more apparent that Maggie was somehow involved (though not criminally) in the original murders, and that there are a lot of things that have been hidden from Emma over the years. There are also several subplots involving people that are meant to peel back the layers of the oh-so-normal appearance of the town and its residents.
Where Scream fails to live up to its predecessors is in the actual dread level. Although there are plenty of people in peril throughout the season, the ten-episode format really lessens the suspense from episode to episode and nothing ever seems to have much weight until the very end. Couple this with too many possible suspects (good for a two-hour movie, but not so much for a series), and the show falls flat on the suspense level.
My biggest problem as a horror fan is with the eventual reveal of the guilty parties. My wife guessed the killer and the motive around the third episode, and she was almost completely correct. She has watched about as many horror films as me so she’s very familiar with the tropes, but this one is so easy to spot that it’s almost as if the writers were trying to be as obvious as possible in an attempt to be seem ironically clever. Either way, it was lazy plotting.
Even with all of its problems, I would still recommend Scream to horror fans, particularly of the teenage variety. It is surprisingly not overloaded with terrible dialogue and lingo, not entirely dependent on goofy plot devices, and genuinely suspenseful towards the end. Be warned; the mask is really terrible and kind of looks like a doll face, but not the scary kind. Not quite Halloween-H20-Michael-Myers-mask bad, but bad none the less.
Until next time…