Director – Jamie Travis, Brian Dannelly, Rodman Flender, Leigh Janiak, Tim Hunter, Julius Ramsay, Ti West
Cast – Willa Fitzgerald, Bex Taylor-Klaus, John Karna, Carlson Young, Tracy Middendorf, Amadeus Serafini, Mike Vaughn, Tom Maden, Bryan Batt, Amelia Rose Blaire, Bobby Campo, Jason Wiles, Connor Weil, Herbert Cavalier Jr., Dominique Hayes, Tom Everett Scott, Sosie Bacon, Brianne Tju, Bella Thorne, Anthony Hill, Karsyn Darby, Darryl Suarez, Sophina Brown, Lindsay Musil
Release Year – 2015
Reviewed by John of the Dead
In the interest of full disclosure I must say that I am not a big fan of the Scream franchise. I enjoyed Scream and Scream 4, but it just didn’t do it for me despite being a big fan of Wes Craven. When I learned of the TV show I wasn’t too interested given it’s put on by MTV, but after attending Texas Frightmare Weekend 2016 and meeting some of the stars from the show I had to give it a watch. While it won’t hit as hard as The Walking Dead, Hannibal, American Horror Story, or Bates Motel, Scream: The TV Series is an enjoyable show for slasher fans. Much like the film series, it plays on the usual slasher cliches, in meta form, and doesn’t shy away from delivering good kills and more blood than I expected.
The story takes place in the fictional town of Lakewood, where a popular high school student, Nina Patterson, is brutally murdered after uploading a video of the school’s closeted bicurious student, Audrey, kissing another girl. We follow Emma Duval, a popular yet more humble high school student, and her classmates as they find themselves targeted by Nina’s tech-savvy killer – a killer with knowledge of their darkest secrets. As the town falls into panic over the increasing body count, rumors begin to spread of a terrible incident that occurred 20 years prior, where a crippled introvert, Brandon James, was killed by police after murdering several classmates. Is the killer somehow back from the grave to finish what he started? As the classmates team together and strive for the truth, their friendships, relationships, and ties to the community will be tested, and broken. This is especially the case for Emma, who learns that Brandon James has ties to her past.
Sounds juicy, huh? The opening sequence had me sold and was a direct homage to the infamous opener for Scream. It’s violent, up to date on pop culture, and it gives us a look at the new Ghostface mask. Wes Craven said they should have left it alone, but I didn’t mind the new look. I think they needed to give us something different given they are using different killers than the film series. It definitely pales in comparison to the original mask, but it isn’t terrible. As with all TV shows the story is character-driven, and the writers do a good job of selling them. They are each colorful in their own ways, with the thoughtful lead Emma, the source of know-it-all slasher info Noah, the quasi-goth bicurious outcast Audrey, the mysterious and good-looking new guy Kiernan, the bratty daughter of the mayor Brooke, and a few jocks you’ll enjoy but won’t miss if/when they die. The use of characters then expands with the addition of the adults. There is Emma’s mom Maggie, who is the source of Emma’s ties to Brandon James, the sheriff who is at his wits end trying to figure out who is behind the murders, and then there is Piper Shaw. An out of town investigative journalist / blogger covering the murders, she is the up to date version of Gale Weathers from the film franchise. The character play is good and aside from the horror going on there are some engaging undertones that will keep you glued to the screen. There are characters you will love and there are some you will hate, so this isn’t just a cheap rehash of the source material. Of course, you never know you can trust so everyone minus Emma is a suspect, and naturally everyone minus Emma is dying off. The twists and turns abound and will keep you guessing until the bitter end. However, there is a second season out right now so the story isn’t over yet.
Scream fans have probably been out of high school for a decade now, like myself, but horror films with a high school setting still grasp my attention. It isn’t even the high school element that intrigues me. It is the nostalgic revisiting of being young and in love with horror films, which helped me identify with Noah quite a bit – minus the part where he gets no girls. High school is definitely different now, and the show reflects that. Social networking, smart phones, computer viruses, and events “going viral” are a big part of the story, with the killer being the most tech-savvy of them all.
You may see some familiar names attached the show. Ti West (The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers) directs an episode, as does Leigh Janiak (Honeymoon). Actress Bex Taylor-Klaus (Audrey), my personal favorite of this series, previously had notable roles in The Killing (Bullet), Arrow (Sin) and The Last Witchhunter. Tracy Middendorf (Maggie Duval) appeared in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, Bobby Campo (Seth Branson) starred in The Final Destination, and Amelia Rose Blaire (Piper Shaw) appeared in True Blood.
My biggest skepticism going into this show was how effective the horror would be, given it’s an MTV product. As mentioned earlier, the horror was much better than I expected. The execution of the opening sequence was fantastic, and the show managed to keep up the ante. We see live gore and full-frontal kills, although there will be some that occur off-screen as well. I enjoyed the new Ghostface mask and was glad to see the killer executed to the same mannerisms as the killers in the film series. It’s not as good as the original, and nothing ever will be, but it’s enough to sell the horror. The knife used is nearly identical to the infamous blade of the 90s, but we do see the killer employ some crafty methods to dish out some vengeful deaths. The writing and directing execution result in some fair horror that is sure to please fans of the original series. It isn’t over the top, but then again neither was the horror in the films. This is a character-driven effort and the jolts, twists, and kills made Season 1 a fun experience.
Overall, Season 1 of Scream: The TV Series is a solid effort that delivers the core of the Scream franchise alongside modern amendments that make this applicable to today’s society. If you enjoy slasher films and mystery storylines this then is probably worth your time.