In 1996 Wes Craven started the Scream franchise, which to be fair came later, and, giving a great big cheeky nod to Alfred Hitchcock, killed off the film’s star in the first five minutes. The film was Craven’s homage with a tongue-in-cheek delivery to all things “slasher film” since the genre took off in the 1970s. The first film, like the rest, featured a strong female protagonist (or two counting Courtney Cox’s character) an endearing, and bumbling cop and some pretty spot on nods and winks to the genre and a lot of humor. It also featured Roger Jackson, who “appeared” (more accurately he was heard) in every Scream film as “Ghostface.”
The idea of taking the “scream-verse” to the small screen sounds like a great idea on paper, at least it must have to get MTV to get involved, but Scream lacks so much and the small screen slasher is more annoying and less fun than its inspiration. Certainly watching the first four episodes (“for free, then just sign into your MTV app and…”) there are things that work, albeit, barely.
There is a fairly good backstory, but it does feel like a Halloween borrow, giving the mask way more significance than Wes Craven or Kevin Williamson ever did. Certainly the creators of Scream “TV” have taken the idea of cell phone culture to heart. Using the young’s propensity to text rather than call on their cell, it almost negates the use of a “ghostface” voice changer, aka Roger Jackson (who, incidentally was never approached by the makers to work on the new series). Perhaps the most annoying thing about the show is the cheap trick by the program makers of having someone do a pretty underwhelming impression of Jackson on the phone and not having the “real deal.”
Certainly the unwillingness of the program’s makers to payout for the “real” Ghostface spells out all that is wrong with this show. Other problems deal with their use of the Internet, which Craven and Williamson opened the door on in Scream 4. Podcasts, the use of the net to promote instant “fame” (“How do you think people become famous any more? You don’t have to achieve anything. You just gotta have f***ed up-sh*t happen to you.” Jill tells Sidney this, before attempting to take over as hero of the Woodsboro story. Of course the proviso is that one has to film it, upload the footage and reap the rewards.)
Presumably the twist of the last Scream opened the door for this small screen version. The end result is one of overall disappointment. Where is the humor? Gone, like Roger Jackson and Kevin Williamson. The wry, sly, delivery that oversaw all the larger-than-life murders, buckets of blood, quips, plot twists and the likable main protagonists are all missing.
Emma Fitzgerald appears to be the small screen version of Sidney Prescott. She even comes from a broken home, single mom, versus Sid’s single dad scenario. Although mom is a coroner and dad is not dead, at least so far, he just does not live locally anymore. There is no Dewy and Gale Weathers appears to be taken over by a podcast crime aficionado Piper Shay, who lacks the career killer instinct that Weathers had in spades.
Noah Foster, played by John Karna, is a sort of Randy replacement, without the majestic geekiness that Jamie Kennedy infused the character with, although he is a crime buff and not a film one. He is also, a gamer.
The main problem with the small screen Scream is that this tries to be all things to all groups. There is a gay character, who was once bestie’s with Emma, who has yet to really prove to be anywhere near the equal of Sidney, but then who can really compete with Neve Campbell?
The acting is okay. There are things that stand out. John Karna’s broadcaster style delivery works and his (short-term) girl Riley Marra, played by Brianne Tju, had brilliant chemistry onscreen with Karna and Tju had the best death scene ever. Riley, who stupidly leaves the relative safety of the police station, gets stabbed repeatedly. She climbs to the roof and after slapping one bloody palm on the skylight to get the janitor’s attention, speaks to Noah, via FaceTime. Noah asks where she is, “What can you see,” he asks. As she dies, Riley rolls over to lay on her back facing the night sky. “Your stars,” she whispers and expires.
Unfortunately that two word descriptive fits the show all too well. Rather interestingly, the series seems to be fairly popular. Perhaps these fans are younger audience members who do not get what Craven and Williamson were doing with the big screen original franchise. Thus far the TV version lacks originality, which if would do as it is based upon a successful and beloved film franchise, and it has no humor. It takes itself far too seriously, going for the scare and leaving the humor out of the formula.
Although having said that, Noah does come close to being comic relief, but the working word here is “close.” Oddly, the best thing about the MTV show is the music. It sets scenes beautifully and supports the action very well. This makes sense, it is, after MTV. (Obligatory “Duh” entered here.) Sadly, great music and a kick-ass soundtrack do not a great series make.
One can forgive the lack of a Ghostface voice, since the plot does pretty much rely upon the text function of today’s smart phones, but to then use another actor Mike Vaughn to do a Roger Jackson style delivery is insulting. Not only to Jackson but to fans of the original who so desperately wanted to love this small screen Scream. Granted, it is not really clear if Vaughn is the voice on the phone, he is listed as “killer” rather than phone voice or “ghostface” wannabe. Just one more annoying thing about this show that is much less than the film franchise that inspired it.
Scream airs Tuesdays on MTV. Watch it and “catch up” if you are behind and see what you think. Prepare to be a little underwhelmed, this is a lot less fun than Craven’s films. Fans of horror with humor may want to hold out for Scream Queens on FOX.