Scream MTV: When a Stranger Calls – Almost Meta (Review)

Emma (Willa Fitzgerald)

Scream on MTV aired its season two finale on Tuesday.  “When a Stranger Calls” unmasks the killer, sort of, and is almost meta enough to make up for what was so hated about the first season. Sadly this poor imitation of Wes Craven’s brilliant legacy of the Scream franchise falls well short of the mark set by the late director.

This final episode revealed that Kieren (Amadeus Serafini) was the killer. (Although later “ghostface” – played by  Mike Vaughn – calls the small screen Billy Loomis and asks him who told the killer he could wear his mask.)  It also had more references to the big screen “Scream.” Some of these were a stretch, like the cop car crash sequence for instance, but still the episode tried to  be referential. 

Still missing was the sly poke at the genre, the black humor and the clear “guidelines” in every slasher film ever made. Although to be fair Emma, like Sidney, has reluctant sex,  and both these young ladies survive.

Also missing was the iconic voice of Roger Jackson, the man who did every Scream film in the franchise. Vaughn does a passible job as “ghostface” but he sounds more like the villain on Scary Movie than Jackson’s truly terrifying killer.

(It was also insulting  to fans of Wes’ films that Jackson was never even approached by the makers of this small screen shadow of Scream.) Roger’s ghostface reveled  in his evilness with a dark sort of demented glee unmatched by Vaughn’s version.

Emma was the Sidney Prescott in this MTV version and showing just how far the small screen Scream deviates from Craven’s films the makers have Duval arrested. She is set up by the real killer and the cops fall for it. Emma is taken in, something that would never happen to Sidney.

In some ways the finale did surpass the entirety of both seasons by having the last stand, initially, in the movie theatre.  Later the final confrontation takes place in an old church where, unlike her big screen counterpart, Emma lets Kieren survive.  Fair enough, in the this verse, Emma’s  boyfriend did not kill her mother.

Overall “When a Stranger Calls” (a nice nod to another “classic” horror film although with all the texting that occurs on Scream: The TV Series  it could have been  titled “When a Stranger Texts.” ) comes closer to Wes’ verse even it if does lack  the clever wit.

The knife attacks were plentiful, Brooke (Carlson Young) is skewered as is Eli (Sean Grandillo) although she survives and he, apparently, does not.  Of course the lad is actually dispatched with Emma’s gun.

(Eli provides a what many see as a homage to screen four with the door scene. To be fair it feels a bit more “The Faculty” than Scre4m.) 

There is a sequence where Emma has to decide who is telling the truth, another big screen reference to the original.  Duval even picks the wrong “killer” to shoot, thus ending, presumably, Eli’s role in future seasons.

Speaking of shooting…

Emma’s magical gun was something else. Without going back and counting all the rounds shot out of the single magazine pistol, it seems that at least 12 bullets were squeezed off at either Kieren or Eli.  (Interesting to note that she missed Kieren every single time and punched Eli’s ticket almost without aiming.)

It was nice to see the small screen version of Randy, Noah (John Karna) survive, although Randy makes it at least to Scream 2 before being terminated by the killer.  The fact that Audrey (Bex Taylor-Klausalso makes out alive is a plus. Both these characters were sort of personal favorites. Noah, despite not being as funny as Randy (remember the MTV gang removed any sign of humor from their adaptation of the verse) he was meta enough to be entertaining.

Fans of the Wes Craven/Kevin Williamson versions of Scream seem to believe that the psychiatrist on the MTV series is the new version of Gale Weathers. The shrink is seen writing her theory about “two girl syndrome” (or whatever rubbish she paraded  out for the sheriff) but writing a book does not Gale Weathers make. Once again the small screen character lacks something. (Most likely Kevin Williamson…)

The show’s makers have left the door open for a season three, or at least a build up to their  Halloween special, judging by the phone call from another ghostface.  Perhaps the show will be renewed and if so we have one tiny request to make.

Bring back the humor; the sly poke at the genre that made the late Wes Craven’s versions so special.  MTV Scream may have come very close to cracking a more successful formula with their finale. This shows that they can do it if they try.

Thus far it seems that the biggest fans of the series either never watched the four Scream films or never really “got them” MTV could allow the creators of Scream: The TV Series to be more referential.  (And just an idea chaps, scrap that massively irritating after show.)

They could, in season three, really “bring it.” To paraphrase Gale Weathers  in Scream 4 “How meta would that be?”

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

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