I can assure you, I don't fit into MTV's audience demographic. So groans and sighs were guaranteed when I heard one of my beloved, self aware, slasher film franchises was getting the MTV treatment. But surprisingly, the Scream TV series is almost be as good as the original film, with potential of being even better.
I must say up front I wouldn't call this article a review. I would say it's more of a soft apology letter to MTV. I think the way I looked at the Scream TV series was instead of judging a book by its cover, I opened the book and judged it by the publisher. By all means, it does not mean now that I will openly search out for MTV shows. But once finishing Season 1 (in a one day binge mind you), I was quite relieved to see that MTV treated the Scream franchise with the incredible respect it deserved.
The TV series is a remake. New town, new characters, new mask and no references to the original Woodsboro murders. As stated in Scream 4, the rules of a surviving a horror remake are as follows:
1. The death scenes have to be way more extreme.
2. Unexpected is the new cliche.
3. Virgins can die now.
4. New versions are always 2.0, so the latest technology is always involved and integral to the plot. This means the killer may start filming the murders.
5. You have to have an opening sequence.
6. Don't mess with the original.
7. If you want to survive in a modern day horror movie, you pretty much have to be gay.
Here in Australia at least, Netflix have rebranded the show as a Netflix Original, yet the MTV brand and tone was all too familiar from the first episode; typical MTV millennial high school teens, in their stereotypical teen roles, with their rich kid, 'Glee'-like faces, far too young to be having sex. Despite a fairly impressive reworking of the infamous Drew Barrymore opening to the original film, updated for the smart phone era (a check next to two of the remake rules in one hit), I finished episode one with a fairly sour taste in my mouth.
"They've ruined Scream!" I declared, walking away from the TV. "Damn you MTV! Damn you!"
After some time to calm down, it slowly dawned on me; the show-runners had every intention to stick to the rules of how to survive a horror movie. Scream built itself on establishing this set of rules. Each movie that followed adjusted the rules to apply to horror sequels, horror trilogies and when it came to the fourth film in the franchise, the remake.
Once I got passed my MTV 16 and Pregnant and Jersey Shore-esque prejudice, and taking into account how well these rules were respected, I began to understand why a MTV backed Scream TV Series was more than appropriate for 2015. As the plot thickened with each new episode, these MTV kids were asking to be murdered.
The series begins with humiliating online viral outing of bi-curious co-lead, Audrey (played by Bex Taylor-Klaus), by the sexy, cool popular kids including co-lead Emma (Willa Fitzgerald) and Brooke (Carlson Young). When popular kids Nina and Tyler (who appear to behind the viral video) are brutally murdered, a Gale Weathers-type, Piper Shaw (Amelia Rose Blaire) comes to town to investigate the murders for her podcast. You have the two jocks Will and Jake (Connor Weil and Tom Madden respectively), who seem to be making their own trouble. Film horror geek and virgin, Noah (John Karna) is coming to terms with the new horror movie rules that virgins are fair game now. And there's the brooding, handsome and mysterious Billy Loomis type love interest of Emma, Kieran (played by Amadeus Serafini), who we are purposely made to question. And it wouldn't be a Scream story without the questionable actions of lead character's parents, with Tracy Middendorf playing Emma's mother, Maggie.
The death scenes were at the best times more extreme than previous Scream outings and the plot worked hard to bring the unexpected, despite how much we know of what is expected in the typical teen slasher genre. With shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones unafraid to kill their darlings, this series had their work cut out to stay relevant, interesting and watchable for the new generation of viewers.
And it succeeds. How, I wouldn't spoil completely, but a lot had to do with not killing characters as often as you would expect across its ten episodes. And because there is a total of ten TV hours to let story lines breathe as opposed to a two hour movie, characters were given room to develop and become likeable. As the mystery of the past is brought to climax in the final episodes, everything was as familiar as I could hope from another Scream outing.
So why would I think that the series could surpass the original film? Season 2, that's why. Yes, we got three Scream sequels, but even in the closing moments of Season 1 we were teased with where the story will go next, and it feels like it will be places the franchise has never been before.
It will be interesting to if we will see fresh new rules for Season 2 to follow. But more so, wouldn't it be special to see a cameo from a familiar face? Gale Weathers anyone?
So MTV, we haven't had a great run with the usual shows you produce, but for me, with Scream: The Tv Series, you've got my seal of approval.
Daniel Sanguineti is a Australian Film Producer and Writer, who tutors film and media at the University of Canberra and the Canberra Institute of Technology. He is on twitter @DanSanguineti.