A horror re-imagining for an MTV audience. Ignore the constant rip-offs of Craven's classic slasher and you might have some fun here, but otherwise, it's a fairly sad and cheap-feeling affair.
TV remakes and spin-offs of classic films are a thing now, and there’s no real way of escaping it. In fact, quite a few have actually proven to be surprisingly great, like Fargo or maybe Ash vs. the Evil Dead. The small-screen adaptation of the late Wes Craven’s classic teen slasher Scream however, feels very much on the opposite end of that spectrum.
Doing away with almost every distinct element that made the original Scream (and, I guess, its sequels) such a hit when it was first released, MTV’s take on the now legendary horror stands as very much a re-boot. Set within a different world entirely to the Woodsboro killings of the initial film, the simply-titled Scream does still obviously follow a similar slasher set-up, wherein a close group of students in a small-town are regularly terrorised by a senseless killer. Where things begin to change is in the show’s modernisation of the classic formula, and its overall tone.
Whereas this isn’t a direct copy of Craven’s original, Scream does take the film’s name, and set-up, meaning it is in a way, always linked to it, and it’s this which becomes the show’s biggest downfall. As a standalone horror series, with its own style and direction, this really wouldn’t be too bad; the rites and rituals of the slasher code are lengthened out relatively well, and the central ‘whodunnit’-style mystery stays relatively fresh across most of the season’s ten episodes. By attaching the Scream name and thus, canon, to it though, the show’s producers have very much shot themselves in the foot.
The comparisons to the original film become almost impossible to hide from. In fact, at times, this feels almost like a Scream greatest hits compilation, reliving the most iconic moments in the franchise – from the theatre finale of Scream 2 to a certain house party in the original – but all tackled with a far bleaker tone and a much less entertaining cast. Not to mention the fact that, despite the show opting for a completely different – and much darker – backstory (complete with a pretty boring new Ghostface-esque mask), it quite often attempts to still riff on the self-referential humour of the original’s script, failing pretty miserably at every turn.
Worst of all though, is what has come to be the show’s most defining feature; its truly tragic selling point. It’s what the television executives clearly saw as the only ‘new’ and fresh’ way to approach a contemporary TV update of Scream: social media. Ditching Craven’s now iconic ringing phone, the show has the killer stalking his victims across the likes of Twitter and Snapchat (well, cheap unlicensed rip-offs of such sites), turning what once was a terrifying bid for survival into an incredibly lame bout of cyberbullying. Sure, it’s still a little creepy, but these constant attempts to shoehorn in modern culture ultimately just never feel genuine. Instead, they just come across as the actions of some out-of-touch producer attempting to emulate teen attitudes but never quite getting it right, and it’s really quite sad to watch.
However, in spite of all of this, when you somehow strip back the wandering tone, lazy attempts at modernisation and the annoyingly bland cast of MTV degenerates, Scream becomes – at least for a few episodes somewhere in the middle – a decent bit of trashy fun. The many, many overlapping sub-plots (pretty much all revolving around who’s sleeping with who) may remain dicey, but the central mystery ticks along pretty nicely and some surprise deaths along the way keep you on your toes as well. Weirdly enough Jeremy Zuckerman’s music is actually remarkably great too; his theme a weirdly grand accompaniment to the mostly sub-par show that follows.
Let’s face it, the idea of a Scream TV show was never particularly inviting to begin with and for the most part, it’s warped concept of teen culture and frighteningly dull re-imaginings of classic Scream-lore basically live up to such expectations. The few morsels of decency mentioned above may well keep you watching until the end, but when you finally do get there, it’s an incredibly over-egged and highly-predictable finale anyway. Despite its occasional grimness, fans of the likes of Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl will likely feel more at home here than followers of the original series, who will no doubt find an awful lot to hate. Approach with caution; there’s scraps of fun to be had with Scream here and there, but for the most part, it’s an insanely trashy mess.
Season 1 of Scream (2015) is available to stream in its entirety on Netflix.