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[TV Review] “Scream” Shows Promise, But Still Has a Ways to Go

Scream, image via MTV

MTV’s Scream TV series has been fighting an uphill battle since Day 1. When it was announced three years ago(!), it was met with an incredible amount of backlash. Either from people who just wanted a fifth movie (me), people who thought the franchise had run its course, and those who simply didn’t give a shit, no one seemed to have much faith in the series. Add to the fact that it was set to air on MTV, and all hope was seemingly lost. While by no means a failure, Scream has a ways to go before it completely wins over this critic. The pilot shows enough promise to make me want to keep watching, though.

To give this review some context, it should be known that I’m a huge Scream junkie. I love Scream 2, 1 and 4, in that order (yes, I love 4 a lot). I like is fine, but is definitely the weakest of the bunch (though I don’t hate it like so many of you do). As for the series, I had high hopes but low expectations going in to it. All of that being said, we can get to the actual review.

In an opening montage very reminiscent of this year’s Unfriended, a video clip featuring Audrey (Bex Taylor-Klaus, Arrow, iZombie) making out with a girl is posted online and shared on every social media platform known to man. Queen Bitch Nina (Bella Thorne) is murdered in her home, and we are then introduced to Good Girl Emma (Willa Fitzgerald) and her boyfriend Will (Connor Weil), Princess Bitch Brooke (Carlson Young), Mysterious New Guy Kieran (Amadeus Serafini), Randy Stand-In Noah (John Karna), Douchebag Jake (Tom Maden) and Nerdy Hot Girl Riley (Brianne Tju).

[Related Post] Review: “MTV’s ‘Scream’ Isn’t Playful Enough,” Says Mr. Disgusting

There is also an entire sub-plot involving Emma’s mother Maggie (Tracy Middendorf, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare), being the survivor of an attack by a deformed boy who had a crush on her in high school. Is this boy back from the dead and offing teenagers one by one? We don’t find out in the pilot, but it proves to be a somewhat intriguing and unexpected premise.

What is most surprising about Scream is that with so many characters, barely any of them register. I had to look up all of their names on IMDB while writing this review. The girls fare slightly better than the boys, as they are actually given plot lines. Of particular note are Klaus, who imbues Audrey with a nice dose of heart and snarkiness and Young, who is a dead ringer for a blonde Kate Mara. She doesn’t get to do much than be bitchy, but she has fun with it. With the exception of Karna’s Noah, though, none of the other males make an impression. Though he is only memorable because he has the most to do in the episode.


The acting is hit or miss, but it’s mostly passable. A lot of the dialogue feels forced and a bit too on-the-nose. The emphasis on technology is a little overwhelming as well (though there is a nice bit with someone trying to use a smart phone with wet fingers, only to realize the screen is unable to detect them). This was a problem I had with Scream 4 on an initial viewing but grew to forgive over time, so the same may happen with Scream the series. Also, it could just be a symptom of being a pilot. Shows usually take 3 or 4 episodes to get into a groove, but since Scream’s first season is only 10 episodes, that could cause it to lose viewers early on.

Speaking of meta, there is a lot of it in Scream. Some are obnoxious (conversations about horror series actually on the air, a character explaining that the series is being stretched out into 10 episodes, so that the audience can get attached to the characters) but others are subtle and clever. There’s a pretty nice nod to Tatum’s death in the first film about halfway through the episode that I found quite enjoyable.

What is nice is the gore quotient. In the pilot episode alone we get to see a severed head, a throat slashed and a heart in a box. It’s nice to know that MTV isn’t afraid to get down and dirty with the gore. I’ve never seen an episode of Teen Wolf, but I’ve heard it’s actually pretty good. Here’s hoping Scream keeps on delivering in that respect. Don’t get me wrong, it’s no Hannibal when it comes to the gross-out factor, but it’s better than I expected.

What prevents Scream  from being truly great is that it’s just not all that fun or memorable. It’s not really different from anything else on TV, and is reminiscent more of a darker episode of Pretty Little Liars (which is fine, as that show can be good when it goes dark). That being said, I saw enough potential in the episode to merit a slightly above average score. I want to like Scream; I just hope it finds its groove sooner rather than later. If anything, the closing montage (yes, another one) provides enough mystery to make you want to check out the second episode.



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  • I’m still looking forward(?) to this. Nothing I’ve seen has really sparked my interest but I can set aside preconceived notions and try to enjoy it for what it is. Plus, I’ve always wished PLL would do a more sinister spin off (they tried and it was horrendous though). When PLL does creepy it tends to feel like a moment lifted from a 90’s slasher by way of Italian giallo so your comparison has me intrigued.

    • Honestly a lot of it reminded me of PLL. So you might like it!

      • That almost sounds like shade. 🙂

        • Not at all. I enjoy many parts of PLL. I just get bored with it every now and then. That being said, the decision to go dark with PTSD this season is VERY good.

          • Definitely. I think they may have jumped the shark with the whole Charles’s underground bunker/torture chamber (it’s so outside the realm of believability), but it’s also made for some creepy/entertaining TV. That being said, PLL has never been terribly grounded so I’m enjoying the ride.

          • cscheffer

            What do u think now Trace Thurman, I am addicted to this show I love the 1,2, and 4th just like you I dig the cheesiness in 3 but too weak and only 1 killer… I like the suspense who is the killer waiting and after this week’s episode what happens with Will do to Emma (No Spoilers)!!.. I love it so glad it got renewed..

          • Me too! I’m glad you’re enjoying it!

  • wehoaks

    The more I read about this the less fun I feel it will be. I know they passed on any writers submitted who have a comedy background (this one included) because they said they wanted dark samples. That made me wonder if the humor and glee the film series has would be lost in TV translation. Sounds as if that is the case. Too bad. The dark comedy is what set the film series apart from the pack. It would do the same here if they knew better. Sounds like they don’t.

    • There is humor, but I didn’t find it particularly funny. I can’t really judge a show based on its pilot though. Definitely give it a shot! It’s not a travesty by any means. It’s just not spectacular.

      • wehoaks

        Cool. I’m definitely checking this out for sure. Just have. Wry very low expectations. Which in the end could help.

        • Yeah I went in with low expectations but high hopes. Interested to hear your thoughts once you watch it!

          • wehoaks

            Will definitely fill you in after I see it!

  • J Jett

    Trace, thanks for the review! you and i tend to like many of the same things so i have a feeling i’ll feel similar-ish to how you feel about this show. are you going to do reviews for each ep (like your IZOMBIE reviews)? and off topic, have you seen the freaking awesome Netflix show SENSE8? it’s my favorite show at the moment. i am praying we get a season 2!

    • I will be doing weekly reviews! This counts as my pilot review so you can expect my next one for the second episode.

      And I haven’t! It’s on my list, but I have like 6 other shows I need to catch up on this summer (Masters of Sex, OITNB, Daredevil, True Detective, Fargo & The Strain). I’ll get on it at some point though!

      • J Jett

        right on! i look forward to discussing SCREAM with you. i’m VERY curious to see what you think of THE STRAIN. the vampire parts are excellent (not including The Master, who looks like a muppet) but the writing is insultingly bad. it’s one of those 100% guilty pleasure trashy shows. i’m looking forward to season 2 though. hopefully the writing has gotten better.

        • Interestingly enough, I watched the first 6 or 7 episodes and fell off. I read the whole book trilogy (which is alright but poorly written) and the show just didn’t captivate me. I’m going to binge the rest of the season before the season 2 premiere though. I think there’s better material to work with!

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    • Sky Ferreira

      A better question would be “Trace, who over at CW paid you to write a weekly review of iZombie?”

  • Not sure what I can do with this show. I really want to like it but something says that it will be just slightly above average. Hearing encouraging -but not glowing reviews….I am up for the ride.

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  • Charles Schmeltz

    Given that the show runner was the producer of Harper’s Island, the inclusion of Bex-Taylor Klaus, and Wes Craven’s approval of the new mask and plot, we should all be cautiously optimistic about the series. The fact the it got green-lit at all should speak volumes about how enthusiastic these people were about doing this. As a up and coming film maker myself, Scream has been a huge influence on me, and even if it has nothing to do with the series, I relish the opportunity to revisit the series in some form on a weekly basis.

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  • Andros Fan

    I rate Scream 4 3.5/5. Man, this show must be watchable then! Can’t wait!

  • Sky Ferreira

    The new order is: 1, 2, 4, Scream: The Series, and then 3.

  • kaitou

    We should just sit back and enjoy the nostalgia. I mean any scream is better than no scream. And to be able to sit it week after week for a true scream fan like me is amazing. Granted I wish the mask was the same. But it makes this different. I think compared to most shows like this this has the most promise. I mean pretty little liars is dragging it out too much harpers island was great but viewers hate great mystery shows and only want stupid pointless csi. We needed a mystery show one that can show a new era of horror for a new generation. As for my review I wish that had at least one black main character, I really wish the sydney look alike should have been the real main instead of confused girl. Killer is scary and smart but not intimidating on phone. When the one on film got mad you knew it and it was scary. I love the characters and dialogue isn’t bad. Would love to see more of the town not just the school and houses. I miss the bumbling Barney cop. But it does feel original.

  • kaitou

    BTW thank you for bringing back scream this TV show is the closest we will get to a sequel since the fourth movie didn’t get a spark

  • TheBigGuy

    This show stinks. Movie came out when I was growing up and just felt forced after the 2nd film.

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