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 3 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).
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.