CONTINUING THE build-up to Friday’s Jessica Jones release, we have Jeanette talking about the television version of Scream, a television series that airs on MTV in America and on Netflix here in the UK. This begs the question, does MTV actually show music anymore? Also is it any good? Read on to find out the answer to one of these questions.
“You can’t do a slasher as a TV series.” These are the words that echo through the first episode of Scream, MTV and Netflix’s joint venture into the current wave of TV horror. Produced by the late master of horror Wes Craven, the series adds a very heavy dose of drama into the usually very cut-and-dry (pun intended) Slasher genre. A group of over-sexed TV teenagers party with booze, a masked killer turns up, he kills most of the kids; one kid survives and saves the day. It’s pretty much the same fare here, but with more focus on injecting some actual character into the bloody deaths.
Despite the franchise’s history as a game-changer with its self-referential, genre-savvy characters, the TV series doesn’t really do anything more than emphasize it. The series, centred on Emma Duvall (Willa Fitzgerald) and her friends, discovering that the notorious killer Brandon James (as played by, SPOILER REDACTED) is back after a viral cyber-bullying attempt, complete with mask and cloak, and is out for blood with just a hint of soap p=opera histrionics. Scream is equal parts high school drama and mordant murder mystery but, above all, it’s a vehicle for a constant cycle of modern, self-aware references. And it’s highly smug about it, if that earlier quote didn’t give it away.
It’s interestingly ballsy in the first few episodes, but it wears thin really quickly as characters like Noah Foster (John Karna) quickly become that annoying fourth wall breaking character that doesn’t really add to the comedy. Fortunately, he gets toned down midway through the series. One good thing about the show is that it does start a new myth regarding Brandon James; there aren’t really any obvious throwbacks or character returns from the previous four films.
To add to the mystery, James is the town’s local bogeyman, having launched a spree in Halloween past and getting killed by police. The addition of this preceding slasher spree adds a bit more oomph to the story, giving characters a background reference that’s not solely pop culture. The drama within the show, while incredibly trite in nature, does add a refreshing taste into the formula. It strikes a decent balance between the soppy teenage mystery drama with the old school slasher fare, not getting bogged down in one or the other.
Unfortunately, this came too little too late, with shows such as Hannibal taking a lot of the core elements of what works here but doing so without the smugness that Scream is rife with. The show almost rubs it in that it’s modern, throwing out enough name-drops to sustain a drinking game. Overall, Scream plays out like many of its predecessors: Wonderful popcorn TV, with a decent amount of pacing, topped with horror cheese and the signature MTV pop culture overload. A forgettable treat that burns bright but quickly fades.