Five rules for making a Scream TV series:
- Make sure Scream creator/screenwriter Kevin Williamson on board.
- And, while you’re at it, get original Scream director Wes Craven.
- Update the ‘ghostface’ mask. It’s beyond parody now.
- Stay away from Woodsboro, too. It’s been done to death.
- Do everything in your power to expunge memories of – shudder – Scream 4.
On that basis, MTV’s new Scream TV series gets 5 out of 5.
“You can’t do a slasher movie as a TV series,” someone says in the first episode of the new TV series based on Wes Craven’s post-modern slasher movie ofScream. Television moves slow, reasons Noah, while slasher movies move quickly. “Girl and her friend arrive at the dance, the camp, deserted town, whatever. Killer takes them out one by one. Ninety minutes later, the sun comes up and ‘survivor girl’ sits in the ambulance watching her friends bodies being wheeled past.” Noah may have a point: although there’s plenty of horror on television these days, the last stab at a serial killer series was Harper’s Island, which was quietly put out of its misery after 13 episodes in 2009. So MTV’s new Scream TV series begs the question: can you do a slasher movie as a TV series?
Scream is based on a premise by original Scream writer Kevin Williamson, and executive produced by Wes Craven, and involves a serial killer in a hard white open-mouth mask – a clever variation on the ‘ghostface’ mask from the Scream films – but rather than making reference to the Woodsboro murders,Scream is set in another fictional small town, Laketown, with its own bloody history: in 1996, deformed teenager Brandon James, obsessing over a local teenager named Daisy, went on a murderous rampage, killing a number of Laketown students before being shot and killed at Wren Lake. Nineteen years later, Brandon’s murder spree is largely forgotten – until Nina (Bella Thorne) is brutally murdered on the night a video she shot (of two local girls sucking face) went viral. Chief suspect is Nina’s friend Tyler, who goes missing on the night of the murder – except we, the audience, know he’s dead too. So who’s behind the murders?
Nina’s fellow students (you could hardly call them ‘friends’) are not exactly in mourning – Nina was a stone cold bitch – but they and the rest of the town are, understandably, buzzing about the possibility that Brandon James is back for a repeat performance of his 1996 murder spree – especially when the killer spams cellphones with a macabre GIF: a selfie showing him posing, in Brandon’s white mask, next to Nina’s body. His need to share is understandable, says Noah: “It’s the age of Instagram and YouTube and Tumblr. We need to share the things we do, or it’s like it never happened.” This being Screamland, there’s more knowing dialogue like this, and plenty to like about the show – and not just the writing. The main characters – Emma (Willa Fitzgerald), Noah (John Karna), Audrey (Bex Taylor-Klaus), Kieran (Amadeus Serafini), Will (Connor Weil), Brooke (Carlson Young) and Jake (Tom Maden) – are more fun to hang out with than the cast of most TV shows about high school, the backstory of Emma’s mother, Maggie (played by Tracy Middendorf, from Wes Craven’s original post-modern horror movie, New Nightmare) is intriguing, and the death scenes are imaginatively and effectively staged.
Bates Motel and Hannibal both proved it’s possible to make the transition from horror movie to TV show, and Scream isn’t the only movie getting a TV reboot this year: The Omen and Ash vs Evil Dead are also on the way – not to mention Scream Queens, which has a whiff of Scream-style post-modernism about it. It’s early days, of course, but on the basis of the first two episodes (the only two available at press time), Scream looks like the one to beat.