What Are You Watching?: “Scream”


Scream (2015, MTV)

With the recent tragic loss of horror movie icon, Wes Craven, I feel that I have to pay homage to the man who got me so hooked on the thrill of the horror flick. What made Craven’s films so superb was the way the narratives were always laced with ingenious plot points and sharp dialogue that not only exposed the true nature of numerous horror tropes, but also followed these conventions and allowed for the film to hold humor. Primarily, I am speaking of the first horror movie I ever saw – 1996’s Scream.

Scream was the film that chronicled Sidney Prescott as she made her way through high school in the sleepy little town of Woodsboro. Sidney’s mother had passed away and following that Sidney began receiving mysterious calls that before her mother passed, her mother had an affair and that is part of the reason she was gone. The anonymous calls are coming from horror icon, Ghostface. The Ghostface killer is most interesting because as the movie series moved forward, there was not only a new face but a new motive underneath the mask and it was up to Sidney, the survivor, to figure out who it was. Otherwise, she’d die.

This past year in March, MTV announced that they had purchased the rights to Wes Craven’s Scream legacy and were going to (attempt) to do a TV series with the four movies in mind. I cannot even begin to explain how incredibly excited I was to watch the premiere. With the loss of another MTV show – 2014’s Eye Candy – earlier in the year, I felt my rotary of thriller shows sadly shortened.

When the first episode was about to premiere, MTV had shot amazing promos which ran every hour. The promos featured all of the stars of their hit series – like Awkward, Teen Wolf, and Faking It – all at a house party as a slow zoom out and pan of the room filled the screen with shocking amounts of blood – every MTV starlet massacred before their fans’ eyes. A light version of the song “Everybody Dies” plays in the promo until the shot of the interior is cut to the house’s doorbell, which is being rung by the cast of the Scream series. They wait for the door to be answered, only to be kept waiting. Finally one cast member says, “sounds dead in there…” I felt that this not only made the show seem far more intense than anything MTV had done in the past, but also demonstrated how much money they were willing to put into promoting the show, in turn showing that MTV had high hopes of it doing well.

Original film mask http://thebea.st/1j4n7Yj
Original film mask

As for the show itself: I found it highly disappointing. I was hoping for a great homage to the four predecessors featuring Sidney or a distant cousin. However, what I tuned in to was nothing worthy of the title Scream. The show featured a whole new girl, Emma Duval, in a whole new town in 2015. Mentally putting my irritations with the new family line aside, I decided then to rest my hopes upon the first appearance of the Ghostface killer. When the masked murderer finally made an on-screen appearance, one can imagine my disappointment to see that the iconic mask that has been in use for almost 20 years had been changed to something far less interesting, all to fit the new storyline on the show — the new mask was a reconstructive mask worn following surgeries.

Brandon James, who is the alleged killer, had multiple reconstructive facial surgeries at a young age and was required to wear the mask as he healed. I felt it was an interesting twist to use this mask because it almost made the audience sympathetic to the young Brandon James.  For the entirety of the series, Emma and her friends refer to the killer as Brandon James instead of the famous “Ghostface,” which is never mentioned in the series. I suppose this is okay because I’d rather think of them as separate entities anyway; one as the original name brand and the other as the dollar store version.

TV series mask http://bit.ly/1VtqK5O
TV series mask

These irritants could all be classified more as “let-downs” than “deal-breakers.” The show still had some shock value and a lot of suspicious characters, but what really turned me away from the series was the lack of sharp dialogue and smart scenes, which are constant in all four of the films. The closest the series ever came to doing this was in the first episode when a young horror movie buff spoke out as to why a slasher flick could never become a TV series, stating that: “You can’t do a slasher as a TV series. Think about it. 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.” Though this was the sharpest line in the series, it was not sharp enough to pierce my heart and make me crave a second season.

Unfortunately, the show did get renewed for a second season by episode three, shortly before Wes Craven passed away.

Season 2 of Scream will air on MTV sometime in 2016, while season one is available right now on MTV.com.

— Michael Cotter, Poetry Editor & Blogger

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