Scream: The TV Series Review – more Riverdale than Scream


Scream Season 1 and 2 only

Featuring in my Chills and Thrills column in September, I had my reservations about Scream: The TV series. Nevertheless, I was surprised by how much it reminded me of the original film in some respects and how it was able to transform a slasher format into episodic endeavour. However, it still has problems, degrading in quality as the show progressed.

Though it is an anthology series, the first two seasons deal with the same characters before they switch to a new location and story in the third season. Set in the fictional town of Lakewood, the series opens with a cyberbullying act, which sets off a series of murders that are linked to horrific events that happened in the town’s questionable past.

This questionable past involved similar deaths to the ones occurring in the current timeline, giving life to the idea that the late Brandon James (original killer) is alive, or that there is a copycat on the loose. Emma Duval, our protagonist, is at the centre of it all, finding herself being stalked by the mysterious new serial killer. With her friends and family in imminent peril, she sets out to discover the secret of who is the Lakewood Slasher.

What the Scream TV series does well is that it has fairly likeable characters. It still has that classic problem that the original Scream had, in that the main character is not incredibly interesting and sometimes can be annoying with her irritating, self-pitying attitude. The rest of the characters, however, allow you the opportunity to ignore those useless moments, being better overall, though still prone to engaging in their own melodrama from time to time. However, if you are expecting the acting to be up to the calibre of the original Scream actors, you will be sorely disappointed. This show is more of a teen soap opera with some horror thrown in.

Scream really leans hard into the mystery of all the characters, which really adds to the suspense, as there are many secrets within the gang. But where this falters is the lack of emotional response to some of the deaths. Sometimes the characters are deeply emotionally invested, but other times it seems they care more about someone lying to them, than the brutal murders. This may be indicative of the attitudes of modern teenagers, but tends to just feel off.

Also, I found the dialogue can be a bit clunky and forced at times, drawing you out of the Scream experience. This does get better as the series develops, but did stop it being a smooth and immersive storyline at times. There is a bigger role of technology in this newest addition to the Scream franchise, but they seem to want to force it down your throat.

People just don’t talk about technology that way in conversations. They were clearly trying to be hip to a younger audience, but it fails in its delivery. This is probably why they went with the arc of the bullying of the non-heterosexual character. This storyline feels very dated and 90s to me. I know teenagers are the cruellest in schools, but it seems to me that maybe we would have moved beyond this in this day and age, especially in modern media.

Speaking of which we have Noah Foster, the town’s horror fanatic, as our meta device in the first two seasons. This is a homage to Randy from the original film. But sometimes it is laid on a bit too thick, that it makes the horror a bit too comical in tone, and lacks the sharp bite of the film. Noah is a bit too meta, breaking any of the seriousness that a series of murders should have.

I have to say it is very hard to judge this series without comparing it directly to the original film, which is a Goliath of a modern horror, creating that perfect balance of horror and comedy that did not cancel each other out. But considering that the series is named Scream, they kinda set themselves up for that comparison.

Scream TV Series Mask
Should have just gone with the Ghostface mask…

One of the biggest problems I had with the Scream TV series was the mask. While I understand that the creators wanted to create their own story and direction, so they decided this required the use of their own mask rather than the iconic Ghostface – I wish they had picked a scarier one. The mask is quite forgettable and boring, and does not enhance the terror of the serial killer. It seems like a poor man’s version of the Ghostface and I wish they had done more testing with it before they had settled on that design.

Though there is a lot of mystery and suspense that they manage to create in the Scream TV series, unfortunately it was very easy for me to guess who the killer was in the first season. They tipped their hand too early on. Though this may be less due to the writing, but more that you can’t help to become the detective while watching this series. I was still impressed with how the first season turned out regardless.

Unfortunately, the second season seemed to drag on for quite a bit for me, lacking in the thrilling deaths for a large portion of the first half. They spent so much time creating red herring characters, that it was almost easy to forget that there was a serial killer on the loose. We get a lot of deaths in the second season, but a large portion of the deaths are minor characters. So they lack the same impact as if it had been a main character death.

Perhaps that is what fails about the second season, that there were more emotional ties to the characters who died in season one. Plus it comes to a point where the intrigue is dulled, when you know that none of the main gang will be touched. Which seems misguided as we now know that they started with a whole new story in the third season and could have made an exciting series if they had taken more chances.

When the killer was finally revealed in this season, I felt rather cheated by it all. Rather than being a smart move, I felt it was too similar to what we have seen in the Scream franchise, it just felt cheap and lazy. There were some loose threads hinted at in the finale, but since we are never going to revisit these characters, it felt more like filler at the end.

Plus what was with that holiday special? It was completely pointless and frankly I feel like no one will care about anything after the real killer has been revealed. Maybe if it had been a respite in the middle of the season it may have worked, but really they could have just not. Apart from the surprise for the Lakewood slasher, which could have easily been included in the finale, it really was flogging a dead horse.

Unfortunately, if you were hoping for a continuation of the Scream franchise magic, you will be disappointed. Scream: The TV series is more similar to Riverdale than the horror slasher you were hoping for. But as we wait for Scream 5 to be released, this TV series is something to tide you over.

The Scream TV series has now been cancelled after its third season, due to a significant drop in viewership and many negative reviews from critics.

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