When a lone woman in an elaborate home receives a mysterious phone call near the beginning of the Scream TV series, dosage fans of the cinematic series should know what they’re in for. The new MTV show has clearly been inspired and built with the Wes Craven films in mind and is quick to pay homage to them but it’s also willing to play a longer game– setting the stakes up for a murder mystery that will consume the first season. The culprit at the heart of the story, search of course, is wearing a Scream-like mask and stalking the residents of a small high school.
It may have only been four years since Scream 4 arrived in theaters but the world has changed dramatically since then with social media becoming more and more embedded in our culture. The series captures that nicely, bringing its characters into a web-savvy world where every student has a phone and an online profile.
As the show opens, quiet loner Audrey (Bex Taylor-Klaus) is outed when a make-out session she had with a female student from another school goes viral on YouTube, a situation that wasn’t even possible when the first film arrived in theaters in 1996. When Audrey arrives at school the next day, even her best friend Noah (John Karna) feels betrayed by the revelation but soon enough, the students are dealing with a different type of horror when Nina Patterson (Bella Thorne) is murdered outside her home.
It’s not surprising that Nina was one of the bullies who helped post Audrey’s embarrassing video. What is surprising is how quickly some of the other characters note how much better the world could be without Nina to poison it. Of course, everyone is a suspect here as the mystery unfolds. Scream fans should quickly appreciate how well we already know some of these characters. There’s a pretty girl at the heart of the murders (Willa Fitzgerald), a geek who is way too invested in pop culture and murder (John Karna), and a boyfriend who is clearly hiding something (Connor Weil).
But even though we’ve seen similar characters before, that doesn’t mean that the show is stuck in the past. With more time to draw out the murders, the show manages to build suspense as the characters are stalked an harassed by a mysterious figure and because of television restrictions, there’s less a focus on the gruesome murders here– although a few death scenes are incredibly gory— and more of a focus on the murder mystery.
Of course, none of the characters can compare to unforgettable film characters like Gale Weathers and Sydney Prescott but the mystery at the story’s heart helps it overcome character weaknesses.
There’s plenty of room for growth here and over time,the show needs to find its own beat and balance while still showing reverence to its predecessors. Right now though, the show works as a dramatic pop culture-savvy murder mystery anchored wisely by the obsessive self-aware Noah, who is a clear descendant of Randy from the films.
In the series premiere, Noah notes “You can’t do a slasher movie as a TV series.”It’s yet to be proven that this series can last in the long run but its first few episodes offer a really solid foundation for it to build on. The show-runners know how to create suspense and build a solid mystery so even though the show has its faults, I’m tuning in. This could be a scream.