July 1, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Scream”


SCREAM:  Tuesday 10PM on MTV – If Nothing Else Is On…

There aren’t a lot of sure things in Hollywood, but here’s one:  you can always make some money by gathering together a group of teens and killing them off one by one.  It’s been true since at least 1978’s Halloween (and its zillions of sequels) and it’s true today, when Warners is opening The Gallows in less than 2 weeks.  The original 1996 SCREAM, though, was something different:  cleverly written by Kevin Williamson (and expertly directed by Wes Craven), it toyed with and commented on the tropes of the genre itself, all but removing the fourth wall and making the predictability part of the joke.  It was a box office phenomenon, still listed at Box Office Mojo as the highest grossing “Horror-Slasher” movie ever almost 20 years later.

The phenomenon was short-lived, though:  the franchise lasted 3 movies over 4 years, and an attempt to reboot it in 2011 failed badly.  Now MTV has brought it to television, even though its character Noah (John Karna, standing in for Jamie Kennedy in the original movies) warns that the slasher genre doesn’t really lend itself to television, where things need to take place over an extended and continuing period of time, rather than in one 90-minute burst of violence.

Noah is right, at least for this version created by Jill E. Blotevogel and the team of Dan Dworkin and Jay Beattie (Blotevogel rewrote the others and serves as showrunner with Jaime Paglia–both previously worked on Syfy’s Eureka).  Noah explains later on that while slasher movies are mostly about their killings, a TV version would need for viewers to become invested in the characters and their stories–Friday Night Lights is invoked–because the murders have to be spaced out.  And indeed, the entire initial episode of the TV Scream only contains one death, and that’s in the prologue sequence, which updates the famous Drew Barrymore opening of the first movie, replacing Barrymore as special guest celebrity with Bella Thorne.  (Note to Scream:  texts aren’t as scary as phone conversations.)

With nothing more than fake-out horror to offer after that, our interest is supposed to be held by the characters, but they’re a nondescript lot.  Emma (Willa Fitzgerald) is the classic “last girl,” who may not actually be virginal–she has a cheating boyfriend in Will (Connor Weil)–but her heart is always in the right place.  The aforementioned Noah’s best friend is outed lesbian Audrey (Bex Taylor-Klaus, from The Killing and Arrow).  There’s also mean girl Brooke (Carlson Young), who’s been sleeping with a teacher, and newly-transferred Kieran (Amadeus Serafini), among others.  None of them are as interesting as the characters on MTV’s own Finding Carter or on ABCFamily’s counterparts, let alone Friday Night Lights.  The added level of intrigue is intended to come from some link between the murders happening in Lakewood now and some that occurred 20 years earlier, when a misshapen team became obsessed with Daisy, who became Emma’s mother and town coroner Maggie (Tracy Middendorf).  This path isn’t especially promising either.

If the TV Scream isn’t going to deliver the frequent scares or wit of the movies (and Jamie Travis’s flat direction of the pilot doesn’t suggest that anything Wes Craven-worthy will be going on visually), it needs to follow its own advice and find something interesting to tell about what happens between murders.  While slasher movies only need audiences to show up once, TV series die a bloody death if the crowds don’t come back for more.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."