“You can’t do a slasher movie 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.” – Noah Foster, “Pilot”
Adapting Horror Films to Television: A Hit or Miss?
In this golden age of television, it seems like a new TV series based on a movie is announced almost every week. Interestingly, many of these adaptations are based on horror franchises. We’ve seen some fantastic adaptations, such as Hannibal, but we’ve also witnessed some that left us questioning their execution, like Bates Motel. Fortunately, Scream: The TV Series leans more towards the former than the latter.
Staying True to the Original Scream Concept
The creators of the series decided to stick closely to the basic concept established in the first film. The series revolves around murders that take place as seen through the eyes of a group of friends and acquaintances. Just like the movie, we have a very genre-savvy character, John Karna’s Noah Foster, who continuously broadcasts horror clichés to both support and subvert expectations in a way that benefits the story. While the show has a large cast, the “main” characters, as established in the premise, are Willa Fitzgerald’s (Alpha House) Emma Duvall and Bex Taylor-Klaus’s (The Killing) Audrey Jensen, two former friends who are trying to reconnect after the events that kick the series off.
Updating Scream for a Modern Audience
Scream plays similarly to the film franchise that preceded it while updating in practice to 2015. Just as in the movie, the most well-known actress in the cast (in this case, Bella Thorne’s Nina Patterson) is murdered in her home after briefly corresponding with the killer on the phone. For the television show, this incident is seemingly related to a cyberbullying incident by Nina on the aforementioned Audrey. The murderer in this instance is performed by a masked killer dressed in an homage to Brandon James, an infamous mass murderer from the town’s past that has an interesting connection to Emma’s mother, Maggie (played by Tracey Middendorf). Calling back to the films, the mask used in Scream: The TV Series is essentially an update of the Ghostface mask that came before. While Wes Craven, the creator of the franchise and an executive producer on the show, may not have been a big fan of the change, I really liked the updated mask that was used on the series. It harkens directly back to the Ghostface mask while managing to put its own gritty spin on the icon.
A Fun Ride with Memorable Performances
While the mask itself may be a gritty re-imagining of what came before, the series as a whole is just as fun as the films. The cast performed the roles as well as you would expect on an MTV original, but there were definitely a few standouts. Bex Taylor-Klaus has shown herself to be a very adaptable performer, and she absolutely shines in the role of Audrey, managing to capture all of the darkness and terror and joy that comes with the character’s history. Willa Fitzgerald also gives a great performance as Emma, but the rest of the cast seems to waver in and out of solidity and parody. That said, the real standout to me was John Karna. Maybe it’s because he’s the character that I related the most to, but Karna managed to completely possess the role of Noah perfectly. I haven’t seen Karna in anything prior to Scream, but from what I can tell, he is a relative newcomer to the television scene. After this series, though, I hope to see him in much, much more.
An Engaging Story that Keeps You Guessing
As far as the story of Scream goes, the quality improves throughout the entire first season. I definitely enjoyed the first couple of episodes, but the writing and acting in the beginning were not nearly as evolved as they became by the season’s end. At first, it seems like the writing staff was trying as hard as possible to tell their own story while keeping within the confines of what might be considered a modernized adaptation, but the story developed so much as it went on until it became something that was not only gripping, but extremely well-told. The mystery that unfolded throughout the ten episodes proved to be much more deep and complex than you would have expected in the beginning, and the show used its twists and turns wonderfully in an effort to keep the audience guessing about how things would play out. I love a good mystery that I’m not able to solve before the right moment, and Scream‘s murder mystery never took the paths that I thought it would. The murders that took place during the season were also extremely well-done, from a production perspective, and the one that took place in the final scene of Episode 7 actually made my jaw drop. It wasn’t really anything that I haven’t seen before, but I could not believe a) how well the scene was played, and b) that it was on an MTV show. In the final episode, the killer’s reveal was done perfectly, and I love that I didn’t know until the very last episode who it ended up being. It also kept a very fun thread hanging that I can’t wait to see explored in the show’s future. Good job, Scream.
MTV’s Signature Music Integration
I’m not going to talk much about it, but I do want to also point out how great of a job this series has done incorporating music. Even on its weaker shows, MTV tends to do a really great job with using music in a meaningful way, and Scream continues this very nice trend on the network.
A Worthy Successor to the Iconic Film Franchise
Recently, we’ve heard a lot from network executives about how overloaded television is with content these days. Because of this, you have to always consider whether a story is really necessary. When you have an adaptation of an existing property, it’s a little harder to agree that it’s something we need to see on TV. Luckily, though, Scream: The TV Series does an admirable job of making the story work. Whenever I would watch the films in the past, I always wondered what a television show could do with similar material. Even back then, I was predisposed to think of the Scream franchise working well on TV, and in my opinion, that’s exactly what happened. However, while his role in the show’s production was very minimal, none of this would have been possible without Wes Craven. Throughout his career, Craven managed to keep redefining horror for different generations, and the Scream franchise is one of his greatest accomplishments. Wes Craven sadly passed away before the airing of the season finale, but shows like Scream: The TV Series will ensure that his legacy continues on in a very memorable way for years to come. There’s room for the show to improve in the already-announced second season, but these first ten episodes have shown that Scream deserves a place on television in front of an audience that can find a lot to love.
What did you think of the first season of Scream: The TV Series? Are you excited about its future? Did the mystery captivate you as much as it did me? Let us know in the comments down below!
[Photo via MTV]
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