Originally I was only going to review the pilot of Scream and count it as a day’s review. Instead, I went the extra mile and am now going to discuss the entire first season of Scream. It’s not very good! I could stop there but I do indeed have some more things to say about this one.
The idea of turning Scream into a TV show did have me intrigued when I first heard about it. The fact that it was being masterminded by MTV didn’t help things though. Though now that it’s on Netflix it’s being dubbed as a Netflix original series so I have no idea what the hell the deal with this thing is. The pilot wasn’t overly impressive but was just intriguing enough to keep me going. By the end of the season, I was basically hate watching this thing.
If you’re familiar with the Scream movies (and if you’re not, I kindly reviewed all four of them on this very site… I’d find the links but I’m busy) then you have a pretty good idea of what to expect here. A bunch of teenagers who look like they’re 30-years-old find themselves being stalked by a killer in a ghost mask and they have to unravel the mystery of who would want them all dead. All the while they spout a lot of self-aware dialogue about being in a horror movie and how other horror movies do indeed exist. Now take all those elements and make them worse, and you have Scream the series. Keep in mind too that outside of the first one, I don’t even think the movies are particularly great so it’s not as though the bar this needed to surpass was all that high.
Let’s see, where to throw my criticism first. Let’s start with the characters as that is definitely an important part of creating a successful slasher movie. It’s not always necessary (see every Friday the 13th movie for example) to have people you care about, but it certainly can help, especially when the story is this stretched out. The show clearly wants you to care about its characters as the end of the first episode has the Noah character (meant to be the show’s equivalent to the movies’ Randy character) give a big meta speech about how this show will work because you’ll grow to care about these people so that when one of them dies, you’ll really feel it. They could not have been more wrong.
Out of a dozen plus characters, I cared about 2 of them, and not all that much either. When one of these 2 did eventually meet a grisly fate, I forgot about them quickly enough that references to them in later episodes gave me a moment’s pause as I tried to remember which character they were. Nearly all of these characters are aggressively unlikable. I can’t believe this is what the writers thought counted as people we would care about. In a few cases they are set-up to be redeemed later on in the season, but it sure does make those early episodes a slog having to watch a bunch of terrible people being constantly terrible. Even still, they only become slightly better people. They are still awful.
The lead character, Emma, isn’t a bad person, but she sure is bland. There’s nothing to this character. It actually reminded me a lot of Bella in Twilight in that she seems to have been written that way on purpose so she can serve as an audience surrogate. The show even seems to realize she’s boring as they stack the deck so against her and put her through so much, that by the end you can’t help but feel a little bad for her.
The characters may have been redeemed a little if the acting was solid but boy, it…it is not solid. Willa Fitzgerald as Emma does ok, and I actually quite liked Bex Taylor-Kauss as Audrey. John Karna as Noah is ok but once I realized he sounded exactly like Topher Grace, he was ruined forever. The rest though…wow. They range from actively bad to stunningly bland. Emma’s ex-boyfriend Will and overall jackass Jake (probably the worst character of the whole lot) end up providing a lot of the show’s best laughs because the two actors are so interchangeable and bad that it’s often hilarious. Jake’s attempt to cry in one episode probably gave me my biggest laugh of the season.
Of course no amount of quality acting could have made up for the writing in this thing. I get that there need to be references to other horror movies and elements of pop culture. It’s Scream. Those things have to be there. The issue is that in the movies, even at its most egregious, it felt far far more natural than it ever does here. In the movies, the Randy character was largely the one who spouted that dialogue. Here, every single character does it constantly, even if the situation doesn’t call for it in the slightest. This is where the majority of the comedy is supposed to come from. It does not. It reminded me a lot of those Friedberg/Seltzer movies like Date Movie and Epic Movie and all that other garbage. Just referencing that something else does in fact exist does not make it a joke. Oh the guy may be on drugs so you referenced Breaking Bad. Yep, that show did have drugs on it. Well done. Stop.
Not that the original dialogue is any better. All the characters talk as though what they are saying is really smart and insightful but nearly every dialogue exchange feels like it was written by martians who are still sorting out what human beings are like. There is one line in particular that almost made me stop watching. Emma and Will are fighting as she just discovered her life is actually the plot of She’s All That and she drops this gem on him:
“You sound like a bad romantic comedy. Except we didn’t meet cute. We met sick-twisted.”
Maybe I need to give Willa Fitzgerald more credit for being able to get through that line at least once without bursting into tears at having to deliver it. This was easily the worst bit of dialogue I can remember, but there are tons of other lines that are easy candidates for the runner-up spot.
A lot of the initial criticism of the show, at least before it aired and people became able to lob more specific criticisms at it, came from the use of a different mask for the killer, which I understand was done for legal reasons. Honestly, I didn’t mind the look of the new mask. It was the killer him/herself that I took issue with. Not the eventual reveal of who is behind the mask (though that was pretty disappointing as it’s foreshadowed so heavily you assume it could never actually be that person(s)), but the killer in general as there are long stretches of this show where the killer doesn’t do anything. The show would get tied up in sub-plots and every now and then someone would reference “there’s a killer on the loose” and I would actually have a reaction of “oh my god that’s right!” It often does not feel like a killer is out there. The show doesn’t capture that same feeling of fear that takes over the town once these killings start. People barely seem to notice, let alone care.
Ok so I didn’t like the writing, the acting, the characters or the killer. What did I like? I’m not sure. The opening scene of the pilot is well done and a few of the kills (one in particular) are decently executed. I liked a couple of the characters so having someone to root for did help to keep me invested. Plus there’s the curiosity of how they are going to wind the whole thing down. If I wasn’t planning to review the first season for this marathon (which ended up hugely backfiring on me as I should have been using that time to watch actual movies and have now fallen way behind) I can’t say for sure I would have saw it through to the end without just looking up a plot synopsis online.
Scream the series is not very good. Yes there’s an element of “so bad its good” and it makes for passably trashy entertainment, but there’s far too much wrong with it for me to give it a recommendation, even if the season only is 10 episodes long.