First of all, let me say, I love the Scream movies. Probably more than most, probably more than I should. As someone who can barely make it through The Simpsons’ Halloween episodes without hiding behind a cushion, Scream is my kind of scary movie and there’s nothing I love more than watching the residents of Woodsboro get chopped up in true slasher movie-style. So when MTV announced it was making a Scream TV show, I was both excited and apprehensive. Adaptations, reboots, and sequels are problematic enough without the added issue of turning a well-known, well-loved movie into a TV series. By a music TV channel. In an up-to-date, 21st century setting. Starring Bella Thorne. I know, its sounds awful. Trust me, no-one was more surprised than me find that I didn’t just enjoy the new Scream, I actually think it’s one of the best, most clever reboots I’ve ever seen.
Contrary to popular belief, there’s no great mystery to creating a good sequel/remake/reboot (delete as appropriate), it’s just hard to do. You have to get the perfect balance between the old and new, the original and the remake, and there’s a very fine line between making a superb homage and disastrous parody. I’m just going to say it: Scream gets it right. By incorporating the best things about the movies and adapting them to work with the more modern setting, episode layout, and an audience that most definitely knows what’s coming, MTV has succeed where most have failed. Is it perfect? No, obviously not. But it had this Scream fan hooked and waiting for a second season which is no small thing.
The story will be familiar to fans of the original ‘90s slasher franchise, but with some important differences. All the characters are here - the jock, the slut, the geek, the outsider, the new boy, and - of course - the sweet popular girl at the centre of it all. The show has quite rightly kept the high school characters pretty much the same (although they border on Mean Girls exaggeration at times), and while they all look like they should be in modelling school rather than your average small town classroom, I’ll forgive them their good looks. Rather than mess with the main cast, the show puts a twist on the supporting characters. Emma (aka Sidney) lives with her Mum who’s alive and well, trying to live with her secrets, and no, her Dad wasn’t brutally murdered by Cotton Weary a year earlier. The town’s Sheriff is the man in charge minus a Dewey-like sidekick. Courtney Cox’s hard-ass reporter has been replaced by a more understanding crime blogger (which is probably the most obvious substitute). And they’ve added a hot teacher who sleeps with his students, and a shifty Mayor, to spice things up a bit.
The killer, or at least the potential killer, is also a lot more interesting and complex. Instead of running around town wearing a creepy, but also quite funny-looking, Halloween costume and mask, the murderer in the TV reboot dons an equally disturbing medical mask. While in the movie Cotton is still in jail and therefore can’t be responsible for the eerily connected murders that are happening in Woodsboro, the supposed ‘bad guy’ of the TV show is dead with a massive question mark and his story is a lot more sad and fascinating than Weary’s. While you know he’s probably not the one responsible, the character’s backstory is the foundation on which the rest of the show is based and therefore needed to be stronger. It’s still all about the secrets and lies of one family and their disturbing past, but the series chooses a different tragic story and fleshes it out a lot more than the movie.
Yes, the pace is slower. It has to be. Like one character from the reboot explains, “slasher movies burn bright and fast, TV needs to stretch things out,” but this doesn’t limit the show. In fact, it gives it room to indulge its audience and give us more, to develop characters better, to emphasise the twists and turns of the story, and to (believe it or not) make it more realistic. What this basically means is that the characters spend less time running and more time searching the abandoned hospital they REALLY should be avoiding. They even have time to grab a cup of coffee occasionally, which is more realistic to me than a slasher movie which sees real life fade into the background of a ridiculous killing spree.
That’s not to say the Scream TV show isn’t ridiculous at times. One of the great things about the movie is that it’s almost (almost) aware of itself. No sooner has Sydney criticised the girls in horror movies for running up the stairs when they should be going out the front door... and she doing just that. The show takes this tongue in cheek attitude and runs with it. It’s not done as well as the movie and it’s a little on the nose at times, but considering how familiar audiences have become with horror tropes, and horror movies knowingly mocking horror tropes, the show’s creators really only had two options; cut it completely or go for it all the way. They choose the later, and personally I loved the throwbacks to the old movie. When Emma is on the phone to a security guard because someone’s broken into her house, he tries to calm her down by asking what she’s watching on TV and before you know it, they’re having a what’s your favourite scary TV show conversation. I would have squealed with delight if I hadn’t been looking for the masked killer behind her.
The show also knows what it is and thankfully, doesn’t take itself too seriously. Something which is necessary for a series about a masked killer murdering sexy high school students. The showrunners work the slightly unbelievable storyline to their advantage, leading the audience into situations they know they can’t trust. Just like in the film, knowing a character is about to be murdered almost makes it worse - ‘Turn around!’ Again, this is something which makes the movies so great, and the TV show continues to build upon. The evidence is too obvious, the suspects too guilty, and just when everyone thinks the bad guy is behind bars we know it's only going to get worse. The killer is playing a game and so is the show.
One massive problem when remaking a ‘90s classic (or ‘80s or ‘70s or… you get it) is how to deal with the fact that social media, email, and mobile phones have become such a huge part of our lives now. Text bubbles and fake Facebook profiles are just two of the really awful ways Hollywood has already tried to incorporate this fact and... just, no. Instead of pretending this technology didn’t exist (which would have been a lot easier and I don’t think anyone would have blamed them) the show’s creators decided to dive head first into the reality of today’s teens with YouTube, Siri and a multitude of texts. Rather than it coming off forced and cheesy, it’s actually one of the most realistic portrayals you’ll find on TV. Touch screens not working when our hands are wet and Siri not understanding voice commands are a part of our everyday lives, so why wouldn’t they cause problems when a psycho killer is after us?
Cyberbullying and embarrassing high school videos are all too familiar and the popularity of webcasts and blogs has reached an all time high. The show gets it right by not shying away from this fact and instead placing the ‘creepy, what’s in the water scene’ right next to the ‘unpopular girl going viral’ plotpoint. It sounds like it shouldn’t work, but it does, and just to prove that the show knows exactly what it’s doing, fans are treated to a nice nod to the movie that started it all in the final episode - “A landline? What is this, 1996?" Sidney might have to listen to her creepy killer on the home phone, but our modern-day victims have been dealing with a killer who can take control of all their communications devices, as well as a high tech spyware system which allows him to manipulate to the max. In fact, with all the technology at his disposable, it’s a wonder they lasted as long as they did.
When it comes to unpredictability, this show isn’t winning any awards. The fact that it’s a reboot of a well-known franchise and, well, the fact that it’s actually really hard to be unpredictable these days means that you’ll see most ‘twists’ coming (personally I knew who the killer was by episode 5), but that’s not why we enjoy this show. We’ve come a long way since we were left guessing alongside Sidney in the first film, and even then, it wasn’t necessarily about knowing who the killer was. It was about watching the characters try and work it out: who to trust, who to run from, who to fall in love with. The thrill of seeing them finally figure it out is only matched by knowledge that it’ll come too late, but that’s ok because we’re on the other side of the fence. We’re the ones watching.
While it seems like everyone but me hated the Scream TV reboot with a fiery passion, I love it for the same reasons I love the original. It’s a movie about people who love movies as much as I do, and in the end that still doesn’t save them. Just like me, they know the rules and they still break them because while saying, “I’ll be right back” is something you should NEVER do when there’s a killer on the loose, sometimes you just need to grab a beer. The TV show does the same thing, but has miraculously managed to avoid the pitfalls that usually take down remakes, and that’s why I’ll be tuning in for the start of season 2 this week. Let’s just hope it manages to avoid the problems of making a scary movie sequel too.