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Friday, February 10, 2023

MTV’s ‘Scream’ TV Series – Revisiting the Franchise’s Three Seasons on the Small Screen

At the time, Scream 4 seemed like a pretty definitive end for the franchise, providing Sidney Prescott with a second round of closure and riffing on all of the (then) recent trends in horror media. Of course, no matter how satisfying they may be, endings are always bittersweet, so fans were understandably bummed that this would be the last we’d ever see of good old Ghostface. That’s why it makes sense that folks were ecstatic when MTV announced that they were producing a televised follow-up to Wes Craven’s iconic franchise.

After all, a small-screen adaptation of a series known for its satirical meta elements and memorable protagonists could absolutely thrive on network television, especially with the TV horror renaissance of the mid-2010s gifting us with plenty of shows to satirize. From American Horror Story to Hannibal and Bates Motel, there was more than enough material to inspire a new masked killer.

Unfortunately, that’s not exactly what we ended up with. When the Scream TV series premiered back in 2015, many fans were outraged by MTV’s reimagining of the beloved franchise and its questionable creative decisions. First of all, the series ditched the iconic Ghostface mask due to legal complications, replacing it with a bizarre lookalike inspired by a deformed in-universe killer. Second, the show itself was more of a teen drama than a slasher-inspired meta experience, letting several episodes go by without any kills and not really taking advantage of the television format to comment on the medium.

If you haven’t seen the show, the first couple of seasons follow high-schooler Emma Duval (Willa Fitzgerald) as she becomes the target of a masked serial killer known as the “Lakewood Slasher”. With law enforcement unable to identify the criminal, our leading lady and her friends decide to investigate the dirty secrets of Lakewood for themselves, casting suspicion on Emma’s loved ones and frenemies as this small town is confronted with its sins.


Maybe they should have called it “Stab – The TV Series”.

All in all, it makes sense that hardcore horror fans were calling this show “Scream in name only,” and I was actually part of the original choir of dissenting voices claiming that MTV was ruining the franchise’s reputation. However, once I heard that Craven himself had given the project his blessing and even allowed the showrunners to credit him as Executive Producer, I finally decided to give it a chance.

Sure, it takes a while to get over how generally un-Scream-like the production is, with no sultry sounds from Roger L. Jackson and no iconic Ghostface mask, but as the show went on (especially during the second season, when Michael Gans and Richard Register took over the series), I found myself weirdly engrossed by these soap-opera charms. She may not be Sidney Prescott, but Emma becomes a truly compelling protagonist once she has to deal with the psychological aftermath of the series’ initial murder spree. Her evolving relationships with Audrey (Bex Taylor-Klaus) and the movie-loving Noah (John Karna) ultimately serve as the real heart of the story as things steadily become more horrific. Even Carlson Young’s bitchy Brooke Maddox becomes more fleshed out and entertaining as the saga goes on, and I even started to warm up to the Lakewood Slasher costume as the kills became more creative.

And despite not featuring any references to the events of the films, the first two seasons of MTV’s Scream were also chock-full of shout-outs to other beloved horror franchises. From familiar kills to obvious Carrie homages, it’s pretty clear that the showrunners were huge horror fans, especially Gans and Register. In fact, it was later revealed that the Weinsteins themselves prohibited the production team from referencing anything from the movies and refused to license FunWorld’s Father Death costume, against the wishes of the production team. Even so, a proposed third and fourth season was supposed to make things decidedly more meta, revealing that everything we’ve seen so far was part of Scream: The Television Series as the show’s actors begin to get killed off in “real life.”

Unfortunately, after consistent fan backlash and low ratings, MTV decided to completely re-imagine the show instead of concluding Emma’s story. This led to a six-episode mini-series in the form of Scream: Resurrection, a curious attempt at transforming the show into a horror anthology. Featuring a new showrunner and a brand-new cast, Resurrection was certainly a different take on the source material, but it wasn’t necessarily a better one.

A familiar face returns!

Executive produced by Queen Latifah, the rebooted show finally brought back the original mask (along with Roger L. Jackson) and aired over the course of three summer nights in 2019. Relocating the action to Atlanta, the story follows high school football player Deion Elliot (RJ Cyler) as he becomes the target of a new Ghostface and has to rely on his friends and family to survive, with the updated cast including heavy hitters like the Academy-Award nominee Mary J. Blige and the always-charming Keke Palmer.

While Resurrection’s new setting and more diverse characters were certainly a breath of fresh air, the show’s actual story wasn’t really an improvement on the soap-opera thrills of the previous seasons. Not only was there not enough time to really develop these potential victims, but our own Trace Thurman criticized the lackluster finale for clearly being written by a non-horror-fan. It’s also a shame that the story once again avoids most of the clever meta commentary present in Kevin Williamson’s original scripts.

As if that wasn’t enough, the low saturation and heavy digital filters (meant to invoke a colder aesthetic) coupled with the original killer’s costume meant that the rebooted show ended up looking a lot like a mid-budget fan project rather than an official Scream production. That being said… the kills were a tad bit more entertaining this time around, and it was definitely refreshing to see Ghostface in a slightly more urban environment years before taking Manhattan in Radio Silence’s upcoming sequel.

While neither of MTV’s attempts at adapting the franchise to the small screen could even hope to compare to Craven and Williamson’s beloved creations, I’d argue that they’re a lot better than most fans seem to remember. I mean, if you can separate them from the movies, the first couple of seasons of Scream are just harmless teen-oriented fun with a horror-loving twist, and you have to give props to Resurrection for trying something new with a familiar premise. These televised experiments may not have been entirely successful, but the TV slasher would only be perfected in future shows like Chucky and the later seasons of the appropriately titled Slasher, and I like to think that Scream was instrumental in getting this genre off the ground.

The post MTV’s ‘Scream’ TV Series – Revisiting the Franchise’s Three Seasons on the Small Screen appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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Got any friends who might like this scary horror stuff? GO AHEAD AND SHARE, SHARE!

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