Credit: Eliza Morse/MTV

The most predictable way to begin this review of MTV’s horror-flick adaptation would be to quote star John Karna’s high school character, Noah, who explains early on, “You can’t do a slasher movie as a TV series.” So, given the predictable nature of the premiere itself, let’s do exactly that! To be sure, Scream the TV show has cherry-picked the most obvious aspects of Scream the movie franchise, including Karna’s fourth-wall-threatening film nerd (virtually a carbon copy of the character played by Jamie Kennedy in Wes Craven’s original 1996 classic); actress Willa Fitzgerald’s Sidney Prescott-esque nice-girl teen heroine, Emma Duval; and its ghostly masked killer. But what Scream hasn’t imported from the big screen, at least in its pilot, is any sense of genuine dread. The opening death, for example, apes that of Drew Barrymore’s home-alone demise in the first movie in so many ways, but being frightening isn’t one of them. Then again, as Noah says at the end of the premiere—about both the events in the show and, meta-implicitly, the show itself—this reinvention is not a slasher tale at all but a drama that requires you to invest in its characters while forgetting that “somebody might die at every turn.” In short, what Scream really wants to be is Bates Motel. That’s not the worst ambition, but without the presence of a Vera Farmiga-level actor—or a character worthy of such a talent—it may be doomed. B–

Scream (TV Show)
  • TV Show