Meta humor, mystery, and murder abound in this meek (for now) TV remake of a classic horror film franchise.
Credit: MTV

“You can’t do a slasher movie as a TV series…. Slasher movies burn bright and fast. TV needs to stretch things out. By the time the first body’s found, it’s only a matter of time before the bloodbath commences.”

The Scream franchise is a TV series. Who would have thought this day would come so soon? Because much of Hollywood has run out of ideas, we now get to witness the slasher murders of Lakewood, and boy does this town love their meta fiction. The series tells us the above rule about slasher films pretty quickly into the episode to prove that what they’re doing is something different. They’re trying something that has never been done before, but probably should never be done. Remakes are difficult undertakings, sometimes more so than a sequel or trilogy. And yet here we are at Lakewood watching Bella Thorne as Nina Patterson getting murdered after being stalked online and on her phone.

Scream the TV show’s homage to Drew Barrymore’s death scene in the first film won’t be lost on anyone. Nina walks around her extremely open home with its glass windows and doors as if she’s got complete privacy. All the while her webcam is hacked, someone is messing with her lights, and she’s being stalked and taunted through texts and snapchats. The show continues its modern meta-ness by having Nina try and call the cops and having her voice command dial Pottery Barn instead. Clever guys. Damn Siri, am I right?

While Nina’s homage death was a nice idea and definitely had interesting, updated elements, the real start to the show begins with a creepy shot of a dock at night and then a video of two girl classmates—Audrey and Rachel—kissing that goes viral thanks to Nina’s meddling. It’s easy to just say that Nina’s death was directly caused by essentially outing Audrey to the whole of their high school, but that implies Audrey as the killer and I’m not too fond of that idea just yet. When the first blood has been spilled, the series immediately cuts to our new Sydney Prescott, Emma, who is attempting to get her obnoxious and clearly skeevy boyfriend Will to study. Will mentions that he didn’t come over the night before because his phone died, but later he backtracks details of that story when his friend Jake states he was with Will the night before “up to no good.” I’m not sure they’re Lakewood’s new stabbing enthusiasts, but I’m not ready to rule them out and I’m not ready for more reveals of their secret video files.

In between these moments of quick character development (that are too short to really make an impact), we get the introduction of a new addition to the story line that doesn’t come from Scream but definitely sounds Jason Voorhees-esque: Brandon James. Twenty years before Nina’s death, Brandon James was a young kid with Proteus Syndrome who killed five students and “cut a bunch of others up”—which all began when he fell in love with a girl named Daisy and was rejected. He snapped, started his murder rampage and was then shot and fell into the water where his body was never found. Obviously we know who Daisy is going to be before the show spells it out in the most obvious way possible: It’s Maggie, Emma’s mother. When Maggie receives an animal heart and a note that Emma looks just like her in high school, it’s likely MTV hopes the Brandon James theories will take over Tumblr and online forums. This is the stuff horror legends are made of and Scream clearly aims to capitalize hardcore. Maggie tells her likely soon-to-be love interest Sheriff Hudson about the heart and the note, which is sure to also send the police on tons of wild goose chases for suspects, one of them eventually being Noah thanks to his love of serial killer history.

NEXT: A classic teen horror movie trope: The drunken house party

The pilot continues with an “Irish wake” in honor of Nina at her friend Brooke’s house, basically it’s an excuse for everyone to just get drunk and have a more “somber” party. At the party it seems that both Noah and Brooke could be the next to die, but unfortunately for horror movie enthusiasts, the body count for the episode stays at one. Or technically two since Tyler’s dead body in Nina’s hot tub proves he was probably murdered by the new Ghostface as well. We also get a moment of friendship between Audrey and Emma until Noah is found humiliated after being left on the dock where Brandon James was shot and being forced to swim back to shore when no one hears his calls for help. Audrey is further enraged when she finds out Emma’s friends filmed the now viral video of her and Rachel and that one of them put it up. We’re left with the reveal that Kieran is Sheriff Hudson’s son, as well as another monologue from Noah, which basically sums up why the slasher series hopes it will work as just that, a series. The audience has to care about the characters in the show.

“You root for them; you love them, so when they are brutally murdered, it hurts.”

This might be Scream’s hope but unfortunately so far, it’s hard to care about any of them. The episode ends with Emma getting the creepy call we’ve all been waiting and expecting to hear: The Ghostface taunt, which sadly is missing the famous favorite horror movie query. Maybe the quotes were legally off limits?

Finally Noah leaves us with this:

“Everyone has secrets. Everyone tells lies. And everyone is fair game, until there’s no one left.”

As a horror movie fan myself, I hope this is true.

Now because we’re watching a slasher TV series, the only way to properly deconstruct the episode in an homage to its subject material is to rank our suspects by least to most likely killer.

1. Maggie

No one suspects Emma’s mother Maggie. She might have been the “Daisy” that Brandon James obsessed over, but the animal heart and threatening note she received proves for the time being that she’s a victim. In fact, she might be more of a victim than anyone else if this psychological torture continues.

2. Emma

She’s basically the Sydney Prescott of this story, though she shares that title with her mother, Maggie, since the Brandon James murders began thanks to her. Emma is sweet, naive, and innocent, essentially all the things that make for a classic scream queen. But as Scream 4 taught us, even the most innocent “heroine” could surprise us all. At the moment, Emma stays low on this list because she received a phone call from the killer and genuinely looked terrified by it.

3. Riley

The adorable, smart girl who is fascinating by the film and serial killer obsessed dork is not a killer. At least she doesn’t seem like it yet. But just stew on the idea another few hours and the paranoia is bound to set in.

4. Brooke

Taking over as head mean girl at Lakewood High, Brooke seems tamer than her recently deceased predecessor Nina. But she’s got the whole, going-to-die vibe about her. She’s got a dirty little secret involving an older man, she has already come across a potential murder attempt (though nothing actually happened), she’s the next Queen Bee—which is usually a bad omen in horror movies. It could be interesting if Brooke actually ended up being the killer, but for now there’s just no way.

5. Mr. Branson

This teacher is sleeping with his student Brooke and keeping it a secret. What other secrets could he be hiding? Also he doesn’t mind when his students go on tangents about slasher films in his class. Either this dude is a closet creep or he just really didn’t want to finish figuring out a lesson plan for the day.

NEXT: We all know who is the most likely suspect so far, right?

6. Sheriff Clark Hudson

Does anyone else get a foreboding feeling from this guy? Perhaps it’s that he’s the mysterious Kieran’s dad, or that he’s still a newbie in Lakewood. But I just don’t really trust Sheriff Hudson, especially since he seems to be romancing Maggie, who was the apple of Brandon James’ eye. Maybe I’m crazy (scratch that, I’m definitely crazy) but I can’t get onboard with the Clark and Maggie relationship if there’s a chance he’s the killer.

7. Audrey

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and humiliated on the Internet. Maybe like Brandon James, Audrey snapped when she saw that leaked footage of her kissing Rachel.

8. Rachel

Speaking of Rachel, what do we really know about this chick? She might actually be the most mysterious character of them all since we don’t really get a sense of who she is aside from her feelings for Audrey. That’s probably the fault of the TV series, but we’ll move past it for week one.

9. Will

What files do he and Jake have on their computers regarding Nina? Do I want to know? I feel kind of dirty and uncomfortable even wondering. Plus we all know the boyfriend of the heroine (or ex as this case may be currently) is always suspect number one.

10. Noah

Randy was never really a true suspect in the first two Scream films, but Noah is a different story. The TV show’s version of Randy is obsessed with both serial killers and the slasher movie genre, he has a strange scar on his forehead, and he’s just got that slightly creepy look. All things add up to a potential killer, but I just don’t buy it yet. It did seem like Noah was getting attacked when he tried to swim from the dock to the shore at Brooke’s house even though his fellow classmates assured him he was caught on fishing thread. So perhaps he was supposed to be the next to go on the actual killer’s (or killers’) list?

11. Jake

Never trust a good-looking jock who very clearly has secrets to hide and is willing to blackmail friends at the drop of a hat. This dude is one to watch like a hawk for signs of psychopathic tendencies and serial killing. The guy is already watching old videos hacked from Nina’s webcam of her dancing around in her room. There’s no way that’s the most revealing video he has on her.

12. Kieran

The new guy is always the biggest suspect. I don’t actually think Kieran is the killer but them’s the rules of the game folks, whether slasher film or TV show. And as clever as Scream is trying to be, it doesn’t seem keen on breaking too many rules.

Scream (TV Show)
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