MTV’s Scream: The Series

S1 – 8.7/10 / S2 – 5/10 / S3 – 7.5/10

When a YouTube video goes viral in the small town of Lakewood, dark secrets in_the_town’s_past_spark_a_series_of_murders by a Ghostface Killer centering around Lakewood High. As more and more is revealed of students’ connection to the town’s history, not even closest friends can be trusted in this slasher series based off the original films.

*Possible spoilers ahead*

CLC’s Best MTV Scream Episodes: 1. Pilot, 2. Revelations, 3. Hello, Emma, 4. Wanna Play a Game?, 5. In The Trenches, 6. Psycho, 7. I Know What You Did Last Summer, 8. Ghosts, 9. The Vanishing, 10. Happy Birthday To Me

Season 1 Review – 8.7/10

“Hello, Emma”. Following the unconscionable, genre-redefining/refueling Scream films that rocked the 1990’s (with one of the most iconic horror sequences of All-Time in the opening Drew Barrymore scene) is a companion TV series so self-aware and freshly balanced with nuance it lands for a sharp smack on the skull. When the clip of the opening sequence – complete with a scantily-clad Bella Thorne set for an updated social media 21st-century reimagining of the titular franchise’s now-ubiquitous not-so-wrong-number opening – was released, it set the internet on fire and long-time slasher fans wild with hype, even withstanding an MTV production that’s not exactly the first choice for a television series of artistic value. That hype was delivered upon: Taking on the mantle of the iconic slasher franchise with a product that truly feels like a TV continuation of the iconic meta-film franchise, MTV’s series succeeds off its dark atmospherics skillfully blended against a (jejune but serviceable) high-school canvas, great slasher scenes, smart angling of cyberbullying in the social media age, and clever genre dissection.

The slasher scenes. Obviously the most important thing to get right in a Scream series by gargantuan margins, MTV (surprisingly) delivers the brutal, dark serial killings one could want going in. The opening Social Media kill starring Bella Thorne is absolutely STUNNING being an updated version of the game-changing/unparalleled 1996 Drew Barrymore opening as perfect intro to the next (equally-effective) Ghostface. Throughout the series, the slasher scenes are grotesque and sadistic in perfectly-Scream fashion, while also more scarily not conforming to any sort of preconceived boundaries or rules wherein even the most innocent people like the other bullied girl from the famous viral video that sets the series in motion are not safe.

After that scene alone deserving serious praise/recognition, the show focuses on main character Emma and establishing the apt-for-a-slasher-film Lakewood High world. I have to admit, I am not a huge fan of Emma as a character or how she is portrayed. She is a little too young, tweeny, and inexperienced for the central character role of a series this big – Bella would’ve been a far more compelling protagonist in my opinion with the b*tchiness and filmography to back it up. Other than her, all of the characters are well-acted and intriguing in their own rights, especially Kieran and Noah (John Karma): my favorite character by far as a semi-narrator and expert on the genre offering genius meta-analyses that relate perfectly to the show like explaining all the reasons why “you can’t make a slasher movie into a tv series”, only for the show to turn on its head the rules they just explained you can’t do.

The tonal mix skillfully blending sadistically-dark slasher sequences with mass-palatable high school lightness is impressive, soundtrack complete with zesty teen-pop juxtaposed with Psycho-like orchestral grunges, and Ghostface great in this franchise-accurate scream of a time. Finally, the end reveal of who the killer that’s been terrorizing us this whole season is SENSATIONAL and absolutely shocking for a reveal no one could have possibly seen coming: a sublime whodunit/mystery effect and impressive crumb-laying/subversion for a haw-dropping epic final showdown wrapping the strong first season of MTV’s Scream with ribbons and bows.

Overall, Season 1 of MTV’s Scream spells great things for this new binge one of the most addictive and innovative I’ve seen in horror TV in a while. Taking on the mantle of the iconic slasher franchise with a product that truly feels like a TV continuation of the iconic meta-film franchise, MTV’s series succeeds off its dark atmospherics skillfully blended against a (jejune but serviceable) high-school canvas, great slasher scenes, smart angling of cyberbullying in the social media age, and clever genre dissection. Sure it’s main protagonist is problematic and juvenile with some MTV teen-isms thrown in to at times distract from the darkness, but these are small flaws. I cannot wait for Season 2.

Official CLC Score: 8.7/10

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Season 2 Review – 5/10

(Full Review coming soon)

Pros: Good IKWYDLS season opening, twisted killings, great Halloween event island concept and plot leading into S3 with the final Brandon James tease

Cons: Weak final killer reveal, lack of as clear direction or a compelling storyline as Season 1 instead just relying on homages to classic horror instead of paving its own way, same Ghostface costume as S1, newest characters still thinly written

Official CLC Score: 5/10

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Season 3 Review – 7.5/10

Scream. Visions of a Drew Barrymore in-sweater who shouldn’t have answered the phone come to mind in what was – and still is – one of the greatest slasher flicks of All-Time. 4 films and 2 seasons of a great TV reincarnation on swanky MTV in, the franchise could be forgiven for starting to lose a little of its luster lately – with the TV adaptation ending poorly trying ill-advisedly continue the same characters/plot instead of making it an anthology like American Horror Story with different stories every season. When news was announced VH1 got the rights to continue S3 of the series with an upped-budget, star-studded cast, and all-new direction they wanted to take the show in, I was extremely optimistic for my favorite meta-horror franchise; and they (mostly) delivered. Fresh with an all-new story and characters, return of the real Ghostface mask with sadistic authenticity, intricacy in quick-cut camerawork with chillingly darker fogset cinematography, and an unpredictable final reveal, VH1’s anthological revamp of MTV’s scream reinvigorates the series.

The new story and character development. What is S3’s biggest selling point is clearly the balls it displayed going a completely different route from the established lore of S1/2 with a completely fresh slate of characters and actors. The new characters work well and are strongly developed across the brisk 6-episode limited series, from football star with demons Deion to the cheerleader love interest to the loveable nerd to the goth girl to the gay kid to the SJW (will get to that later) to the jock in a makeshift breakfast club where at least one person is not who they say they are. The star-studded cast with everyone from seasoned horror TV actress Keke Palmer to rap stars Tyga (biggest surprise, he can actually act. Who knew?), Mary J. Blige, and Big Boi to capable teen actors RJ Cyler, Jessica Sula, Tyler Posey, and Giorgia Whigham freshly adds a new dimension to the lore with a great character cast miles above most slasher options of recent memory – also nice to get away from the Brandon James story starting to get stale 20+ hours in with everyone getting killed off anyway. Going anthological was a brilliant decision I hope they continue for longevity and many different slasher stories to tell in this new VH1/MTV partnership.

Intricacy in camerawork and cinematography with aptly creepy locational settings. The series is also beautiful to look at. Everything from deserted mansions with the lights out to moonlit cornfields to school auditoriums afterhours to runs alongside Jackson Street Bridge (saw firsthand when I went to Emory; best view of the city) are explored with tremendous location work. Combined with quick cuts adding energy, smart camera angling and shot styles clearly utilizing modern techniques and technologies such as drones for a wider array of composition possibilities, and dark tints in cinematography to add nihilistic feel in classically-Zack Snyder fashion make for one hell of a series to behold with the eyes.

Psychological torment and sadism in classic (authentically-masked) Ghostface fashion. Ghostface is BACK in what feels like a Homecoming little different than the HS ones to be held in its locational settings. Not only is he properly masked again after that so-so one from past Scream TV seasons, the brutality is escalated in downright sadistic and brutally depraved kills just screaming (pun-intended) film-Ghostface. We literally see Ghostface jam a needle into a junkie’s eye white, someone flattened with a trash compactor, a guy cut in two parts down the middle (any guy’s worst nightmare – holy sh*t), and a man trapped in a burning car roasted alive. Ghostface (not revealing anything) also effectively carries out his/her dual-plot in ways/efficiency only he/she could with a believably-dark backstory mired with homages and callbacks to the original films as well as strong convolution of the whodunnit so that it’s damn difficult to tell who the real killer is until the finale reveal. Sure the reveal lacks the absolute jaw-dropping, epic shock factor of Season 1’s, but works for sure as an option I never saw coming.

The soundtrack, politicization by waste of Palmer’s talents, and not the best opening. Flaws in S3 include a tweeny soundtrack that tries too hard to be hip and poppy only to lose some of its cinematic feel. I’m all for hip-hop in TV series and horror, but having traphouse hits seemingly every frame makes it feel less elegant than having an orchestral base to center most of the other film intangibles it boasts. There is also some political pandering and oppositional uncomfort by way of disappointingly wasting Keke Palmer’s considerable acting talents on an SJW character mad and yelling her views on Trump, white men, and black cinema every frame (Get Out did follow the established rules of horror/slasher films btw, Chris didn’t go after the family but was lured and trapped only to escape as a pseudo-final girl) – I even agree with most of its viewpoints but again, another modern TV series falls into the trap: keep politics separate from escapism/entertainment, PLEASE. Finally, the opening is a bit putoffish with a cringy fake-out scare that should’ve been carried to fruition followed by them slashing a little kid (..what? that’s what you lead with?).

Overall, VH1’s new revamp S3 of MTV’s Scream series adds a fresh energy and longevity possibilities to (mostly) return the show near its S1 levels. There are enough Easter Eggs, genre quirks, and homages to the originals and franchise’s best qualities with nice touches for an effective horror binge and brisk 6-episode limited watch-through. Fresh with an all-new story and characters, return of the real Ghostface mask & sadistic authenticity, intricacy in quick-cut camerawork with chilling fogset cinematography, and an unpredictable final reveal, VH1’s anthological revamp of MTV’s Scream reinvigorates the series and will leave slasher fans satisfied while chomping at the bit for more.

Official CLC Score: 7.5/10