When the entire cast serendipitously ends up in the same literature studies class, somehow migrating to a topic on the deconstruction of the current state of Gothic horror on TV, it’s easy to see the massive amount of gears churning behind the scenes to make it all work. It’s formula, but it’s effectively and handsomely crafted formula, and the fact that the writers are able to so finely walk the tricky balance of self-aware humor and eye-covering horror the original films have paved before it is increasingly impressive. Presented in its arguably poor 30-second ads, the show’s cutesy awareness of itself as a TV show grated, but fleshed out in the pilot – amid mentions of the genre’s oversaturation thanks to the surging popularity of American Horror Story and The Walking Dead – it skewers itself with the rest of its brethren with a satisfying wink.
And though it compares itself to such popular shows, it doesn’t feel like them. Its structure of offing a character each week to the big reveal after ten hours is so bug-eyed addicting, you begin to wonder why shows like Harper’s Island didn’t make armies of copycats already (Scream‘s showrunner, Jill Blotevogel, wrote a few episodes of that criminally underrated gem). With Scream‘s midsummer premiere and Ryan Murphy’s similarly themed Scream Queens ready for the fall, perhaps the proper episodic whodunnit series is finally getting the Agatha Christie-level appreciation it deserves.
There isn’t much left that can be said about Scream, with many plot details – even within 41 minutes – already erring on the side of spoilers. While some may roll their eyes at the network that picked it up – and the cast’s drool-worthy level of abnormally attractive high schoolers certainly doesn’t help – MTV allows Blotevogel to stretch her creative muscles in terms of not only blood but certain, arguably racy plot points. With absolutely no mention anywhere of Sidney Prescott or Woodsboro, MTV’s Scream seems to be doing its own thing, and that’s alright. Teen Wolf launched with the same homage-to-the-original, but-strike-off-on-its-own mentality four years ago and has since catapulted into a show so brazenly cool it’s easy to forget its cheesy origins.
I’m not calling Wes Craven’s original classic cheesy by any means, but Scream‘s pilot presents itself so astutely, it’s a show I don’t only see going on for a while – perhaps anthologized, another self-aware meta angle that could be gobbled up in a second season – but want to see continue. There’s a certain animalistic curiosity in tuning into a show that guarantees bloodshed each episode, and while that’s certainly not a unique trait to Scream, it feels like more of an event than a weekly series you’ll catch up on lackadaisically.
“Cavemen made fires. Those fires cast shadows and those shadows created fear,” explains the group’s English teacher Seth (Bobby Campo) one day in class. “Men have been obsessed with scaring each other ever since.” Whenever I sit down to watch a screener for review, I get my iPad at the ready, pausing the show to make notes and remarks on what’s happening so far and maybe predicting what will. With Scream, I made so many notes, cross-checked so many lines of dialogue and wrote and re-wrote so many suspect predictions that I ended up turning to real paper for sheer ease-of-use. I paused the show more than I have for anything I’ve thus far had the pleasure of screening early. MTV’s Scream, in essence, is one helluva shadow.
Evoking the essence of its namesake without blatantly retreading in its footsteps, MTV's Scream proves to be terrifying, clever, weird and exhilarating, and usually all at once.