WARNING: SPOILER ALERT
After posting a video of classmate Audrey (Bex Taylor-Klaus) making out with another girl, head of the mean girls, Nina (Bella Thorne), finds herself not home alone, like she thought. Dismissing some creepy texts to be her boyfriend, Tyler (Anthony Rogers), in typical slasher film form, Nina decides to take a dip in her jacuzzi. She calls for him to join her, and he does… dead. As Nina realizes there’s a third intruder in her home, she tries to run away and directs the phone’s voice command to “Call 911″ –which the phone understands as “Call Pottery Barn,” ah, technology. Nina continues to run for her life, but we all know what’s coming and sure enough, her throat gets slashed.
And that’s how MTV’s television adaptation of “‘Scream” gets itself started, an homage to Drew Barrymore’s famous death scene in the original Wes Craven film. We see early on, the show isn’t shy about its origins. It wears the films’ history on its sleeve. The majority of the pilot parallels much of Craven’s 1996 film: A group of friends sit around and gossip about their friends’ murders, decide to throw a party in honor of the deceased, and make choices that leave the audience screaming at the screen as they shield their eyes.
Yet, the show does have one major difference, the 50 minutes following Maggie’s death are more teen drama than slasher-horror-flick.
First we meet Emma (Willa Fitzgerald), the good girl of the group who tries to rekindle her friendship with Audrey after Nina’s humiliating stunt. Emma’s jock boyfriend Will (Connor Weil) seems like a decent guy until she learns he hasn’t exactly been faithful. Will’s best friend, Jake (Tom Maden) somehow proves to be an even bigger jerk, making him the perfect next victim to audiences. Speaking of jerks, we’re also introduced to Brooke (Carlson Young), who charmingly plays a convincing mean girl 2.0.
As in the original film version, the main character’s parent are somehow linked to the murders. Emma’s mother, Maggie (Tracy Middendorf) is hiding a secret past. While she was in high school, victim-of-bulling turned murderer Brandon James terrorized their town of Lakewood. After receiving gifts from Brandon and learning of his love for her, she was able to lead police to him. The police ended up shooting him dead, or so was thought until now.
Just like we had Rachel in “Scream 4″ blurt out, “”A bunch of articulate teens sit around and deconstruct horror movies as Ghostface kills them one by one. It’s been done to death,” before she’s axed, we have Audrey’s best friend Noah (John Karna), the horror film buff to guide us through the self referential meta moments (Except he doesn’t die- yet). “You can’t do a slasher movie as a TV series,” he tells his classmates. Unless, we get to know the characters, like them, root for them, hate them, whatever it be so that “when they are brutally murdered, you care.” This will be the show’s biggest challenge. While the self aware dialogue was amusing throughout the show, there is little memorable about most of the characters. Despite Noah’s clever lines, Emma and her relationship with her mother, nobody has proven to be likable or even suspect. If the mean kids are next to go, will it be too obvious? Noah’s entirely correct- while a film only has to maintain our interest for an hour and a half, how will the show maintain our interest to keep coming back every week, for ten weeks?
While the pilot episode doesn’t reveal any groundbreaking twists in the slasher genre, “Scream” starts, surprisingly strong. The show is set up for success with MTV bringing in the target audience, an attractive, likable cast, but that doesn’t mean it won’t go down the wrong path.
“Slasher movies burn bright and fast,” Noah recalls to his friends. Keeping up with the meta theme of the episode, he adds, “TV needs to stretch things out.” So far, the show has succeeded in that. After the first episode, audiences are left with intrigue. Is Branden James back? Is the killer one person pulling the strings of many to keep us second guessing who the murderer is, a la “A” in “Pretty Little Liars”? After the ending montage, we’re left with a mysterious image (But I won’t spoil that tidbit for you).
The “Scream” pilot was screened at the LA Film Festival and will premiere on MTV Tuesday, June 30.