Last week while browsing through Netflix, I was in a slasher film kind of mood, specifically wanted to watch the Scream films once more. In their place, I found something even better, the Scream TV series, which I loved the first time on MTV and thoroughly enjoyed on a rewatch, finding new and interesting bits hidden in plain sight!
Worth noting is that the series is available internationally as a “Netflix Original.”
The series takes the Scream premise and brings it to the 21st century, with texting, social media and the internet in general being the new tools in the killer’s kit. They still have the voice modulator, for that iconic Roger Jackson “fake” voice , but now they also text their victims, scramble phones, hack their computers and even deploy malware that allow them to observe the town.
The Scream TV series takes place in the town of Lakewood, where nearly twenty years before, a man named Brandon James donned a scary white mask and killed dozens in a single night before being shot by the police. The truth though is far more complicated and is but a tiny part of the greater puzzle that is the truth behind the killer’s motivations.
It’s hard to talk about the plot of the seasons without giving away too much, so instead I’ll say that the writers manage to keep the mystery alive throughout the episodes, ramping up the tension but also allowing for moments of calm, those nice events that make the characters, and you, the audience, lower your defences, making that next strike feel that much stronger. It’s brilliant in how it plays with your emotions and expectations.
Though I don’t want to spoil anything, I do want to mention that one of the smartest things the Scream TV series does is to, early on, have a character go through all the reasons why a slasher TV series wouldn’t work and then spend two seasons not only pulling it off but doing it so in a genius way, often subverting genre tropes and other times playing them straight with more effectiveness than I would’ve thought possible. See below for the genius monologue, with the fantastic violin music used throughout the series.
But part of what makes it so good is that characters are genre savvy, they know horror movies and though at times they fall into traps, they have many more moments of slasher movie awareness, refusing to split up the party, looking at the entrance to the darkened derelict building and saying “nope!” before moving away. By the end of season 2, during the Halloween special, some of them have taken up jiujitsu to kick killer ass. The writers are aware that horror movie characters often make stupid mistakes, things that anyone with a lick of common sense would avoid, and make sure that the characters either know this or have no other choice but to venture into the dark on their own. Hell, they even use slasher movie terms like “survivor girl” in their dialogue.
The characters have depth as well. There are mysteries and secrets between them, often unrelated to the main plot and the killer, but colouring their perception and leading them into danger, where the masked murderer can better strike at them. Loyalties are put to the test, loved ones die and romance and love don’t save the day. These are damaged characters, dragging their traumas as surely as they do their friends bloody carcasses and the series deals with those issues, from mental and physical abuse, bullying, the regular and cyber varieties and even depression and grief.
As for the kills themselves, they’re visceral, gory and gruesome though the worst happen off-screen, leaving it to your imagination to picture the spectacle. For the most part, you see only the slashing, stabbing and cutting with a knife. Having said so, there are moments when you glimpse the aftermath of the murders, the remains after they’ve been collected and processed. For these, the most intense are those one of the characters sees as a hallucination.
The series has two seasons on Netflix, with the second season picking up months after the end of the first one. A third series was announced and supposedly is still coming—though delayed because the series had the Weinsteins as producers—but it’s not going to tell a new story in a new place with new characters. Though I never mind a horror anthology, the characters from the first two seasons are so good and develop so well, and the second seasons ends with such a nice cliffhanger, that I would’ve loved to continue with the same cast.
Still, I’ll keep my opinions on the nature of the third season until such a time when the episodes release. In the meantime, I urge you to check out this series on Netflix. It’s superb in how it takes the slasher film genre and stretches the story to fit not one but two seasons, remaining compelling from beginning to end.