Scream Tuesdays, 10 p.m., MTV.
“You can’t do a slasher movie as a TV series,” says Noah (John Karna), the resident pop-culture expert in MTV’s reimagining of Scream, and that’s about as sophisticated as the self-awareness gets in this wan TV adaptation of the iconic horror-movie series. Calling attention to the show’s poor long-term prospects is not exactly the best way to win the audience over, and the first episode of Scream lacks the clever deconstruction and sense of humor that writer Kevin Williamson and director Wes Craven brought to the original movie (Craven is credited as an executive producer on the show; Williamson had no involvement).
Aside from Noah’s meta-commentary, the main element that ties this new version of Scream to the films is the presence of a killer in a black hood and white mask who taunts his victims via threatening phone calls (and also via text messages and social media, something handled much more effectively in the recent feature film Unfriended). Even the iconic “ghostface” mask has been redesigned, though, and the main characters and storyline, all new creations for the series, recall a mid-level ABC Family drama more than a horror classic. There was a playfulness to even the worst of the Scream movies that is absent here, and what’s left is a mediocre murder mystery that, as Noah points out, seems like an ill-advised concept for an ongoing series.
Co-creator and executive producer Jill Blotevogel worked on Harper’s Island, a 2009 CBS series that also followed the template of a slasher movie, although it was specifically set up as a limited series (and failed to sustain its momentum), so she has some idea of how to structure this kind of story. Only one episode was available for review, so it’s hard to say how Scream’s central mystery, in which a mysterious figure is killing teens who cyber-bullied a classmate, will play out. The plot may or may not come together in the end, but the execution, with unimpressive acting and bland dialogue, is unlikely to improve. Brand name aside, Scream is a generic thriller with more pretty faces than creative ideas.