Spoilers ahead! Turn back now!
I am a big fan of the original Scream movie franchise, which made me start watching the first season of Scream, the show based on the movie series, when it came to Netflix.
What fans of the movies should understand however is that the show is simply inspired by the films. It doesn’t follow the continuity of the films. The show is littered, however, with homages to the films. The show, like the films, is meant to be an anti-slasher. Each character falls into a particular stereotype, yet they all manage to regularly interact with one another. Noah, the “computer geek,” also directly references other horror films and shows and talks about what would happen if they were in a horror film, a gimmick used in the original films.
However, the show doesn’t quite succeed in what the films set out to do. The original film kept you constantly guessing as to who the killer could be. Many characters were only relieved from the suspect list when they were killed. But this and the general knowledge of what to look for when seeking out the killer makes the “whodunit” less of a guessing game and more of a waiting for the show to end because you figured it out five episodes ago.
Fans of the film would know that there’s two killers, or a killer and an accomplice. So, as the show goes on, observant viewers will notice that there’s only two characters with secrets who are simply giving the others information with no corroboration or cut-scene to back up their claims: Piper and Audrey. Audrey is meant to be suspicious to the characters in the show, but sympathetic to the viewer. She’s clearly the outsider in the town. She has short hair, dresses in dark clothing, and is self-proclaimed “bi-curious” (which I will get to later). However, she is also the one with the most motive. She hated Nina, the Drew Barrymore character whose only purpose in the show was to cyberbully Audrey and later be one of the first victims of the killer, and, later in the show, we see video footage of her on her to way to supposedly kill Nina.
She was actually the character I was most unsure of for a time. She certainly didn’t react to the death of her girlfriend like the other characters reacted to the death of anyone. Though it’s never specifically stated in the show, I think Audrey probably killed Nina and her girlfriend while Piper killed the rest. Piper has a clear motive for the rest of the murders. She is messing with either Emma or her mother. She resents the family that gave her up and killed her father.
Piper shows her hand early on. If the viewer remembers the trail of clues each character leaves, then it should be immediately obvious that Piper is the daughter of Brandon James once it becomes clear that there is a daughter. She’s one of only two characters who are the correct age, and she comes to the town at a pretty convenient time. She was also the most immediately suspicious because the show pushed so hard for the audience to like her. No other character got this treatment. We see everyone else’s questionable decisions and proclivities, but Piper is just cool. She’s the semi-famous podcaster that everyone likes and who always knows exactly what to say and where to be.
The show also uses technology in a strange way. It wants to feel modern–a clear separation from the 1996 original film–but what we get is something that will age very quickly. The over-reliance on technology in the show feels like its forced by the show creators. It’s more “hello, fellow kids” and less of a modern horror story.
Ultimately though, the shows biggest failing comes from the plot. If you’re going to make a show based on Scream, the ultimate anti-horror film, you’re going to need to give the audience something they haven’t seen before. For instance, Drew Barrymore’s death at the time was a shock. To have a huge Hollywood actress die in the first ten minutes of the film was an amazing call. The amount of times this has been referenced and parodied throughout cinema and television is evidence of that. Obviously they can’t recreate the same trick–and the beginning sequence was a nice homage–but the audience needs something. Something new needed to set the show apart. If Piper’s reveal would have been better hidden, it might have been that, but, in the age of Pretty Little Liars, having the stalking slasher villain be a woman actually isn’t that surprising.
Overall though, I liked the show. I mostly wanted more out of it. I liked all of the characters, which I feel is rare in most shows. I would put Scream somewhere above Pretty Little Liars in horror/suspense shows. This is especially apt because the show feels like PLL and the original Scream movie had a baby. I think that’s what the show runners might have been going for, but it lacks the crazy twists of PLL and the ingenuity of the original films. What we get is an okay show with some charm and an obvious end to the season. Perhaps it’ll pick up in season 2.
If you want a show that is everything Scream set out to be, I would suggest Scream Queens.