September 2, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Scream”


The MTV version of SCREAM nailed its own problem back in the pilot, courtesy of its one-man meta machine Noah (John Karna)–but diagnosing one’s own illness is a long way from curing it.  A TV series, indeed, can’t possibly duplicate the experience of a slasher movie, because that genre plays a numbers game:  its fundamental thrill comes from the sheer body count that piles up in the space of 90 minutes or so, half a dozen deaths at the very least,  a tonnage of brutal killing that becomes emotionally weightless and even comic.  A series that executed characters at that rate would run through the entire cast of Game of Thrones in less than a season.  So instead, the TV Scream could only offer a murder once every episode or two, which meant that if it were to work, it would have to succeed in the regular TV ways, with plotting that compelled and held together, and characters that were more than fodder.

This Scream never came close to managing that.  At best, between the murders it was a mediocre teen soap opera (considerably inferior to MTV’s own Finding Carter), with violence that was strong by TV standards but uninspired.  The need to keep characters available for constant red herrings meant that none of them could be developed beyond a bare minimum.  It wasn’t any more interesting to ponder whether heroine Emma (Willa Fitzgerald) should be with Will (Connor Weil) or Kieran (Amadeus Serafini) just because one of them might be slaughtered (as eventually Will was) or turn out to be the killer (nope).  Having Noah toss in regular quips about the cliches of the genre was even more tiresome than it became in the movies.  The low-budget show wasn’t interesting visually, either, despite the script’s reliance on cell phones and malware, with an aesthetic that didn’t advance beyond the late Wes Craven’s 1996 big-screen original, even in the episode directed by genuine new-wave horror filmmaker Ti West.  (Craven, who died this past week, and to whom the final episode was dedicated, was credted as an Executive Producer of the series, but reportedly had little to do with it.)

The finale, written by showrunner Jaime Paglia and directed by Jamie Travis, was by the numbers.  Once it became clear that the series was operating from the Halloween franchise-derived playbook of the killer being a previously-unknown sibling of Emma’s, it was so insistent that this must be a brother that it was clear the “twist” was going to be a sister, and that being the case, there really weren’t any suspects in the right age group beyond podcaster Piper (Amelia Rose Blaire), who was suspiciously on the scene and/or offering helpful advice to Emma all the time.  (The idea of Sara Koenig actually being the Serial killer could have been an amusing one, but the show didn’t do anything with it.)  The coda’s set-up for season 2 was also telegraphed when Emma’s pal Audrey (Bex Taylor-Klaus) was mysteriously spared by the killer earlier in the episode.

And there will indeed be a Season 2 for Scream, even though its blah-or-worse ratings were a severe disappointment for MTV.  Slasher franchises, of course, get more and more inbred as they continue, with additional levels of contrivance necessary to explain why yet another killer is offing yet another group of teens in the same town, or else resorting to the back-from-the-dead trope that’s kept Michael Myers and Jason Voorhies in business for decades.  If a new season of Scream isn’t much smarter than this one, it will almost inevitably be much dumber, and without the frisson of constant slayings, its flaws are likely to be that much more glaring.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."