In Westeros, winter may be perpetually encroaching, but in the United States, summer has firmly arrived... and what better way to counteract the scorching heat outside than with some major chills courtesy of MTV's newest series, Scream ? Not to be confused with FOX's impending fall drama Scream Queens, the network that brought us Awkward and Teen Wolf is now turning Wes Craven's iconic slasher quadrilogy of films into a TV show. But before you cool off with a pitcher of "Ghostface Sangria" and tune into the series premiere this Tuesday night, first study up on just how MTV's Scream will compare to the movie.
Turning a feature film into a television series isn't exactly a new practice. In fact, the history of the small screen is littered with successful translations, such as MASH, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Friday Night Lights, Parenthood, Fargo, and even MTV's own Teen Wolf. But there have also been a fair share of duds over the years. (Clueless, anyone?) At this point, it's anyone's guess which camp Scream will fall into, but given Wes Craven's successful formula — as well as television audiences' growing appetites for horror thanks to series like American Horror Story, Bates Motel, Hannibal, Penny Dreadful, The Strain, and The Walking Dead — there's every reason to believe this killer show will be a monster smash.
Now, here's how Scream pays homage to its source material... and how it hopes to reinvent the franchise.
1. The Opening Scene
Obviously, one of the most iconic facets of the original 1996 film is its opening sequence, which featured Drew Barrymore — a popular young starlet at the time and the cast's biggest name — getting killed off in the first five minutes. (It was basically the '90s version of Ned Stark's beheading.) 2011's Scream 4 paid homage to this with a hilarious opening scene-within-a-scene-within-a-scene gag, packed to the gills with celebrity cameos... and now the torch has been passed to this new generation of Scream.
MTV has already released the first eight minutes of the pilot, centered around popular Disney star Bella Thorne, as she cyber-bullies a classmate — and immediately gets a heavy dose of karmic retribution in the form of a masked killer.
2. The Meta Humor
The thing that set Scream apart from its '90s horror brethren was its wicked sense of self-awareness. Believe it or not, but there was a time when "meta humor" wasn't really a thing. A slasher movie that pointed out the clichés of its own genre — and then subverted them — was practically unheard of. Of course, once it's been done, it's hard to make that same meta humor feel fresh. (The original franchise used it to diminishing returns in 1996's Scream 2 and 2000's Scream 3.)
Scream 4 rebooted this self-awareness by lampooning Hollywood's recent spate of remakes and reboots. And MTV's Scream looks to refresh the humor once more by pointing out the tropes of genre television. "You can't do a slasher movie as a TV series," one character helpfully points out in the pilot. (Hopefully the show will prove him wrong over the course of the season.)
3. The Mysterious Past
The motives of the killer(s) in the original Scream were tied directly to mysterious events in Woodsboro's past, involving Sidney Prescott's mother, a murder, and a wrongfully-convicted murderer. Similarly, MTV's Scream will lean heavily on a small town's mysterious past. In this version, the recent spree killings are inspired by the actions of a teenager named Brandon James, a deformed and bullied outcast who (supposedly) went on a rampage 20 years prior to the beginning of the series. (I say supposedly because things are rarely what they seem in this kind of movie.)
These mysterious events will likely involve the older members of Scream's cast, including Mad Men's Bryan Batt (above) as Mayor Quinn, Third Watch's Jason Wiles as Sheriff Clark Hudson, and Boardwalk Empire's Tracy Middendorf as Maggie Duvall, the lead character's mother.
4. The Cast's Ages
When I first saw the promos for MTV's Scream, my initial thought was something along the lines of "Gee, these kids are young." This was understandable, considering the most recent Scream film featured Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox playing completely grown-up, adult characters, and the TV series is set in a high school. Even so, the new crop of kids — Willa Fitzgerald (Royal Pains) as Emma Duvall, Bex Taylor-Klaus (The Killing), and the rest — seemed even more baby-faced than I expected. And yet, when I compared their ages to the cast of the original 1996 movie, I was surprised to learn how comparable they were. Fitzgerald, this version's "Sidney" is currently 23... exactly how old Campbell was when the original Scream was released.
I wonder if hypothetical future seasons of this show will continue in the high school vein, or graduate its characters to college and beyond like the film franchise did?
5. The Classic Kills
As the genre grows older, horror movies (and shows) have to get increasingly creative with their kills to satiate their audiences' blood lust. Just think of franchises like Saw and Final Destination, whose entire identities are wrapped up in elaborate, Rube Goldberg-ian death traps. So there's something refreshing about a killer who stalks and murders with nothing but a wickedly sharp kitchen knife. (There's a reason why the meta film-franchise-within-the-film-franchise is given the hilariously blunt title Stab.)
Despite all the ways MTV's Scream is hewing close to Craven's beloved franchise, there are a few noticeable differences. Like...
6. The Mask
The most obvious departure from the original quadrilogy is the conspicuous absence of the iconic "Ghostface" mask. Executive producer Jaime Paglia told Entertainment Weekly that, "If you were to have that mask in a television series, but you weren’t following any of the characters [from the original], I believe that would be misleading the audience." According to Paglia, this new mask is supposed to be evocative of not only Ghostface, but also Michael Myers' white Halloween mask and Jason Voorhees' hockey mask from Friday The 13th.
7. The Technology
Since MTV's Scream takes place in the present day and not 1996, that means this new entry in the franchise has tons of new technology at its disposal that Sidney & Co. could never have dreamed of. The network plans to take full advantage of this: the released opening sequence alone features iPhones, cyber-bullying, and web cams. The show also plans to use the likes of Twitter, Instagram, and other popular social networking apps in its plot. "Instead of just a clunky phone where the killer can reach you with just a phone call, our killer can always see you with all the social media outlets we have these days," star Taylor-Klaus told E! Online . "It's absolutely terrifying just how easily a killer can access you nowadays. It's really eye-opening."
8. The Format
Of course, the single biggest difference between Scream the movie and Scream the TV show is the biggest inherent difference between those two formats: while a film tells one story over the course of roughly one-and-a-half to two hours, TV is a long-form, procedural format with an entirely different set of requirements. In a traditional horror film, if there's a character you don't like, you can rest easy with the knowledge that the longest you have to wait to see them suffer a grisly death is probably 90 minutes. On MTV's Scream, if there's a character we don't like, we're potentially stuck with them for weeks.
Because of this long-form format, it's the writers' responsibility to make sure the viewers are way more invested in their characters than horror films typically demand. In an interview with BuzzFeed, Paglia described her show as " Friday Night Lights with life-and-death stakes." In this way, MTV's Scream might actually have more in common with other modern horror shows like CBS' Harper's Island and FOX's upcoming Scream Queens than Craven's 1996 film. It remains to be seen if this new iteration can simultaneously please both older fans of the original franchise and younger MTV viewers who may have never seen Scream before. (Blasphemy, I know.)
Images: MTV (8)