‘ Scream’ tries the MTV set on for size

The slick new se­ries from the 19- year- old film fran­chise has a re­strained, retro feel.


“Scream,” the metafic­tional slasher- movie fran­chise, has made its way to tele­vi­sion, where it pre­mieres as a se­ries Tues­day on MTV. If you’re go­ing to make a TV show about mur­der­ing teenagers, that does some­how seem the likely place.

Kevin Wil­liamson, who wrote the orig­i­nal ( and most of the three se­quels), is not in­volved with the smallscreen ver­sion, though it owes ev­ery­thing to his voice and orig­i­nal bright idea: to rein­vig­o­rate the genre by shin­ing a light on its tropes and lim­i­ta­tions in or­der to guilt­lessly em­ploy them all.

( For my money, Wil­liamson’s own re­lated se­ries, “The Fol­low­ing” and “Stalker,” both since can­celed, took out of the genre what­ever joy “Scream” had re­turned to it.)

If that pro­phy­lac­tic self­aware­ness is re­ally the only thing that sep­a­rates “Scream” from less clever hor­ror sto­ries, it is plenty scary nonethe­less: Sus-

pense is, af­ter all, a mat­ter of know­ing what’s com­ing, just not when.

The se­ries pi­lot — which be­gins with an up­dated homage to the orig­i­nal “Scream,” the only movie whose name it can­not drop — has an ex­pen­sive, cin­e­matic look and sound, achieved not merely by putting all the char­ac­ters in fancy houses. ( Real es­tate may be cheaper in mur­der-plagued Woods­boro.)

Its fealty to the orig­i­nal, given the graphic ex­tremes to which hor­ror f ilms now run, pro­vides it with an air that might be called old­fash­ioned, even re­strained. It is, af­ter all, the prod­uct of a 19- year- old fran­chise that it­self was a play on a genre al­ready nearly two decades old: 2018 will be the 40th an­niver­sary of John Car­pen­ter’s “Hal­loween.”

The cast­ing is all per­fectly on point — you know who these char­ac­ters are even be­fore they start talk­ing ( and some of them you will want to mur­der your­self ): the smart, good girl; her dumb- jock boyfriend; the dumb jock’s dum­ber friend; the sen­si­tive arty out­sider; the ex­traor­di­nar­ily beau­ti­ful mys­te­ri­ous new kid in town; the self- de­scribed “ge­nius IQ out­cast with the se­rial- killer fetish.” In­deed, if you can’t rec­og­nize them, the script will point it out to you — that is the game, af­ter all.

And so we have a scene in which a teacher, whose youth and good looks tell us that he will be sex­u­ally in­volved with a stu­dent, dis­cusses gothic literature and name- checks “Amer­i­can Hor­ror Story,” “Bates Mo­tel,” “Hannibal,” and “The Walk­ing Dead” — a scene, in­deed that, af­ter namecheck­ing “Texas Chain­saw Mas­sacre” and “Hal­loween,” goes on to ex­plain why you can’t make a slasher f ilm into a tele­vi­sion show.

They are here to tell you that you can. Whether you should is a sep­a­rate ques­tion that view­ers will an­swer for them­selves.

For younger view­ers just dis­cov­er­ing irony and metaf ic­tion and pos­si­bly not ac­quainted with the screen orig­i­nals, which have done them to death, this may seem fresh and fun. ( Per­haps the se­ries will get around to com­ment­ing on its own lack of di­ver­sity, a sin­gle Asian char­ac­ter notwith­stand­ing.)

I will not be stick­ing around, as a mat­ter of taste; but I will not be stand­ing in your way.


BELLA THORNE plays Nina Pat­ter­son in the MTV se­ries “Scream,” based on the hit f ilm fran­chise.

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