TV Review: Scream (1×01) “Pilot”

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Man, when MTV wants to push a show, they push it hard. They wallpapered the internet with ads for the Scream TV series, promising a plethora of blood and terror for all daring enough to watch. But how does the plot measure up against this promise?

First, let’s look at the characters:

  • NINA PATTERSON (Bella Thorne)
    Nina’s the resident sociopathic mean girl, as evidenced by her outing Audrey via YouTube video for some sort of survival of the fittest reasoning. She receives creepy videos of herself from behind that she mistakes for Tyler O’Neill flirting. Surprise! It’s the killer, bearing Tyler’s head and a knife to Nina’s back and throat. Ladies and gentlemen, our first victim.
  • EMMA DUVALL (Willa Fitzgerald)
    Emma is the main character and the angel to Nina’s devil on the shoulders of their friend group. She and Audrey used to be friends but grew apart, so she’s not happy when the video goes viral.
  • MAGGIE DUVALL (Tracy Middendorf)
    Emma’s mother is the coroner for the town and, according to her daughter, should be dating the good Sheriff Clark Hudson. In her youth, she was the object of affection for the town’s infamous murderer, Brandon James.
  • WILL BELMONT (Connor Weil)
    Emma’s boyfriend and Nina’s former tryst. He’s either the biggest red herring ever, or he’s the guiltiest there ever was. I don’t know if I’ll be impressed or horrifically disappointed if they pull the Billy Loomis trick all over again, throwing the actual killer’s guilt in everyone’s face. Will’s alibi for the night of Nina’s death is far from airtight, and he has no problem threatening Brooke when she blows up his spot in front of Emma.
  • NOAH FOSTER (John Karna)
    Noah is the resident horror movie expert in the town. He’s spends most of his time loudly exploring slasher movie tropes and learning about serial killers. He’s Audrey’s best friend and soon-to-be Riley’s love interest, from the looks of everything.
  • AUDREY JENSEN (Bex Taylor-Klaus)
    Audrey is Emma’s former best friend and the star of Nina’s viral YouTube video. She’s currently involved with a girl who is “wicked smart and funny, but she hates the way she looks.”
  • BROOKE MADDOX (Carlson Young)
    Another insensitive mean girl who claims that her latest house party is a prayer vigil for Nina. Brooke is having an affair with Mr. Branson and doesn’t share his fear over it being discovered during the murder investigation.
  • JAKE FITZGERALD (Rom Maden)
    Holy insensitive. For instance, after someone expresses disbelief that Nina is now just a body, Will’s best friend counters with “She was ALWAYS just a body,” with a smirk. Kind of the worst. He was the one who pulled/deleted the video files after it went viral.
  • KIERAN WILCOX (Amadeus Serafini)
    Ah, our mysterious loner dude. He moved to their town to live with his dad after his mom and stepfather died six weeks ago. Looks like he’s a rival love interest for Emma, albeit a less boring one. Surprise! His father is Sheriff Clark Hudson.
  • SETH BRANSON (Bobby Campo)
    The English teacher! Mr. Branson attempts instilling an appreciation for gothic literature by exploring its modern ties (i.e., The Walking Dead and American Horror Story), but his class seems to get taken over a lot by Noah. Mr. Branson is having an affair with student Brooke, but wants it to cool off, nervous about Nina’s murder investigation. However, he doesn’t exactly have a strong resolve.
  • RILEY MARA (Brianne Tju)
    Riley is part of Emma’s friend group. Currently, Riley serves the purpose of providing a reason for Noah’s heavy-handed, meta speeches about slasher movies. I’m sure she’ll be his love interest.

Early in the episode, our resident slasher movie expert Noah makes the following point: “You can’t do a slasher movie as a TV series. Think about it. Girl and her friend arrive at the dance, the camp, deserted town, whatever. Killer takes them out one-by-one. Ninety minutes later, the sun comes up and survivor girl sits in the ambulance watching her friends’ bodies being wheeled past. Slasher movies burn bright and fast—TV needs to stretch things out.” I fear that Noah is correct in his awkward meta explanation; so far Scream is having a bunch of execution, pacing, and plot issues.

Nina’s untimely demise brings to mind the last scary happening in the town of Lakewood. Brandon James, sufferer of Proteus Syndrome and the town’s resident Boo Radley, is the main focus of the town’s urban legend. He was a recluse who fell in love with a girl named Daisy (i.e., Emma’s mother) at a Halloween dance. When his face was revealed, he was jumped by a bunch of jocks. He snapped, killing several students before Daisy agreed to meet him on the docks. He gave her a heart pendant and explained that he loved her, only to be shot off the dock and into the lake.

A package is delivered to the Duvalls’ for Daisy—Maggie opens it to reveal a bloody heart with a note that says, “Emma looks just like you at that age.” She smartly calls the sheriff immediately and explains that she is the girl in the town’s urban legend—Daisy was a family nickname. Note from this scene: Emma’s father worked hard to cope post-Brandon James, but couldn’t deal, so he ended up leaving the family.

“Maybe we should be scared. Bunch of teenagers drinking by the lake where their homegrown killer died. Natural slasher setting,” Loner Boy Kieran says at Brooke’s vigil party. In another room, Brooke alludes to a Nina/Will hookup in front of Emma, creating trouble in paradise for the most boring couple I’ve ever seen. Thankfully. His sleeping with Nina during a break causes enough drama that Emma ends up hooking up with Kieran after she laments her tendency to see the best in people.

In the living room, Noah falls asleep, making him the perfect prey for a prank. Other party guests send his sleeping body out into the middle of the lake on a piece of the dock. When he tries to swim to shore, something almost drowns him. Kieran comes to his rescue, while Audrey throws shade at Emma for having shitty friends.

Audrey is furious when she realizes that Emma’s friends were involved with the video and that their friendship rekindling has been out of guilt. When Emma leaves Audrey’s crying, she receives our first phantom phone call of the series! “Why are you crying? I hate to see you so sad,” (presumably) our masked murderer says. He gives us his motive early, explaining that he wants to pull up the masks on their perfect social media lives, which recalls the motive of the killer on Eye Candy. Thank you, masked murderer, for being so blunt about your purpose. The episode closes with one last commentary from Noah: “Everyone has secrets. Everyone tells lies. And everyone is fair game.” Dun dun dunnnn.

All and all, not the worst piece of television I’ve seen before. I’d argue that Scream is closer in spirit to shows like MTV’s recently-canceled Eye Candy and ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars than its actual source material. Most of my issue with the pilot comes from execution; ostensibly, they took what was best about Scream and tried to clumsily bend it to the confines of a television show. The opening scene felt rushed, which is ridiculous because they have so much more time than a movie does to tell their story. The tension didn’t have any time to build, and without tension there’s no real fear to be found. Noah’s meta commentary feels forced and in your face rather than natural dialogue like Randy’s did in the first three Scream films. Marketing-wise, connecting it to Wes Craven’s infamous franchise was a great move—however, drawing any comparisons between the two beyond the name will only hurt the show. I’m hoping that some of these problems are ironed out in the next few episodes and that the show is able to come into its own.

Best line: “Sage is a trained attack Pomeranian who will gut you on command.”–Nina, before her untimely death.

Killer Calls Per Episode: 1.

Body Count Per Episode: 2.

Cumulative Body Count: 2.

Episode Rating: 5/10.

Bri is a 25-year-old born and raised in the swamps of Jersey. Just kidding, she lives at least twenty minutes from those swamps. She’s a publishing professional that moonlights as a writer. She enjoys going to concerts (anything from Rooney to Springsteen to NKOTBSB), roadtripping, and complaining that she truly belongs in the 1950’s, the 1920′s, or the 1980′s depending on her mood. She definitely owns more books than she should and reads every chance she gets. If you stop hearing from her, it’s because the book piles have fallen over and smothered her to death in the night. You can contact her at bri@theyoungfolks.com. Twitter: @bri_lockhart