I finished the series premiere of the new MTV show Scream: The TV Series — all 45 minutes of it — without batting an eye. It was a much smoother ride than the sleep-destroying, four-plus hours of torture I endured when I forced myself to finish Wes Craven’s 1996 original Scream. I was 12 years old at the time. Scream was the first real slasher flick I’d ever seen, and certainly the first one I’d ever dared to watch alone. After having tried, and failed repeatedly, to sneak into the R-rated feature at the theater, I knew I’d have my chance when it hit VHS. (Please refer to AltaVista or your Encyclopedia Britannica collection for guidance on the latter.) Scream was a big deal when it was released in cinemas, but it was an absolute must-see by the time it hit home video. Middle school was a trying enough experience; I didn’t want to be the girl with the goofy haircut and the one who hadn’t seen the movie everyone was talking about. With no slumber parties on the horizon, I had no choice but to borrow a friend’s copy and watch it alone. R-rated movies weren’t banned in our household, but I had no intention of popping in Scream and gathering the whole family. Instead, I’d wait until everyone was asleep to find out what was going on with Sidney Prescott and her pals at Woodsboro High School. Turns out, it was some pretty gnarly stuff. And let me tell you, the movie is especially scary when you’re watching it unfold from a dark, quiet house (at the end of a dead-end street — no lie) and you’re all alone. To this day, I maintain that the opening sequence featuring Drew Barrymore is one of the most effectively terrifying scenes in the history of horror cinema. There’s the primal fear of being alone and watched by a stranger, then discovering that the call is coming from inside the house. It still holds up, even now when I watch it again, I relive the bone-chilling dread I felt the first time. Every creak in my house, every blowing leaf outside had me hitting the pause button to catch my breath.
As freaked out as I was, I immediately fell in love with Scream. I loved the cast, I loved the clothes (RIP Tatum and your rad gingham skirt), I loved the soundtrack, I loved that the characters were all pretty dorky, and I loved finally figuring out what all the fuss was about. It was an event movie for me — and a damn cool one. Scream will forever be tied to my memory of my pre-teen and teen years, and it will always hold a special place in my heart. When I heard there was going to be a Scream television series, I didn’t share the internet's reaction of, “NO, YOU CAN’T, YOU’RE RUINING MY CHILDHOOD.” Yes, I watched the movie a bazillion times with my best friend, and discovered that I didn't crush on the brooding guy with the dreamy hair (Skeet Ulrich) — that honor went to doofus, movie geek sidekick, Randy (Jamie Kennedy). But my adolescent memories didn’t hang in the balance just because MTV was turning the flick into a TV show. So the stakes were low for me. And somehow, I was still disappointed in Scream: The TV Series. The show follows a new set of teens in a sleepy town called Lakewood, where dead bodies begin to pop up, and our leading lady, Emma Duvall (Willa Fitzgerald), appears to have a personal tie to the mysterious killer. There are familiar devices, for sure: a killer in a creepy mask and everyone's a suspect! But for me, the thrill is gone. Scream the movie was a fresh, fun, inventive take on a genre that had been pronounced DOA; the small-screen redo feels like the very thing the original Scream characters make fun of.
Take, for instance, the opening sequence. It’s an obvious homage to the iconic Barrymore setup (just swap in strange text messages for strange phone calls). But this time around, we get a sexy teen named Nina (Bella Thorne) in a slinky bikini prancing around her mansion. Call me old-fashioned, but it made me yearn for the days of Drew in a bad wig making popcorn. Pretty much everyone in Scream: The TV Series — including the teachers — look straight out of an Abercrombie spread. (There are a few other hat-tips to the film scattered throughout the premiere, including a car garage scene and pop-culture references galore.) The MTV series goes for more of a soap-opera feel than the ironic, meta tone of Craven’s film. At its core, it feels more like I Know What You Did Last Summer — or the more recent copycat, Unfriended. Scream: The TV Series does have some sense of self-awareness. At one point, the Jamie Kennedy of the bunch, a nerdy lad named Noah (played by Topher Grace clone John Karna) tells his pals, “TV can stretch things out, where movies need two hours.” Okay, got it! Wink, wink. But when he later muses, “You root for [the characters], you love them, so when they are brutally murdered, it hurts,” I wondered if he was talking about the movie rather than the show he's on. This isn’t a series for Scream fans nostalgic for the '90s and looking for the genuine scares and clever banter that made the movie so great. It’s for a new generation of kids looking to stay up late, get a little bit creeped out before bedtime, and hopefully, feel intrigued enough to rent (okay, fine, download) the original.