MTV’s Scream leeches off brand for bland story

It starts with the soft singing of a childhood rhyme against the sounds of a night far off from the city. The voice belongs to someone off screen, and the lake that’s holding the camera’s attention is noticeably empty. This shot is a quick one, a grasp at eeriness mixed in with a desire to capture the audience through out of context atmosphere.

We have ascended to cliché heaven.

The new Scream series, birthed by MTV, feels like an alternate reality in which the teenage citizens of Lakewood don’t act like actual people. The first on-screen murder is that of a girl who senses danger when she’s sent recent videos of herself that could only be taken inside in her home. After a brief freakout, she heads to her hot tub, completely over the whole ordeal.

Because us kids are oh so oblivious to everything, right?

It becomes distractingly obvious within the first 10 minutes of the show that the adult writers have no idea how youth culture works. The endless stream of social media shots and mentions are done to make Scream modern, but instead it comes across as cheap. (“All the Facebook flirting!” is actually a line.) This need to be current intensifies when a classroom of students and their professor start discussing how the Gothic genre is dominating TV.

The teacher mentions one show after another in order to connect with his students and, through them, the stereotypical MTV viewer: The Walking Dead. American Horror Story. Bates Motel. Hannibal.

Randy Meeks was a unique character. His reincarnations? Not so much. (Photo courtesy of Dimension Films)

Randy Meeks was a unique character. His reincarnations? Not so much. (Photo courtesy of Dimension Films)

It’s talk that tries to channel beloved Randy Meeks. As a viewer, our eyes are supposed to light up because we know what he’s talking about; we understand. What actually happens, however, is that it becomes reminiscent of forced conversations with an out-of-touch family member who wants to impress you with pop culture references.

The writers are playing catchup with the teenage world, and it’s a finish line constantly being slid out of their reach.

At one point, the high schoolers are portrayed as so self-absorbed that one has to assume that it’s for comedic effect. In between talk of murder, these teens are planning a party. The show’s namesake was heavy with jokes, but when it came to execution, the clever delivery of the lines was what made if effective. The overflow of bad acting and attempts to break the fourth wall in this Scream revival destroys any possibility of that.

The severity of the lack of a good script became even more apparent to me when I realized that halfway through the episode, I knew the names of only two characters. Every single person is bland, with predictable side plots involving cheating and a student-teacher relationship to match.

And not one of them is interesting. (Photo courtesy of MTV)

And not one of these characters is interesting. (Photo courtesy of MTV)

It’s not so bad it’s good. It’s just bad.

In the (low) hopes that this style would remain in the pilot and the pilot alone, I continued on into the second episode. Same thing.

It all ends up being a poor homage of classic Scream scenes, from a creepy garage to a Drew Barrymore moment. These tensionless reenactments are meant to be the highlight of each episode, making this release even sadder.

I understand that this show is being broadcasted on MTV and that I’ll soon have aged past the intended demographic, but even then I found it all to be boring and uneventful. This isn’t a horror show. It’s another high school gossipfest with a side dish of murder.

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