Let me begin by saying I have been a Scream franchise fan for two decades (hence this blog’s name). And so, like many fans, I was cautiously optimistic when MTV announced they were developing a TV series based on those iconic films– with Scream director and master of horror Wes Craven listed as an Executive Producer. In theory, it sounded like an opportunity to expand the Scream universe and introduce a new generation to this wonderful franchise many of us love. Little did we know that a tumultuous journey awaited us ahead.
The first season of Scream: The Series dropped in summer 2015, and it was… messy, to say the least. As a self-contained, teen horror/drama series, there were elements I appreciated. However, the show rarely felt like the Scream films in any meaningful way, shape, or form. It lacked essential Scream franchise elements like writer Kevin Williamson’s fast-paced, self-referential dialogue and Wes Craven’s masterful/suspenseful directing style. In fact, from the beginning, Scream: The Series was closer tonally to MTV’s other whodunit horror/drama series that was also a loose re-imagining of a feature film, Teen Wolf. Perhaps that was intentional– Teen Wolf was a major success for the network, after all. Also suspiciously absent from this TV iteration of the Scream franchise: the iconic Ghostface mask + Roger L. Jackson’s haunting voice from the films.
Near the end of its first season, Scream: The Series began to find a decent groove and establish itself as a beast largely separate from the films. Notably, the best episode of Season 1 (“The Dance”) was directed by acclaimed horror/genre filmmaker Ti West (The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers). However, rather than resolve the show’s central mystery at the end of its first season, the production team decided to extend that storyline through the next season. Season 2– which aired the following summer– was a real slog for that reason, and pacing issues were further exasperated by the fact that the episode count was increased from 10 to 12 (NOTE: adding more time to a slasher project is rarely the solution– there’s a reason most slasher films only run about 90 minutes long). The main storyline did finally resolve at the end of Season 2– though in a predictable and largely unsatisfying manner (to me). In any case, the show had reached its end.
Later that same year, MTV dropped a Halloween special episode featuring the same characters from Seasons 1 and 2 (at least, the ones still alive). Once again, this standalone episode barely resembled the Scream films. It was more of a riff on Agatha Christie’s classic mystery novel And Then There Were None — with a little April Fool’s Day sprinkled in. The episode didn’t really deliver for me, and most frustratingly of all, it featured a major cliffhanger that added further wrinkles to the overarching series mystery (which, again, should have been resolved two seasons back…). Soon after the special aired, the series was renewed for a 6-episode third season.
Cut to 2017: In a surprise move, MTV announced that the series would be transitioning to an anthology format– meaning Season 3 would feature a new setting with new characters. Queen Latifah was brought in as an Executive Producer alongside new showrunner Brett Matthews (Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries), and a diverse cast of actors were hired to play roles created for the season’s story arc. A number of fans were concerned about the old characters and mythology essentially being tossed aside, but honestly, I didn’t care that much because I didn’t think the first two seasons were particularly great anyway. And a new, diverse cast? Awesome! Most exciting of all: Ghostface would be returning for Season 3, and Roger L. Jackson would be voicing the character again. Finally, it seemed like Scream was going to be Scream again. Unfortunately, production on Season 3 got wrapped up in the Weinstein Scandal, and it would be another two years before it would air on television.
In July 2019, ‘Season 3’ did finally air over three nights on VH1 with a new title: Scream: Resurrection. Was it worth the wait? The short answer: no. The first few episodes are generally palatable. At least, they’re not demonstrably better or worse than most episodes from the first two seasons. However, once again, Kevin Williamson’s zippy, pop-culture laden dialogue is absent. In fact, any references to horror films that do exist in the show’s dialogue feel extremely forced, corny, and [almost] inserted after-the-fact. They’re certainly not clever, and they add very little to the storyline. In some cases, they even seem to halt the plot. That’s a big problem, and the series gets generally worse and worse as it goes.
The above point really speaks to my main, overarching issue with Scream: Resurrection. More than anything else, it plays like a bad imitation of the films. It’s as if the writers watched Scream once then said, “I can do that!”. Joe Lipsett over at Queer.HorrorMovies. describes this phenomenon as “a boring cosplay version of Every.Single.Element that fans find so endearing about the Ghostface franchise.” He’s right. Sure, Ghostface and Roger L. Jackson are there. Sure, there are some references to horror films thrown in throughout. But the production team doesn’t seem to realize those are superficial elements that only represent the tip-of-the-iceberg in terms of why the Scream films are so beloved by fans. You can’t– or at least shouldn’t– build a narrative around those things. They have to be utilized in smart and organic ways. Scream: Resurrection absolutely fails in that regard.
Beyond that main objection, these are other areas where I feel Scream: Resurrection struggles:
- Pacing. For a six-episode season, this should move along like a breeze, right? Unfortunately not. The plot is very sluggish and occasionally veers off on tangents that no one really cares about.
- Characters. The Scream films were notable for featuring main characters that audiences could root for. That was a change from certain 80s slasher franchises where most characters were considered disposable cannon fodder. The characters in Scream: Resurrection align closer to the latter. They don’t really behave in any sort of realistic, believable manner, and viewers are thus given little reason to care about their well-being. Also, forget about character development and any sort of intelligent dialogue.
- Cinematography. The series is shot in a flat and dull visual style (if you can call it style). There’s no particular aesthetic here. It looks just like every other teen TV drama out there today.
- Effects. The fact that I’ve already forgotten how 3/4 of the kills in this series went down should be evidence of how poor the effects are.
So, does this mini-series do anything right? Well, it doesn’t shine in any particular area, no, but there are a few things I will give it some credit for:
- A shorter season. No slasher series needs to have 10-12 episode seasons. Slashers by their very nature burn bright and fast, so limiting this mini-series to six episodes was a generally smart move.
- A pretty strong cast. Unfortunately, that cast gets generally terrible scripts to work with. Scream Queens alum Keke Palmer is a national treasure, and Giorgia Whigham is another standout I will be keeping an eye on moving forward. I liked RJ Cyler in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, so I’m choosing to believe he wasn’t given adequate material to work with here. As for Tyler Posey, he’s really just around for the Teen Wolf crowd.
- Ghostface + Halloween. Despite the writers clearly having no idea how to utilize Ghostface, I can’t deny a wave of nostalgia rushed over me every time that familiar costume and voice were on display. I also give them a few points for incorporating a Halloween setting throughout the series. As an October baby, I’m always on board for that choice.
Bottom Line: Should you watch this series? Only if you’re a Scream completist, honestly. It’s nice to see Ghostface back, but the show rarely knows what to do with that horror icon. It’s also nice to see a diverse cast of actors, but their dialogue is poorly written, and all the characters are underdeveloped (those actors deserved so much more). Overall, this is an extremely dull and disappointing addition to the Scream franchise, and I hope producers will finally learn their lesson moving forward.
OVERALL GRADE: D+ (4/10)
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