[This is a review of Scream season 1 finale. There will be SPOILERS.]
In 1996, director Wes Craven reinvented the horror genre with Scream, a self-referential slasher flick with demented, co-conspiring killers. Although the beloved horror director passed away earlier this week, part of his legacy lives on in the MTV adaptation, Scream, which Craven executive produced. The series honored the director with a tribute in his memory at the start of the season 1 finale.
MTV’s Scream takes place in the fictional town of Lakewood, home to Emma Duval (Willa Fitzgerald), her mother Maggie (Tracy Middendorf) and the legend of Brandon James, a spree killer known for committing multiple murders in one night. The first season has followed Emma and her friends through a new series of grisly murders, unravelling the towns’ secrets as well as old-school stalking via phone call and voice modulator.
In ‘Revelations,’ the season 1 finale picks up immediately where the previous episode left off: Emma, Noah (John Karna) and Piper (Amelia Rose Blaire) are still at the Halloween dance where it was announced the killer had taken the sheriff (Jason Wiles) hostage. Though Emma and her mother put the clues together in order to locate the sheriff at Brandon James’ old house, the killer tied up him up in a way that when Maggie released the restraints, she effectively killed him.
As was the case earlier in the season with Will’s (Connor Weil) death, this setup was meant to inflict as much emotional damage to Maggie as is possible by placing the sheriff’s death on her shoulders. However, since the show had used a similar scenario – albeit quite a bit more gruesome – with Will and Emma previously, the sheriff’s death doesn’t hold the same emotional weight as it was likely meant to.
Following the sheriff’s death, Emma resolves to find the killer and make him pay. She and Noah track him to Brooke’s (Carlson Young) house, where she was throwing an alternative Halloween party – attended by Audrey (Bex Taylor-Klaus). At the party, the body of a high-school student is found dead in the pool house and a typical sequence of a slasher-at-a-teen-party ensues. That is to say: most people clear out except for the main characters, those that can be suspects – Branson (Bobby Campo), Kieran (Amadeus Serafini) and Jake (Tom Maden) – show up and are accused of being the killer. Brooke and Audrey are attacked, but neither mortally injured, and Emma receives a call from the killer luring her away from her friends.
The party sequence is perhaps the most creepy and horrific of the episode, with the viewer waiting for the killer to claim another victim or, at least, the other shoe of the killer’s identity to drop. It should be noted, though, that this sequence also seems to be an homage to the party in Craven’s original 1996 film, with many of the characters running around, unsure of who they should be hiding from. However, Scream manages to mostly pull of its own party sequence, with the switching of focus from one suspect to the next, only becoming a little bit tedious.
Following the party, Emma leaves her friends to confront the killer, who has Maggie tied up on the dock at Wren Lake where she met Brandon James and he was killed. As the title of the episode suggests, the killer reveals herself to be Piper, Emma’s long lost half-sister by Maggie and Brandon. In a largely poorly delivered monologue (which includes a line referring to everyone assuming the killer was a man, “It’s 2015, Emma, sexist much?”), Piper explains that she wanted revenge on Maggie for giving her up, and Emma for living the perfect life. Though the actress attempts to imbue Piper with a deranged menace, the performance is too over-the-top and goes beyond menacing into comical.
After her evil gloating, Piper attempts to kill Emma and her mother, planning to frame Branson in the process. However, Audrey appears and shoots Piper, who falls off the dock into the water in a way that is reminiscent of Brandon James’ death. However, as Emma points out, “they always come back” and Emma ends up delivering the final shot to Piper. The line is a bit much and is indicative of how far into slasher movie tropes Scream truly falls.
‘Revelations’ wraps up with the typical final scene of those characters with serious injuries being carted off to the hospital while the others watch the sun rise on a – both literal and metaphorical – new day. Noah has a concluding narration in which he makes note of at least one question left unanswered: Who wore the Brandon James mask when Piper and Will were attacked? The final shots of the episode reveal Audrey had a previous correspondence with Piper that may offer some answers. These seem to be two mysteries the show will likely explore in its second season.
MTV’s Scream made it clear early on that the show would be aimed at a very specific audience. Additionally, though the premiere offered plenty of nods to Craven’s film as well as self-referential bits of humor to appease fans, the characters and the mystery of the killer are what primarily carried Scream through its first season. Plus, since this is a series aimed at a younger audience, it included the requisite scenes of teenagers refusing to ask for help from adults and cliche dialogue: “Tonight, we change the ending.”
That being said, the characters and the mystery were, for the most part, strong enough to keep viewers invested in the outcome and the series moving at a fast pace toward the finish line. However, Scream flounders over the finish line with its reveal of a secret love child as the vengeful killer. Though it’s sure to differentiate itself from Craven’s 1996 film, Piper’s motives fall more in line with the typical emotion-driven killer than Billy (Skeet Ulrich) and Stu’s (Matthew Lillard) cold, calculated, just-for-fun murder spree. As a result, Scream’s revelations feel less creepy or scary in their predictability than Craven’s crazed/deranged sociopaths.
As for the stories left unresolved, season 2 could potentially improve upon the the Lakewood teens’ stories by focusing on mysteries that won’t involve a big reveal at the end of the season, but that remains to be seen. One thing viewers will surely be treated to in season 2: quips from Noah about awful slasher sequels.
Scream will return for season 2 on MTV.