[This is a review of Scream Halloween special. There will be SPOILERS.]
Wes Craven’s original Scream film premiered in 1996 and featured a new take on the slasher movie — a horror sub-genre made popular in the 1980s — wherein the killers turned out to be two high school students wanting to recreate the situations they’d seen in movies. Craven’s film was so popular, it inspired three sequels to be released over the following 15 years. While the film franchise has since ended, with the last installment arriving in 2011, Scream found new life in the form of a television series on MTV.
Scream rebooted the premise established in Craven’s original film, moving the horror premise to a town called Lakewood, which has its own legend of a spree killer that influenced a modern day series of murders. Two seasons of the Scream series have aired on MTV, revealing two separate killers who had ties to each other and to Lakewood’s legend of Brandon James. Now, those left alive after the Scream season 2 finale take a vacation from Lakewood only to be confronted by another murderer.
The two-hour Scream Halloween special picks up eight months after Kieran’s (Amadeus Serafini) arrest for the murders in season 2, with the remaining residents of Lakewood still dealing with the fallout from the horrific events. Emma (Willa Fitzgerald) is struggling with her future after being a main target of both killers, while Audrey (Bex Taylor-Klaus) is in a new relationship. As for Noah (John Karna) and Stavo (Santiago Segura), the pair created a best-selling graphic novel and begin planning a trip to research their next effort, inviting their friends along. However, when the Lakewood gang visits Shallow Grove Island, which boasts its own horror legend akin to that of Lizzie Borden, a new series of murders begins.
For the most part, the Scream Halloween special acts as its own standalone story, though the two-hour episode does continue many narrative and character throughlines established in earlier seasons of the series. In fact, the special is bookended by scenes that have a major impact on the overarching storyline told throughout the Scream series — in the opening sequence, Kieran is murdered by someone in a Brandon James Mask, while the closing scenes reveal that Brandon himself has seemingly returned to Lakewood.
The death of Kieran seems abrupt in the Halloween special, especially since the season 2 finale appeared to leave his storyline open ended so as to give him a chance to return as the killer in a later season, capitalizing on the impossible-to-kill slasher trope of horror movie franchises. Though somewhat clumsy — if brutally horrifying — in its execution, Kieran’s murder does effectively clean house of this particular antagonist while setting up a new murderer for season 3, one that has nothing to do with the story of Murder Island.
Rather than stay in Lakewood and deal with the fallout from Kieran’s death, Emma — and the Scream series — decides to take a weekend getaway to Shallow Grove Island, home of the Anna Hobbs spree killer legend. As Noah points out during the extended episode, Scream somewhat combines the Lakewood legend with the story of Anna Hobbs in order to create a Freddy vs. Jason scenario. Though, in the case of Scream, it’s more of a one-off continuation of its main narrative — with some hints of a Scooby Doo mystery — than a crossover with another major horror TV franchise/series .
In the Scream Halloween special, Noah, Stavo and their friends head to Shallow Grove Island, where they learn about the legend of Anna Hobbs, who supposedly went on a killing spree one Halloween night, murdering her mother, younger brother, and the patriarch of the island’s wealthiest family. In the present, bodies begin dropping shortly after Emma and her friends arrive on the island, the first being the caretaker of the local historical society that oversees Anna’s mask and murder weapon, which, unsurprisingly, immediately go missing.
However, it’s later revealed that the killer this time around is Tom Martin, a boy posing as the descendant of Shallow Grove’s Whitten family who became obsessed with Emma after seeing her on the news. Meanwhile, Noah figures out what really happened with Anna (or, rather, came up with another plausible theory): Anna killed Mr. Whitten after he murdered her mother and brother, though she was fatally injured and died trying to escape the island, with Mrs. Whitten staging the scenario and establishing the legend of Anna as violently insane.
While a decent campfire story, the truth of the Anna Hobbs legend has little bearing on the actual plot of the Scream Halloween special. Instead, it’s used as the backdrop for Tom’s murder spree in his attempt to play the hero and win Emma’s affection; it’s additionally a somewhat welcomed distraction from the Brandon James story. Still, utilizing the Anna Hobbs legend allows for Scream to take a detour in the Halloween special and tell a somewhat standalone story.
Although the self-contained episode doesn’t feature storylines or character arcs as well developed as a typical season of Scream, it does give the TV series the chance to tell a story within the time constraints of a slasher movie. The Halloween special is perhaps as close as MTV’s Scream will ever come to truly emulating the two-hour slasher movies of the ’80s and ’90s, though it isn’t a perfect fit. Scream has established itself as a series that draws out the mystery while also providing the violence of a slasher flick. With the mystery of Anna and Tom wrapped up so quickly, albeit with plenty of horror for the fans, the Halloween special is lacking in Scream’s typical tension.
Still, Scream’s two-hour special episode provides twists and turns, as well as gruesome deaths, for those fans who have followed the series for its unique take on a slasher narrative. Plus, the Halloween special capitalizes on certain character arcs, namely Emma retaking her identity as a Duval in the wake of being known as a killer’s girlfriend. In fact, the special may have earned its entire existence for Emma’s moment of defiance when she declares, “I don’t need a hero, I’m Emma Duval!” (Though Noah’s, “Holy haunted mansion, Batman!” exclamation is a close second in fun character moments.) But, many of these character threads — as well as the Brandon James mythology — are left to be explored in Scream’s upcoming third season.
Scream will return for season 3 on MTV in 2017.