I found the first season of Netflix’s episodic reboot of the Scream franchise to be fairly entertaining, partly due to the inherent novelty of a TV show based around the slasher format. The series suffered from major problems, particularly a poor script, but there was enough action and gore to keep your interest, and the killer reveal at the end of the season felt fairly satisfying. Scream’s first season was predictably heavy on the pop-culture references and had a generally cringeworthy, self-referential postmodern style, but on the whole it did just enough to earn itself a relatively sympathetic audience.
Well, Scream has come back for a second season, and I have to say it was a massive disappointment. The main mystery this time revolves around the identity of the accomplice to the first season’s killer, who now runs amok tormenting the first season’s survivors. One of the season’s weaknesses is that you never really get the sense the writers have fully embraced their choice of killer, and even by the last episode it felt to me like they hadn’t quite decided who it was going to be. In the end, the reveal was massively predictable and entirely underwhelming, and for a franchise that takes pride in how genre savvy it is, it felt very poorly done.
The first season had a fairly high body count and so season two has to introduce some new characters to get the core cast to a critical mass. This is a good thing as most of the original cast are pretty unbearable by this point. Main character Emma has become somewhat unhinged after the first season, but the main problem here is that she is so insecure and lacking in confidence that she constantly seeks validation from other characters; she’s incapable of making any decisions for herself and therefore frequently manipulated by anyone and everyone. Considering that many of the characters here are clearly sociopaths if not actually serial killers, this makes for some pretty ludicrous scenarios. It’s not helped by the fact the actress playing 17 year old Emma is actually 25, and made to wear some truly bizarre and frumpy outfits. It’s all rather strange.
Audrey, Emma’s bestie/rival, is played by a younger actress who at least looks the part, but who can’t act for toffee. Meanwhile, her nymphomaniac friend Brooke spends the whole season pining after boys, seemingly under the impression she is the main character in Dawson’s Creek rather than a sidekick in what’s supposed to be a horror show. Supposedly genre-savvy horror nerd Noah also becomes insufferable in this season, with practically his entire dialogue consisting of tortured references to horror tropes and witty ‘banter’ with Audrey. Moreover, Noah is involved in a ‘sex’ scene in this season which is probably the worst and least sexy love scene I have ever witnessed in television, accompanied by the most inappropriate choice of music imaginable. It’s utterly bizarre and completely painful to watch.
It would be easier to put up with all this if there was more action in the season, but it felt like there was significantly less than first time around; perhaps not helped by the unnecessary decision to increase the series length from ten to twelve episodes. Most of the season consists of endless scenes of 20-somethings who are pretending to be teenagers texting each other ad nauseam, about how sorry they are for betraying each other, or whatever. It’s so, so lame. You might come to decide you wouldn’t mind for some of these characters to be bumped off.
Another major problem is that by this point the killer holds practically no menace to a seasoned viewer. We’re used to people putting up a bit of a fight in our horror films these days, not just acting like headless chickens and running around screaming. The original Scream came out when I was 12, and it was actually fairly scary at times. Twenty years later, whenever I see one of these cloaked douchebags on my screen I just want to take their knife off them and knock them over the head. Especially when I see them do the ’tilt your head slightly to the side’ motion so beloved of lazy directors, which I suppose is supposed to indicate some kind of sadistic toying with the victim, but which has become such a cliche it makes me want to scream in frustration at the lack of imagination on display. This is a franchise that was originally supposed to be about exposing the staid, formulaic nature of the slasher genre, but which is now irrelevant, creatively moribund and bereft of ideas. It’s time to kill it off for good.