SCREAM: THE TV SERIES (SEASON 3)
Starring: RJ Cyler, Giullian Yao Gioiello, Keke Palmer, Jessica Sula, CJ Wallace, Giorgia Whigham, Tyga, Tyler Posey, Mary J. Blige, Tony Todd, Gideon Emery
Writers: Brett Matthews (Episodes 1, 6), Leigh Dana Jackson (Episodes 2), Kristi Korzec (Episode 2), Benjamin Raab (Episode 3), Deric A. Hughes (Episode 3), Penny Cox (Episode 4), Sherman Payne (Episode 5)
Director: Kevin Kölsh (Episodes 1, 6), Dennis Widmyer (Episodes 1, 6), Tanya Hamilton (Episode 2), Darren Grant (Episodes 3, 5), William Scharpf (Episode 4)
Production Company: Flavor Unit Entertainment
“We’re not the Breakfast Club. We’re the Deadfast Club, and I’m pretty sure we’re all gonna die.”
This review CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.
December 1996. The movie Scream was released and introduced Ghostface to the world. The horror genre was rejuvenated. Not only did it offer gore and scares, but with Kevin Williamson’s great script, it gave viewers a satirical take on the horror clichés.
And it was a hit! The box office haul was record-breaking for a slasher movie. Subsequently, there were three sequels. However, only the second was considered a financial success. With the franchise dormant, a television series was made. Although good, especially the second season, something had been missing. After an almost three year hiatus and a change of network, the third season finally aired. The best part? Ghostface was brought back!
Essentially a reboot, season 3 of Scream: The TV Series (2019) follows a group of high school students who are being stalked by Ghostface, whose identity, as usual, remains a mystery. Claiming to know something about Deion’s past, Ghostface goes to great lengths to expose that secret. He text messages them and calls them, using the iconic voice (Roger Jackson) we grew to love with the franchise. As we get closer to the truth, the body count increases. Will Deion figure out the truth in time? Will anyone be left alive? Airing over three nights, the six episodes were an absolute blast to watch.
The story is good, even if a little far-fetched. But that’s Scream’s DNA. When Stu (Matthew Lillard, Scooby-Doo) and Billy (Skeet Ulrich, Riverdale, Jericho) reveal the reason they went on a killing rampage in the first installment of the franchise, people hardly batted an eyelash. A divorce leads to murders? Right. So in the context of the franchise, it still works. The story is well-paced, too, and ensures the audience buy-in and involvement; the episodes spaces out the release of clues. It’s deftly done as some are red herrings while others are accurate. For the astute observer, the mystery can be partially solved.
The reveal is highly satisfying. Without divulging and spoiling it, suffice it to say that finally there is balance in its presentation. Complexity countered by simplicity. It’s outstanding and refreshing. As in The Sixth Sense (1999), once the reveal is made, re-watching the episodes will allow viewers to notice many clues and hints that were previously overlooked. It’s brilliant!
Scream is a horror show. However, it’s about the lives of high school students, and high school students have complicated lives. As a result, there is drama, and there are relationships that form. But, far from being a distraction to the horror, it compliments the stories nicely. There are some excellent performances. Exploring the relationship between Deion and his brother Jamal is powerful drama, as are Kym’s scenes, especially when they relate to Manny. There’s a good balance that is achieved between the horror, the drama, the romance, and the comedy.
Gone is the homogeneity and bubble approach of the past. And this season pulls no punches. Comments about the political landscape are there. Various character types, including LGBT, outcasts, nerds, various racial backgrounds are now front and center. Social inequality is highlighted. In a biting, yet funny scene, the only main white character who, according to Amir, “glowed” because he was so white, is painted as a racist and killed off quickly. The stereotypes are evident, and maybe even exaggerated, but the message is clear. Beneath the main story told, many social and political truths are brought up, reflective of present reality. It’s done well though as it never feels as though an agenda is being pushed.
Officially a reboot (aptly titled Scream: Resurrection), the show has been able to start anew. However, it’s given the characters the opportunity to comment on the rules of a reboot. Continuing on the path forged by the first Scream, the satirical approach is evident in this entry as well. As Randy (Jamie Kennedy, Ghost Whisperer) did before, the rules of horror movies are used to navigate the story. But a reboot changes these, allowing for new directions and taking it one step further. Kym (Keke Palmer) is quick to bring up that horror movie rules have evolved, citing Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017) as an example. It’s fun to watch as it helps resolve the mystery, even if it confuses the characters and viewers somewhat as well.
The actors appeared to have fun, and that enthusiasm is contagious. RJ Cyler (Swamp Thing) performs well as Deion, Ghostface’s main target. As does Jessica Sula (Skins, Split), Deion’s love interest Liv. She’s mysterious and makes it clear she’s got secrets up to the last episode. Her true allegiance is never clear, and for this kind of show, it’s perfect. CJ Wallace (Notorious) is funny as the naive, nerdy boy, whose modus operandi is simply to do the right thing. Tyler Posey (Truth or Dare), Giullian Yao Gioiello (Iron Fist, The Carrie Diaries), and Tyga perform well too. However, two actors are outstanding and steal the spotlight.
Giorgia Whigham (The Punisher, 13 Reasons Why) plays Beth with outstanding effectiveness. She toys with the others, especially Amir (CJ Wallace) and comes off as a strong and confident person. Her sarcasm and dark side perfectly contrasts with all of the other characters. As a self-confessed horror movie aficionado, she brings up the rules of horror movies to survive.
As does Kym, played by the outstanding Keke Palmer (Scream Queens, Berlin Station). Her horror movie knowledge is based on rationality, logic, and common sense, and includes references to more recent movies. There’s great dialogue between those two. Kym is fiery, sassy, and she’s absolutely hilarious. And she also has a big heart, something that comes out when she’s with Manny (Giullian Yao Gioiello). Palmer is outstanding and a true diamond in the series.
There are also a few surprise appearances, like Mary J. Blige (The Umbrella Academy), who plays Deion’s mother. There’s even a small cameo by Paris Jackson (Star), giving homage to Drew Barrymore’s Scream (1996) role. But the best guest appearance is by Tony Todd (Candyman, Dead of Summer) as Luther, aka “Hook man.” Walking around with a hook where he had his hand, the similarities to Candyman are undeniable. And it’s brilliant.
It’s rare to find a perfect show, and Scream: Resurrection isn’t one of them. For all of its qualities, there are a few issues. As much as it makes pop culture references and likes to shock, sometimes it’s a little too much. It tries too hard. In the detention scene, for example, although funny, I doubt a teacher (David Silverman, The Walking Dead) would ever speak like that to students. It felt forced. It was made in order to get all those various ’80s references in. At times, some of the lines felt like a déjà vu. When Kym tries to get help and yells out that a white officer is down, memories of Scary Movie (2000) came back. It’s not a big issue, but just enough to cause an occasional eye roll.
Scream: Resurrection presents itself as being pretty smart. But for a show that pats itself on the back not only for being self-aware but also for being aware of horror clichés, it does fall victim to some head-shaking moments. Why didn’t Beth and Amir lock all of the doors at the funeral home, knowing a killer is on the loose? When Ghostface leaves the school, why do all the main characters leave as well? Modifying Sidney’s (Neve Campbell, Scream, Party of Five) words, why are they always running up the stairs when they should be running out the front door? It’s insulting.
The show is meant to be campy, and in that regard, it’s perfect. It’s just little issues. Then again, perhaps these tropes, plot devices, and clichés are inevitable. Either way, the show is definitely worth watching. And with plans to turn this into an anthology when it was brought under Queen Latifah’s production company, we may yet see more of Ghostface!
Scream: Resurrection is a thrilling ride. The story is captivating. The special effects and suspenseful atmosphere are top-notch, and the performances are outstanding. You’ll enjoy the dialogue, the wit, the sarcasm, the pop culture references going back to the ’80s and the nostalgia. Separated into six parts, the series never feels episodic. It’s continuous, playing like one long movie. It’s hip, it’s cool, and it’s sassy. Fans of the franchise and new viewers alike won’t be disappointed.