How Scream the TV Show Can Kill the PG-13 Horror Movie

THERE ARE MINOR SPOILERS FOR SCREAM (BOTH THE TV SHOW AND MOVIE). You have been warned, no yelling in the comments section.

I love horror movies. From the slasher flicks, creature features, and zombie hordes, to the vampire attacks and ghostly terrors – I love the rush they give me, it is like the same rush I get on roller coasters. The ups and downs and crazy twists and turns make me scream in terror, and then laugh at my own silliness afterwards. The adrenalin of the fear can be addictive, though the torture porn trend has long run its course for me after the third Saw movie. Within the last couple of decades, there has been a rash of PG-13 horror movies released. Some are rated-R movies that have been re-edited to earn a PG-13 rating and reach a wider audience, others are just neutered concepts of better movies made to (again) reach a broader audience. Despite the glimpses of hope that have recently popped up in the cinemas (such as Cabin In The Woods, You’re Next, and It Follows), I fear the days of good, fun, rated-R horror movies are long done.

I HATE PG-13 horror movies! They are the horrible combination of not scary, not intense, and not enjoyable. They rely on music to create tension and jump scares to make the audience think the movie is actually frightening them. The PG-13 slasher movies have no blood in them – how can a knife wielding psychopath kill people and there be no blood? Unfortunately the teenage and early 20s’ populace goes to see them in droves because the blandness is made and marketed to them, and they fall for it every freaking time. There are notable exceptions. The Ring had me paranoid of my TV for a long time. Okay I’m still a little paranoid of my TV, shut up! 1408 left me a little disturbed as well. But if you look horror movies overall, the PG-13 ones have been awful.

TV is now where it is at. American Horror Story, The Walking Dead, Bates Motel, The Strain, Penny Dreadful, and many other shows like them took what the Hollywood movie sector no longer had the balls to do. They made great horror shows that enthusiasts like me wanted to see. These shows push the boundaries of scary and can be quite gruesome. The only things they can’t do is have the rated R language and gratuitous nudity (with the exception of Penny Dreadful since it is on a premium cable channel). These shows are marketed to adults, not teens and early 20 somethings. The “horror” shows marketed to the younger groups, such as Supernatural and The Vampire Diaries can be quite enjoyable, but they are more about the drama and not about the scares.

Then there is Scream the TV series, but we will get there in a bit.

Scream the movie was pretty revolutionary when it came out. It was a horror movie that could also be viewed as a comedy and a spoof of the typical slasher flick. From the beginning it let you know what it was about. The initial killing of Drew Barrymore’s Casey was a shock for the audience considering she was one of the top billed actors. The death of her character meant anything could happen and this movie was going to break the standard slasher flick rules (which the movie spells out for you at one point, then proceeds to break them). The movie loves to make meta comments about itself and other films just like it, then takes the typical slasher movie moments, strips them down, and presents them in a new and fresh way. Plus Sydney (Neve Campbell) is one of my favorite horror movie heroines. She is a bit of a badass and she reacts in many ways I would hope I would if I were stuck in a slasher flick. The ghost mask the killer wore became iconic along with the line “Do you like scary movies?” It brought some life into a sub-genre that had been stabbed to death many times over.

The TV show Scream is not great, but it is far from terrible. The people on the show were very much chosen for their looks and not their acting abilities and the directors are clearly chosen for their inexpensive price tag. But the main producers are taking a chance with the ability to make a slasher genre continue to be interesting over several seasons, which is something I am very okay with. It takes elements from the movie and the genre in general, strips them down again, and is attempting to make it new and fresh once more. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but overall the show as a whole works as a new way of presenting a horror staple.

The pilot itself did not sell me on the show. It came off as clunky and very much a teen-esque rip-off of a good movie. The scene where the movie nerd explains exactly why a slasher movie cannot work as a TV show felt like the writers and producers were elbowing me in the side and aggressively saying “get it, see what we are doing? Aren’t we as brilliant as the movie we are pillaging?” I had every intention of not watching the next episode my DVR recorded, but I kept forgetting to delete it. One super-hot day of not being able to focus on any of the work I needed to get done or reading I was so behind on, I noticed I had the next two episodes recorded. Something in the back of my head kept telling me to give the show a second chance, and if it is as bad as the first episode, then at least I can make fun of it with my friends. I am glad to be wrong.

The plot continued to thicken as a malicious killing started the second episode. It had me confused and very intrigued. One of the storylines set up in the pilot was a girl was caught on video making out with another girl and the video was uploaded for all to see. The two girls were already outcasts at their schools, but the forced outing made them both big victims of cyber bullying (MTV cares about the issues, y’all). One of the girls already had issues with her looks and being gay, the cyber bullying was pushing her into thinking about suicide. Episode two starts with her being attacked in her room, having a noose wrapped around neck, and then thrown from the balcony of her house. The killer did not claim responsibility as they had with the first killing in the pilot, leaving people to assume she killed herself over the video. It was intriguing because the killing seemed more brutal than the first (despite the lack of blood) and was very much a personal vendetta for whoever did it. The whole mystery made me curious as to what was going to happen next.

There are the meta moments in the show that the movie had, but they are more about the current times of cyber bullying and social media than they are about the genre. Somehow this is done without being too preachy, but they do call out teens and 20 somethings for the narcissism of these trends. The need to share every little detail and #blessings has taken over – that is the real horror. If it doesn’t show up on Instagram, then did it really happen? Hell even the killer has to share one of the killings on Instagram, even selfied it. I say all this as I have two Facebook accounts (one for the blog and one personal one), two Twitter accounts (again one blog and one personal), but just one Instagram account (kinda a blend of personal and blog), so I am just as guilty as the kids.

My point is this is a slasher series with blood-filled killings, lots of tension, and deaths of characters you actually like. This is not the PG-13 crap that has been released in theaters over the last few years where there is no blood and hardly anyone of consequence or likability dies. If there are series like this on TV, why in the hell will teens and 20 somethings go and the neutered horror movies?

In the fall, Fox will have a similar series, Scream Queens, and it is also targeted to teen/20 somethings. I have my hopes it will continue the trend of bringing the blood and gore back to the slasher genre and maybe finally be the final death stab to the PG-13 horror movie.

Have you watched Scream the TV show? What do you think of it? Are you hoping for the death of neutered horror movies? Talk to me into the comments.

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About Nerdling

The Nerdling has an unhealthy obsession with books, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Star Wars. She finds hockey to be the best sport in the world (Go Dallas Stars!) and is working on her first novel, but mostly glowers at a blank screen. You can find her on Twitter @nerdlingstale on Facebook @NerdlingTales or Instagram @nerdling_tales

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