High school it girl, Nina Patterson (Bella Thorne), has recorded “film geek” (self proclaimed), Audrey (Bex Taylor-Klaus) kissing a girl passionately in her car. Nina puts the kiss out there on social media and it causes a stir. When her current (sort of) beau, Tyler, drops her off (then drops dead, with his head landing in her hot tub!), Nina gets in a teeny, tiny bikini and starts getting texts on her phone of pics from inside her house and around her pool. When a text from Tyler’s phone seems to indicate interest in sexual play Nina is okay with it because of the cleverness of his supposed seductive ways. Well, then comes his decapitated head in her hot tub, with Nina trying to dial 911 and get help, her smartphone wet and calling up the Pottery Barn instead. As she attempts to get inside her home, a killer in a black cloak and white, blur-faced mask slashes her across the back and slices her throat, dumping her body like deposited trash in the pool.
So you have a (supposed) teen killer in disguise mimicking the slasher-obsessed fans killing their high school peers in Wes Craven’s Scream (1996), a film series I fondly enjoyed as a late teen/early twenty year old. Wes Craven, despite his many detractors and admirers (a polarizing figure for sure as director with an output that seems to be equally praised and derided), has been such an influential filmmaker for me personally. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Deadly Friend (1986), The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), People Under the Stairs (1991), and the like, Craven’s movies were definitely on my television screen and the VHS tapes/boxes of rental stores during my youth. Then I was on my way to the whole adulting phase of my life and Craven’s Scream then emerged. So he was quite present in my life, and his movies were, whether good or bad, and always will be part of my life as a horror film viewer. The series will somewhat follow the first film, but it goes its own high school MTV drama path as well.
So I will kind of leave the films of Craven and focus attention to the show going forward, although I have thought about re-visiting them while adding reviews for the series during the spring season, going into the summer. In school we are introduced to a cliché MTV generation cast of characters. There’s the sweet and vulnerable popular beauty, Emma (Willa Fitzgerald), once quite close friends with outsider, Audrey, feeling guilty about being in the group when Nina shot the “lezbo video” (as presented on YouTube). There’s her jock b-ball boyfriend, Will (Connor Weil), who had been sexually involved with Nina and tried to keep that tryst secret. There’s the horror movie/serial killer fan who cracks wise and has a genius intelligence, Noah (John Karna). Noah’s besties with Audrey and soon accompanying her to a “wake” at the palatial lakeside estate of snarky, flirty hottie, Brooke (Carlson Young), herself involved with a school teacher (Bobby Campo). Part of Brooke and Emma’s “A-list crew” is Riley (Brianne Tju), becoming surprisingly interested in Noah (or his interest in slasher movies and tropes of the genre) and weird internet voyeur, Jake (Tom Maden). Riley is the most upset about Nina’s death while the others fail to express much remorse. It speaks about just how Nina tormented those around her or turned them off.
Meanwhile there’s back story involving Emma’s mom, a coroner named Maggie (Tracy Middendorf), when she was in high school, nicknamed Daisy. She was the object of desire for a teenager suffering Proteus syndrome (otherwise known as the Elephant Man disease) named Brandon James, notorious for killing four kids his age for bullying him just because he approached Daisy. He’s shot by police when confronting Daisy with a specially made wood-heart necklace. She still has it, never quite over that past traumatic event. Her husband is out of the picture and the sheriff (Jason Wiles) seems to be a love interest of Maggie’s. A heart in a box shows up at Maggie’s door with Daisy on the card, telling her Emma looks just like her when a teenager. And Emma receives a phone call from the killer informing her someone is out there watching her…but who?
Also introduced is new student, heartthrob, Kieran (Amadeus Serafini), the son of the sheriff who lost his mother and stepdad. When Emma learns of Will's betrayal of her (he says it was during those few weeks they were on hold), she finds herself making out with Kieran in the greenhouse.
There's the two scenes where the show pointedly questions whether or not Noah and Brooke might be the next victims. Noah falls asleep drunk at Brooke's party and is undressed and placed on a dock away from the house, forcing him to swim back, with the expected noise of a breathy voice and tug on his foot, dragging him underwater temporarily. Another fake dread scene has Brooke telling folks she'll "be right back" as she seen lights on in her parents' car garage (with the multiple Porche vehicles, of course), going to find out, and Will coming from behind her to warn her against trying to drive a wedge between him and Emma. A "slip of the tongue" from Brooke drew Emma to learn of Will's sex with Nina.
So a lot of drama, along with Emma trying to repair her friendship with Audrey and all the awkwardness that comes with that. It doesn't appear repaired much as Audrey suspects there is only a slight rekindling of friendship due to guilt not legit hope of the two returning to their closeness of the past.