MTV’s ‘Scream’ Reboot Will Indulge Your Skepticism

Photo Source: Courtesy MTV

Watching the trailer for the upcoming MTV rendition of Wes Craven’s cult classic slasher franchise “Scream,” it seems series co-writers Jill E. Blotevogel and Jaime Paglia are almost daring audiences not to watch.

“You can’t do a slasher as a TV series,” declares Noah, one of the show’s characters. “Slasher movies burn bright and fast. By the time the first body is found, it’s only a matter of time before the bloodbath commences.”

It’s exactly the tongue-in-cheek, meta-commentary “Scream” is known for. And despite holding on to certain elements genre fans love, Blotevogel and Paglia know their biggest challenge—after getting it made in the first place—is convincing people to watch and accept that it won’t be a faithful retelling of the films.

With Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, and Drew Barrymore in the first installment, the four films, released between 1996 and 2011 with alternating cast members, followed a group of teenagers as a masked serial killer picked them off one by one. The overall premise remains intact for TV, as does the signature tone, but the series is chasing the increments as opposed to the quick and dirty.

“What the ‘Scream’ movies did in dimension and plot points held up a mirror to the genre at the time,” says Paglia. “It was a time when horror movies were on the decline and it reinvigorated the genre in a really amazing way. [Writer] Kevin Williamson’s wit and the self-referential tone, all of that was so groundbreaking in 1996. And that tone was something that was so critical for us to maintain. It allows us to have that wink and nod to the audience. [In the first episode] we’re saying to them, ‘Look, we get it. We know you’re skeptical.’ ”

Convincing MTV their show’s structure was a good idea proved difficult, but once the right actors were chosen, Blotevogel and Paglia’s path became clear.

Leading the ensemble is Willa Fitzgerald (“Alpha House”) as Emma Duvall; Carlson Young (“As the Bell Rings”) is the salty to Emma’s sweet as the high school’s Queen Bitch; Bex Taylor-Klaus (“The Killing”) plays the geeky recluse with a camera permanently attached to her hand; and Amadeus Serafini plays the mysterious new kid. But the overt winking and nodding all comes from Noah, played by John Karna.

“John was someone whose audition was just OK, and it kind of got lost amongst a bunch of others,” explains Blotevogel, who handled much of the casting. “We watched it again and then we actually watched his movie ‘Premature,’ and that made us take a second look because he was so freaking funny. When we met him in person we were blown away.”

Blotevogel says Noah was the toughest character to cast, but one of her favorites, because “he had to be so appealing and so funny, but also believable as a dork.”

Keeping track of all the characters’ personal dynamics and alternating them as suspects, all while playing the “long game” of serial killing, was the biggest challenge in the writer’s room, according to Paglia. A large whiteboard with intersecting storylines and plot points was the only way to keep track of the progression, he says.

But the meticulous planning ensures the show burns slowly—no, there won’t be a new murder each week—so when it does strike, it’s white-hot. They want you to get attached “so when characters die, it hurts.”

And the pain will be felt, adds Paglia. Audiences can expect the series to aim for the same playing field as horror shows like “Hannibal,” “Dexter,” and “American Horror Story,” in terms of the gore factor.

“We had conversations with our network asking, ‘How graphic do you want this show to be?’ They said, ‘Go as far as you want and we’ll tell you when to pull back,’ ” explains Paglia. “We’re not shying away from the violence of it.”

And everyone’s fair game.

Inspired by this post? Check out our television audition listings!