It’s no secret that watching TV and getting completely involved in fictional universes is one of my favourite activities. Fiction is awesome. Book and script writers are very powerful people in the sense that they define what an entire fictional universe is about. I started watching Scream today which first aired in June last year. The show is a TV series version of the slasher movies of the same name released in 1996.
The most interesting aspect of the show so far is one character in particular, Noah, who does something I have not seen done often in other TV shows. He acts as a sort of bridge between the fictional universe and the real one, almost breaking the fourth wall by pointing out obvious horror movie cliché’s at the same moments the audience expects the show to commit them. Noah is into serial killers and horror movies, which I think makes the creators incredibly clever to include the Noah character.
In the first episode alone he surprised me in two scenes. The first scene, described by the transcript as “INT. LAKEWOOD HIGH - LANGUAGE ART CLASS - DAY” on page 15 he has a discussion with the class:
Mr. Branson (teacher): The gothic genre is all over TV right now. 'American Horror Story', 'Hannibal', 'Bates Motel' Jake: What about 'Texas Chainsaw' or 'Halloween'? Where's that TV series? Noah: You can't do a slasher movie as a TV series.
Isn’t that what Scream is though? Having this character in the show to create exactly this kind of juxtaposition is very cool in my opinion. Noah goes on to explain more.
Noah (cont.): Think about it. Girl and her friends arrive at the dance, the camp, the deserted town, whatever. Killer-with-a-gimmick takes them out one-by-one. Ninety minutes later, the sun comes up as the girl sits in the back of the ambulance watching her friends bodies being wheeled past. Roll credits.
Then they decided to cut to the next scene using Noah’s response in class to voice over the discovery of Nina’s body in the pool. Incredible.
Noah (V.O.): Slasher movies burn bright and fast. TV needs to stretch things out. By the time the first body’s found... all hell breaks loose.
And of course the first body is found just as he completes that sentence.
Another example of how Noah speaks directly to the audience without knowing they exist is toward the end of the first episode in the hallway. Riley asks Noah how this horror story ends, referring to the story of Scream itself and everything that happened in this first episode.
Riley: Did Tyler really kill Nina or is Brandon James back? Noah: Well, you gotta remember that the whodunnit may not be as important in our story. Riley: So it's more of a... why-dunnit? Noah: No, I'm saying you need to forget it's a horror story... that someone might die at every turn.
At this point I half expected the camera to pan around a corner to expose a dead body. That didn’t happen but something much better happened instead. With each sentence an appropriate scene is exposed such as a girl talking to her teacher, the football team running through the hallway and a girl slamming her locker door in the jocks face.
Noah (cont.): You have to care if the smoking hot 'lit' [english literature] teacher seems a little too interested in his female students. You have to care if the team wins the big game. You have to care if the smart pretty girl forgives the dumb jock. Riley: Sounds like Friday Night Lights. Noah: Exactly. You root for them... you love them... so when they are brutally murdered... it hurts.
Noah somehow seems to know about all these subplots and brings them to the viewers attention. Scream is the TV show he is talking about. How can a single character have the same knowledge of the plot that he is in as the viewer? His character is so beautifully self-referential, so self-aware of who he is – it really adds to the drama and profundity of the scene.
I love the self-referential nature of this character. He refers to himself and his circumstances in a way only the viewer (someone outside the boundaries of his universe) could understand.
He breaks the fourth wall. It feels like he is watching the story unfold with us. He is into horror movies and serial killers (he said so himself) which means recognising the comical appearances of horror movie cliché’s in his “real life” is natural for him. In that sense he is very much like the viewer, because the viewer can see the cliché’s as well because they are aware they’re watching a TV show.
Noah: You really want to know how it ends? Everyone has secrets. Everyone tells lies. And everyone is fair game. Until there is no one left. END OF PILOT