Scream: The TV Series- Halloween Special (Season 2 Episode 13) “Welcome to Murder Island”

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In the feature-length latest episode of “Scream: The TV Series,” the show upped its game with what actually felt like a full-on slasher movie for once, rather than a teen soap opera that just happened to be peppered with the occasional death. That movie? “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer,” with a slight dose of “April Fools’ Day” thrown in for good measure, minus that latter film’s make-it-or-break-it twist.

As such, how you felt about this Halloween Special edition of the series probably rested on how you felt about slasher movies in general. This was no better or worse than many I’ve seen, but also not on par with the best I’ve seen, either. Still, that they finally were able to make the whole idea of a slasher movie as a series work is something, even if it took a one-off, longer-than-usual episode to do it.

This definitely felt like a full-blown slasher, from the measured, evenly-paced deaths- including one of a major character that had managed to survive the second season to date, which brings to mind such flicks as “Friday the 13th, Part 2,” where the survivor of a previous installment was killed right off the bat, as if to say, “Not so fast, there”- to the elaborate back-story and twist ending.

All the big hallmarks of a slasher were present and accounted for- save, of course, nudity, this being basic cable and all- though, to be fair, nudity was implied at one point. Also, in keeping with “Scream” tradition, you had the strong “Final Girl,” in Emma (Willa Fitzgerald), self-referential nods to pop culture and the series itself.

There were several mentions of the aforementioned “Friday the 13th” franchise, in case you didn’t get the idea- shout-out to “Crazy Ralph,” woot, woot!- and also to the classic “Black Christmas,” Edgar Allen Poe and perhaps “American Horror Story,” as the main location was referred to as “Murder House,” like that show’s first season. (Sorry, fans of obscure, cancelled horror TV series, there was no reference to the locale as being “Harper’s Island”– never forget, they were there first!)

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Insofar as the franchise was concerned, you had the trademark freaky phone calls, of course, plus a back porch surprise, the whole “person wanting in the locked house that may or may not be the killer” gambit, and the aforementioned opening act kill of a survivor from the previous installments. (Fair warning: spoilers ahead.)

In this case, the latter was none other than the killer from earlier in the season, Kieran (Amadeus Serafini), who, in an admittedly impressive sequence, was killed while in his holding cell after being given a life sentence.

The killer hopped into the room via an air-vent, killed a guard by twisting his neck completely around the other way, then set Kieran free, only to slit his throat and stab him in the back, literally and figuratively, after promising him on the phone that he’d set him free. Well, technically, the killer kept his word- he just killed Kieran immediately after doing so.

After that, we moved forward into the main cast’s Senior year of high school, as they struggled to assimilate back into “normal” society. Emma, as to be expected, was struggling more than anyone, after having learned her own boyfriend was one of the killers that had been killing off her friends in the last episode.

Noah (John Karna), though having become an overnight success via a graphic novel about the Lakewood murders that he put together with Stavos (Santiago Segura), was suffering from Survivor’s Guilt, which was causing him to have Writer’s Block, putting a damper on any planned follow-up to the pairs’ initial success.

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To help “inspire” Noah, his publisher, Jeremy (Alex Esola, “Dangerous Lessons”), sets up an island getaway for the pair and some friends, but with a catch: the destination was the location where a nasty murder occurred back in the 30’s, which Jeremy hoped would drive Noah to tackle it as his next project.

Though skeptical, Noah eventually caves, seeing it, at the very least, as a chance to get away and take a much-needed vacation of the still oppressive media attention to him and the other so-called “Lakewood 6.” (Okay, make that the “Lakewood 4” at this point, plus relative newcomer Stavos.)

So, Noah and Stavos round up the others, including Audrey (Bex Taylor-Klaus) and Brooke (Carlson Young) and the crew head out to the not-at-all ominously-named Shallow Grove Island- more like “Shallow Grave,” am I right?- for a “research”/getaway trip. Needless to say, in no time, things start going awry.

We get the back-story of the old murders first: on Halloween, young Anna Hobbs (Stevie Lynn Jones, “Crisis”) allegedly stripped naked, killed her entire family, as well as their employer, Reginald, an old-money rum-runner, then went down to the docks and offed herself for good measure- or so the story goes. If you’re thinking there must be more to it…ding, ding- you win a prize!

When the others find out what they’re really there for, they aren’t thrilled- you’d think that Noah would have clued them in on their real reason for them being there- but accepting that the murders were a long time ago, and thus, irrelevant to their having a good time now. Wrong!

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No sooner have Noah, Stavos and Jeremy paid a visit to a local historian (Eric Mendenhall, “The Walking Dead”), than a mysterious, unknown figure storms into the ad-hoc museum of the Hobbs murders and steals the killer’s mask and murder weapon of choice: garden shears. The person in question then proceeds to kill said historian, setting off a new chain of killings on the island. Or had the killing started before anyone even arrived?

Emma meets a cute local, Alex (Alexander Calvert, “The Returned”), who turns out to be a distant relative of the Whittens, aka the family whose patriarch was allegedly killed by Anna all those years ago. As such, he resides in the aforementioned “Murder House,” on the grounds of which most of the killings occurred, save Anna’s own.The two hit it off, which Audrey encourages, given Emma’s stand-offishness from society as of late.

Meanwhile, after a referral to the Whitten house caretaker, Billie (Lindsay LaVanchy, “The Labyrinth”), the rest of the gang discover that, rather than the crusty old man they expected, Billie is actually a bonafide hottie, who sparks the interest of Stavos, who is on the outs with Brooke, after she expresses interest in moving to New York to attend college- without him.

Stavos invites Billie to a get-together, intending to use her to make Brooke jealous, which works like a charm. Later on, she invites the crew over to the Whitten house the next day, telling them Alex will be out of the house at the time, which will allow her to give them the grand tour of “Murder House.”

Stavos walks her home, rebuffing her advances in the process, much to her chagrin. Lucky for Stavos, he dodged a bullet, as when Billie goes inside her cottage, she sees that someone has broken in. Shortly thereafter, that someone stabs her to death with the garden shears, as with the historian.

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I should mention here the costume the killer wears, which is pitched somewhere between the ones donned by the titular “Strangers” in the movie of the same name and the iconic Sam, of “Trick ‘r Treat” fame. In a word, it’s actualy quite creepy, perhaps even more so than the regular killer costume the show uses.

The next day, Noah and some of the others go to Billie’s only to find no sign of her, but an ominous pool of blood, along with some bloody garden shears embedded in a tree trunk. They call the cops accordingly, and an APB is put out for Billie. As this is going on, Emma and Alex go on a date and make out a bit, arranging for another date the next day.

Alex drops Emma off back at the place they’re staying, just as a storm is brewing. No sooner does she arrive than Emma gets a call from the killer, who tells her to check the back porch. She turns on the lights and sees Billie there, very much dead. She hangs up and calls the cops, who send someone her way.

Along the way, he comes across a body in the road, wrapped in fishing net. He gets out to investigate and discovers it’s the historian. Then the killer attacks him, killing him with the garden shears, after cutting off the fingers of one of his hands. Needless, to say, he doesn’t make it to Emma’s location- though his head does make it to the front porch later on in the show.

Gina (Zena Grey, “House”), Audrey’s girlfriend, who didn’t think she could attend, as she had to work, shows up soon after, and has the misfortune to find said head. Instead of surprising her girlfriend, she got a surprise of her own- and probably wished she’d stayed home, to boot. Too late now.

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All concerned head over to the Whitten house to seek help from Alex, not wanting to stay put, what with all the dead bodies- or parts thereof- around. He takes them to the docks, with the intention of taking them out of there on his boat, but it’s gone missing, because of course it has. They head back to Alex’s house, where they discover the phones aren’t working, because of course they aren’t.

Emma fills Alex in on her back-story, which he is surprisingly accepting of, which should have been a red flag, but you know, baby steps. He, in turn, says it explains a lot, given how calm they all seem in light of what’s going on, which is also true. Been there, done that, I guess.

Audrey, in turn, gets a little suspicious of Gina, who she never told where she was staying exactly. Not helping matters is the fact that she has a bunch of pictures of Audrey and Emma, hugging and the like. It turns out she has been there since yesterday, spying on them, convinced there was something going on between the two. This does not go over well with Audrey, needless to say.

Jeremy shows up at the house, but they’re hesitant to let him in, as Audrey in particular thinks he might be the killer, after he jumped out and scared them, in full Anna Hobbs costume, the night before. They do let him in, but at gunpoint, and Alex proceeds to lock Jeremy up in a closet until they can figure out how to handle him, though, naturally, he swears he’s innocent, and that he actually saw the killer earlier elsewhere.

Noah fixes a CB radio that Alex has in his truck and calls for help, but because of the storm, it will take them a few hours to get there, so they’re forced to stay put in the meantime. Emma goes upstairs and sees “Never” written in blood on the wall of her room- something the killer said to her in the phone call previously, as in, “I’ll never stop coming after you.”

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Then, the lights go out, because again, it’s a horror show. They discover that Jeremy has escaped the closet, and Gina is MIA to boot. Alex goes to check the generator- alone, naturally- while Noah and Stavos rejoin the others. Jeremy finds Gina in Billie’s cottage, and she freaks out and runs away. Then the killer arrives and kills Jeremy with the shears, and we see that its actually Alex himself- or is it?

Noah and the others look around the house, finding what looks to be a family album, but actually turns out to be a collection of pictures of scantily-clad ladies. Apparently, Reginald Whitten got around. Among them, slots for Anna’s mother- and Anna herself, though their pictures are conspicuously missing.

Then Noah finds a secret passage behind ze bookcase, and all concerned go into it to explore matters further. Noah realizes that what didn’t add up about the murders- that Reginald’s body seemed to have been moved- now makes more sense. He surmises that what really happened was that Reginald was having an affair with Anna’s mother, then set his sights on Anna herself. When her mother confronted him, he killed her, then her son, who witnessed it.

Then, turning his attention back to Anna, he tried to rape her, she fought back and killed him, then took off her clothes because they were covered with blood and ran down to the docks. Overcome with grief over the death of her family, and wounded from the attack by Reginald, she either died from wounds afflicted by him in the struggle, or took her own life.

Then, when Reginald’s wife found out what happened, not wanting the family to be scandalized, she moved her husband’s body back to the main house via the secret passage and pinned the whole thing on Anna, who had a history of iffy behavior which had already led the denziens of the island to think she was mentally ill.

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Needless to say, this is all pure speculation on the part of Noah, but it sounds good in theory. That said, as Audrey points out, they have a current murderer to worry about, so “Can’t we focus on the murders that are happening now- in this century?” Indeed. To that end, they find Jeremy dead in the next room, as they are now in Billie’s cottage, aka Anna and her family’s former home.

Emma, inexplicably left alone, is rejoined by Alex, who hears a noise and goes to check it out, after telling Emma to lock herself in a room off to the side. Soon after, the killer bursts in and attacks Emma, but she manages to fend him off and take his shears. He runs off and suddenly Alex arrives, knocking at another door for Emma to let him in. She does, and tells him what just happened and he goes off in search of the killer as she stays put.

Noah sees a picture underneath Jeremy’s body and recognizes Alex’s van in the photo, as well as Billie. Only the guy in the photo isn’t Alex, though it’s signed by him, “with love.” It’s obvious that the man in the picture is romantically involved with Billie, and Noah realizes that the man claiming to be Alex must be an imposter. All concerned rush back through the passage, only to find it locked, as Alex has discovered they were in there and locked it.

Back in the locked room, Emma sees blood on the floor and follows it to a nearby cabinet. There, she finds a dead body of a man, who conviently has on a shirt embroidered with the initals AW, tipping her off that this is the real Alex. The faux Alex returns and know the jig is up and admits he killed the real Alex and his name is actually Tom Gordon.

He tells her his parents were murdered as a kid and he was left alone in a locked room with them for three days before authorities arrived, which obviously messed him up big-time. He says he read about her online and contacted Jeremy via his website and tipped him off about the Hobbs murders in an attempt to lure him there, hopefully with Emma in tow, which worked, needless to say.

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He tries to convince Emma to run away with him anyway, in spite of, you know, all the murdering and stuff, and she goes along with it long enough to get the jump on him and make a run for it, shears in hand. Gina arrives at that moment, distracting Tom for a hot minute, long enough for Emma to stab Tom in the back and run upstairs and onto a balcony.

Gina wisely runs back outside as Tom opts to pursue Emma instead. He rushes her on the balcony, but she pivots out of the way and he takes a header off the balcony, landing on the stairs and breaking his neck, killing him instantly. The rest arrive just in time to find Tom there, and the cops arrive soon after to clean up, as the gang commiserates finding themselves in the middle of yet another murder scene.

Noah decides he will now focus on telling the victims’ stories instead of the killers, from here on out, resolving to clear Anna’s name and tell the “real” story, even though he has little evidence to back up all his speculation. Brooke and Stavos reconcile, and she invites him to New York, if she gets into NYU. So do Audrey and Gina, though Audrey makes sure she understands that her being close to Emma is non-negotiable.

Emma has “Duval” tattoed on her wrist to celebrate her newfound strength as a Final Girl three times and counting and returns home, opting to try and get into a college after all, albeit in Lakewood, which seems like a dubious prospect. One thing nags her, though: if Tom didn’t kill Kieran, which he said he didn’t, who did?

As the show ends, we see the likely culprit- her own father (Tom Everett Scott), as he visits Kieran’s grave for some reason. We then see someone checking into a local hotel, as the clerk greets them as Mr. James…and we’re out.

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As the show has already been renewed for a third season, I assume the next season will pick up where this left off, continuing the story of Emma and company. Given that it will be a shortened season, I’m assuming it will likely also wrap up the story at hand, which is probably for the best when all is said and done.

Ultimately, this was a pretty enjoyable episode of the show that benefited enormously from being a self-contained, feature-length endeavor. By focusing in a singular storyline that was essentially removed from the main one, it actually succeeded in attaining what the show proper hasn’t quite been able to: feel like an actual slasher movie.

Whether or not people enjoy it as such is another matter altogether. After all, it can’t help but be a little hampered by the whole basic cable thing, though, to be fair, the violence was fairly extreme by cable standards, if not quite up to, say, FX standards. Of course, “American Horror Story” is stiff competition, and unlike MTV, their main audience doesn’t tend to be teens and the like.

Given those already compromised standards, this wasn’t bad at all, IMHO. I’ve seen my fair share of slasher movies- was raised on them, in fact- so I know a good one from a bad one. This wasn’t the best I’ve ever seen, but it was fairly enjoyable for what it was, and I actually enjoyed it more than most of the past season, TBH.

For once, the show felt like what it was trying to be, and there’s something to be said for achieving that goal, least of all at this point in the game, at the end of two full seasons. It might not change anyone’s mind who have long since given up on the show, but I liked it overall, even if the killer was somewhat obvious, if not his “real” identity. I did enjoy the elaborate back-story, though perhaps even more so than the main event itself, so there’s that as well.

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That said, I do agree that it’s time for the show to be thinking endgame, and I’m glad it will have the chance to do so on its own terms. I just hope they learn from this particular experience, and seek to make the likely last season a fully self-contained wrap-up that plays like a mini-movie, much like this did. I think that’s the best thing they could do under the circumstances.

What did you think of the special Halloween episode of “Scream: The TV Series”? Did you also enjoy it, or do you prefer the set-up of the main show? How would you like to see it end? Do you think that person checking in was actually Brandon James? Or his brother? Did Emma’s father kill Kieran, or was that a fake-out? (I think he did, personally.) Would you be interested in seeing the show continue with an all-new cast on down the line? Sound off on this and more down below and thanks for reading!