in Review, Shocktober

Dawson’s Creek “The Scare” (1998)

Season 1, Episode 11
May 5th, 1998

I can’t get over the fact that Kevin Williamson created Scream and created Dawson’s Creek. SCREAM! The biting satirical meta slasher flick that saved horror in the 90s. A bonafide classic… that came from the mind of a guy who also created a sappy coming of age drama about upper-class teens in Massachusetts. There’s gotta be more to it right? Maybe Dawson’s Creek is just as funny and smart and sexy as Scream? I just didn’t know it because of its cheesy theme song and tiger beat cast members. Maybe Dawson’s Creek is special?

It isn’t. It’s exactly like every other teen melodrama I’ve ever watched. It barely even has a hook. The hook is Dawson (James Van Der Beek) is a filmmaker. That’s it. He knows about movies and drops his film buff facts on his friends who just kind of roll their eyes and say “Oh Dawson you’re weird.” Yeah right. He’s like the hottest boy in school. Apart from that, all I knew about the show going in is that Dawson has a “Will they won’t they?” with his best friend Joey (Katie Holmes). But they always “will they” don’t they?

I was hoping “The Scare” would make sense of all this. The guy who wrote the ultimate teen slasher flick doing a teen horror episode on his own TV show? Well first off, Williamson didn’t write the episode. Mike White wrote the episode. The guy who wrote Orange County and School of Rock. I love those movies. But this feels more like paying the bills. Or maybe it’s just the strength of this world (or lack thereof). Because just a year later White was writing some classic episodes of Freaks and Geeks. I think that’s it. This is just a show about pretty people.

And the episode opens with pretty people watching other pretty people. Joey and Dawson are watching I Know What You Did Last Summer in Dawson’s room. If you were unaware that was also a movie written by Kevin Williamson. I like it. The reference, not the movie. I Know What You Did Last Summer sucks. But Dawson loves it even though Joey can barely look at the screen. Oh man, they are so different. I don’t think they’ll ever “will they”.

After the movie, there’s a news report about a series of murders in a nearby area. Gasp these won’t possibly seep their way into Dawson’s town, will they? WILL THEY? Anyway, Dawson’s got some friends. Aside from Joey, there’s Pacey (Joshua Jackson), who’s like a smartass, but so is Dawson. He doesn’t feel that different. Also, there’s Jen (Michelle Williams—easily giving the best performance on the show) who in the episode I was watching had just recently ended a relationship with Dawson. I couldn’t get a feel for her. But she definitely feels like the Gwen Stacy to Joey’s Mary Jane Watson.

What are these hot teens gonna do? Well, they’re gonna have a seance. Because Dawson loves spooky shit so he’s getting the gang together for a Friday the 13th celebration. Not even Halloween. The dude celebrates Friday the 13th. Not only that but he ramps up the holiday by playing pranks on his friends. Fake spider, fake blood, dumb shit. He’s so caught up in his silly games that he won’t admit to how pissed he is that Jen is already dating again. This time she’s chosen the boring and safe jock Cliff (Scott Foley). Though Cliff isn’t an idiot (entirely). He can still see that Jen likes Dawson so he asks Dawson where he should take Jen on their first date. Where do they go?… To Dawson’s seance party. Cliff, you idiot!

Spooky shit happens even before the party. Pacey picks up a mysterious older woman, Ursula (Jennifer McComb), and Jen receives a threatening call at her house. Hmm, Kevin Williamson? Threatening call? I appreciate that call back to Scream. The problem is none of this is particularly deep or interesting. The killer on the loose never feels as threatening as it should be to these characters.

They have the seance, yadda, Yadda, the power goes out, blah, blah mysterious woman isn’t the killer and nothing actually that scary happens. Also, it turns out the caller who freaked out Jen was stupid Cliff. He thought it’s the kind of thing Dawson would do but she’s like “You’re a fucking creep.”

Also at the end of the episode, Joey and Dawson see a news report seeing the police have caught the killer. It’s some guy Joey met at the gas station. They were that close! But it’s not that surprising considering this random guy is the featured image when you select this episode on Hulu. Also, not to go off on Hulu but come on Hulu, you couldn’t even get the Dawson’s Creek theme song? Instead, we get this. Yes, this is the best upload I could find.

Dawson’s Creek isn’t a bad show. It’s just nothing special. It feels safe. I saw very little in the way of risk-taking from a story or character standpoint. Though the more I looked at Kevin Williamson’s career it started to make sense. Williamson may have written Scream which is great but he also wrote I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Faculty, and Cursed. Fun movies for sure but not great movies. Though I’m sure Dawson loves ‘em.