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Scream - The Man Behind the Mask/Ports in the Storm - Review

10 Jul 2019

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“What do I have to do to prove to you that I’m not a killer?” – Billy Loomis, “Scream”

The second chunk of the “Scream” burnoff binge event finds Deion and the rest of the Deadfast Club scrambling to figure out who’s “The Man Behind the Mask,” but finding “Ports in the Storm” is hard when they don’t know who they can trust.

After a gory dream about being gutted by Marcus, Deion wakes up to a different kind of nightmare. It’s Halloween, and therefore the anniversary of Marcus’ alleged death. Ghostface decides to twist the knife, calling Deion to tell him about Shane’s demise, and then ordering him to pay a visit to the scrapyard. “In horror,” Beth explains after Liv figures out what Deion is up to and informs the others, “the killer oftentimes tries to take out the main character by luring him to a place of significance on the night of his origin.” Overruled when Manny sides with the others, Kym drives them all out to a gas station in the sticks where they catch up with Deion. Deion didn’t want anyone else getting hurt on account of him, but when Liv refuses to be shaken off and Amir insists on hitching a ride to get away from Beth, they end up accompanying him to the scrapyard.

Once there, they quickly come across “Hook Man,” who’s actually a decorated Vietnam veteran named Luther Thompson. Deion demands that Luther tell him what really happened that Halloween night, tell him what happened to his brother. “A fool in a mask is running around killing people,” he hollers, “because of decisions me and you made!” So Luther comes out with the truth, which ends up being a different kind of horror story. A combination of drinking and PTSD delusions led Luther to attack the twins that night. After Deion fled, Marcus ran off too, and hid in the trunk of an old car. Sadly, he got trapped in there, Luther stumbling across the body six months later. All that's left of Marcus is the Ghostface mask, creepily marking the makeshift grave Luther dug for him. It’s a nicely acted sequence, both for Tony Todd as Luther relives this painful memory, and for RJ Cyler as Deion has to accept all over again that his brother is dead.

So unless the show plans to break the rules of the franchise and make the killer a supernatural being (please no!), this rules out Marcus as Ghostface. And it’s also not Luther, as he runs afoul of the killer shortly thereafter. The former Candyman and Ghostface have a kinda fun slasher villain rumble, clashing hooks and knives, but Ghostface manages to overpower Luther and he meets a gruesome end in a car crusher.

Back at the gas station, the other kids are stranded because Kym’s tires were slashed (we later find out that Liv did it. Because she wanted to protect them, as she says, or because she’s Ghostface?). While Beth frets that, as the “secondary characters,” they’ve been cut off from the others so they can be cut up, Kym and Manny get into a nasty fight, the kind of argument that starts off being about one thing, but ends up being about everything wrong in the relationship. It gets so heated that Kym drives off on bald tires just to get away from him. But while Manny admits that Kym “pushes [his] buttons like no other,” he doesn’t hesitate to run after her when he sees three dickheads dressed like Confederate soldiers, who’d been harassing Kym earlier, drive off in her direction.

Unfortunately, his loyalty to his BFF ends up leading Manny right into the path of their foe. Tearing into the cornfield where Kym crashed her car, he stumbles through the shadows and smack into Ghostface, who bashes his leg with the tire iron he used to chase off the rednecks who ran Kym off the road. Manny manages to limp back to the car, but his fate is sealed when the killer locks him in and sets it ablaze. By the time a distraught Kym and the rest of the kids make it to the scene, it’s too late for Manny. And so “The Man Behind the Mask” closes with the Deadfast Club down another member.

Subsequently, “Ports in the Storm” begins with the kids, particularly Kym, doing what they can to support Manny’s mourning family. But Ghostface won’t even give them a breath to grieve themselves as he has a new game for them to play. Tucked inside a flower arrangement are instructions to pick the next person to die. At first, Deion – still holding himself responsible for the whole bloody mess – insists they all text his name, but Liv convinces the others that naming no one is the best way to fight back. And despite them acknowledging that this is Ghostface trying to turn them against each other, it’s clear they’re having trouble trusting each other, particularly when Liv floats her theory that the killer is one of them (and sidebar – I found Liv very annoying in this episode. I’m not sure if it was the writing or Jessica Sula’s performance, but Liv’s “How dare you accuse me of being the killer!” attitude while baldly insisting that the killer is one of the others was very irritating).

The factions in the group become clearer when Ghostface announces that someone broke ranks and texted a name. Kym chooses to be by herself and holds her own vigil for Manny (and Keke Palmer gives a great performance as Kym eulogizes her friend, making the audience invested in a relationship we only saw for three episodes). Amir surprises a freshly-scrubbed and piercing-free Beth at her house, which turns out to be a funeral home (“That actually explains a lot,” exclaims Amir), and the two dance and flirt and end up having sex. Deion and Liv also act on their attraction to each other, but the afterglow dims when Deion finds a receipt in Liv’s drawer for the flowers the killer’s note was in and Liv discovers a gun in Deion’s backpack.

In a dick move, Liv sells out Deion to her dad to keep him from leaving with the gun. When Officer Reynolds then drives them to a secluded park, Deion fears the worst, but is surprised when Liv’s dad reveals that he warned Deion away from his daughter for his sake, disclosing that Liv has been acting out in “destructive ways” since he and her mom got divorced. Before they can fully get into it, though, Ghostface appears, attacks Officer Reynolds, and advances on Deion. But he doesn’t kill him, instead making him look guilty of stabbing Officer Reynolds. And at the end of the episode, when Liv finds out what happened, she stabs Deion in the back again by having him arrested.

So if not Deion, who lost Ghostface’s game? Turns out it’s Amir. Beth is stunned when she realizes that he’s the one who went back on the group’s pact, that he texted Deion’s name to Ghostface in an effort to protect her and himself. But Beth’s disgust turns to dread when she figures out what the killer’s message really meant – that the snitch would be on the chopping block, not the person they named. That’s when Ghostface comes crashing through a window. Unsurprisingly, a funeral home is a solid setting for a slasher movie chase so it’s a cool setpiece as Amir and Beth run for their lives, eventually splitting up. And just when it seems like Amir has managed to outmaneuver the killer, Ghostface upgrades to some kind of mortician’s blade and guts the hell out of him. Amir does get a Casey Becker moment, managing to pull off the mask and gawp at who’s underneath it, but he bleeds out before the others arrive.

The show had actually made me suspicious of Amir in “The Man Behind the Mask” – something about him dressing up as Deion for Halloween set off an alarm – but his death in “Ports in the Storm” obviously takes him off the suspects list. So who’s still on it at this point? Both these episodes point a lot of fingers at Liv. In addition to slashing Kym’s tires and the receipt Deion found, she’s also got a lighter (although, to be fair, she seemed to be using it to self-harm versus setting a car on fire) and a secret phone in her desk drawer. But this sudden abundance of evidence makes me think it’s not her. There’s also still Jamal, who we learn has a credible motive to target Deion. Turns out their dad had been having an affair with Deion’s mom, and after Marcus died, he chose that family over Jamal and his mother, which “broke her.” Also, Jamal’s the one who gave Deion the gun, and it conveniently doesn’t go off when he tries to shoot Ghostface.

I’m also going to add two new names to the list. There’s Deion and Jamal’s dad Earl (Diesel Madkins, “Venom”), a truck driver who pops back into town for the anniversary of Marcus’ death, but otherwise has the time and space to be getting his Ghostface on. And a parent driven crazy by grief wouldn’t be new to the “Scream” universe (paging Mrs. Loomis!). There’s also Hawkins (Drew Starkey of “Love, Simon”), a classmate of the Deadfast Club. When he surprises Kym during her vigil for Manny, he reveals that he and Manny had been a thing, but we only have his word on that, plus there’s been some jealously and tension between him and Deion. Both could be red herrings, but in my opinion, are worth keeping an eye on.

Have you figured out who “The Man Behind the Mask” is? Are you hoping one or more members of the Deadfast Club find “Ports in the Storm” and survive the season? Holler your thoughts about the second night of “Scream” in the comments section.