As a fan of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story anthology series, I was more than a little intrigued when he revealed plans for a new comedy horror show, Scream Queens. Like any Ryan Murphy show, the premiere was surrounded by massive hype, campy posters, and cast interviews and teaser trailer clips throughout the summer. This was only intensified by the stellar casting revelations including Emma Roberts, Skyler Samuels, Lea Michelle, Abigail Breslin, Keke Palmer, Ariana Grande, and Nick Jonas.
Scream Queens centers on the Kappa Kappa Tau, a sorority at Wallace University led by Chanel Oberlin (played by Emma Roberts) as well as her minions, Chanel’s 2, 3, and 5 ( played by Ariana Grande, Billie Lourd, and Abigail Breslin, respectively). After Dean Munsch threatens to close their sorority due to rampants incidents of hazing unless they accept any and all girls willing to pledge, a string of murders targeting the students (particularly sorority members) occur at the hands of a masked, red devil killer. New pledge Grace Gardner attempts to find out who the murderer is, and all hell breaks loose as secrets are revealed and credibility is questioned.
Did the show live up to the hype?
First, the positives. The acting is great and Murphy does an excellent job of managing a large all-star cast without making the show feel bloated. Emma Roberts (Chanel Oberlin) is brilliant as the ruthless, racist head of Kappa Kappa Tau. She’s a commanding presence on screen, and her outrageous one-liners are a comedic gold mine. The role of the spoiled, controlling sorority queen is one she was born to play, and the fear and charisma she inspires within her clique is palpable. While this certainly isn’t the first time she has played this kind of persona (Roberts played an almost identical character in Murphy’s American Horror Story : Coven) this doesn’t make it any less entertaining.
Jamie Lee Curtis as Dean Kathy Munsch is another highlight, and her chemistry with Emma Roberts and performance as a shady school administrator was pretty entertaining. She’s a dedicated administrator with more than a few secrets up her sleeve and absolutely no moral qualms when it comes to blackmailing students and placing the school’s reputation ahead of campus safety after murder strikes. Her bantering with Emma Roberts is hilarious and on point.
Skyler Samuels, the de facto savior character of the series, is able to remain a relatively compelling and interesting heroine (for now) without verging into “good but boring” character territory, though her character is written a little too saintly for my taste.
Shout out to Lea Michelle’s turn as the death obsessed Hester Ulrich, Nick Jonas as preppy golf player Boone, and vacuous minion Abigail Breslin as Chanel #5 in a departure from her traditionally squeaky clean movie roles.
Scream Queens has been marketed as a satirical take on slasher films and the show truly pays an homage to former horror classics. The sorority setting functions perfectly as both a jab at slasher flicks and as a social critique of greek life stereotypes.
The show however, was not without its flaws. The murder-mystery premise, while intriguing, is derivative of Murphy’s AHS anthology series (and perhaps less well done). While the show made clear that it was going for a campy vibe, at times the campiness was far too over the top for my liking, and at times the dialogue went from unrealistic to flat out bizarre and overly cliche (sadly, Skyler Samuels received perhaps the campiest dialogue of the characters). While the show is certainly entertaining, it’s certainly going to need some more refinement to compete with the likes of murder-mystery shows like How to Get Away With Murder.
While I wouldn’t place the show Scream Queens at the top of my binge-watch list, the premise and cast are intriguing enough to keep me tuned in, and I definitely recommend it to anyone with a hankering for camp, satire, and witty one-liners.