BY SOPHIE PERRY
Ryan Murphy’s new horror-comedy series premiered on September 22nd with a double bill, meaning I get to cheat with this review and discuss two episodes instead of just one. Murphy’s intentions for the series is for it to be an anthology series, as he explained to Entertainment Weekly back in April: ‘Whoever survives—and there will be people who will survive—they will go on next season to a new location and a new terror.'
You will not be wrong in thinking that such a setup is old news, Murphy’s other brainchild American Horror Story uses a similar style to keep itself fresh and relevant. But Murphy states in the same article: ‘Unlike Horror Story, which completely reboots, this has some of the continuity in that some of the characters and some of the relationships continue into a new world.'
Scream Queens takes place at fictitious Wallace University focusing on the elitist Kappa Kappa Tau sorority, led by Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts). The sorority comes under threat from Dean Cathy Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) who tries to disband the group, just as Grace (Skyler Samuels) arrives on campus ready to join and follow in her mother’s footsteps. The events of the series take place in the modern day but also flashback to 1995, a 20-year old murder mystery being reigniting by the appearance of the villainous Red Devil.
Alongside the aforementioned cast the series boasts many other well-known names, Lea Michele, Abigail Breslin, Keke Palmer, Nick Jonas and Ariana Grande; some of which have collaborated with Ryan Murphy before.
The show is unmistakably Murphy in both style and substance, aware of its own ridiculousness it completely relishes in the fact; many scenes in the first two episodes look like they could be straight out of a 90’s B-movie. Given the genre and tweeny cast the best way to describe the show would be Mean Girls-meets-Heathers-meets-Scream, while everyone is wearing Prada and Lacoste polo shirts.
Like a lot of Murphy productions, Glee being a prime example, the characters are laden with caricature-traits. With characters such as Chanel this can be funny where it almost subverts the catty, prom queen, HBIC trope that exists in High School and College centric shows. One of my favourite dimensions of Chanel being that she cannot remember her three minions’ names, who follow her around Gretchen Wieners-style 24/7, so she refers to them as Chanel #2, #3 and #5 instead (Grande, Billie Lourd and Breslin, respectively).
Also in typical Murphy fashion is the use of racist and homophobic jokes and slurs for shock, and possibly, comedic value. While this works at the start of the first episode to set up Chanel up as a nasty piece of work, it wears thin quickly and just becomes uncomfortable to listen to; not only that but it makes her as two-dimensional as paper.
One quirky element, in its writing, is the cynical and observant monologues that Curtis’s Cathy Munsch delivers, though not exactly far removed are such monologues from those given by Jane Lynch’s Sue Sylvester in Glee. They come across as a formulaic method by Murphy to break up sections of the episodes, or make a bridge between them, without actually adding anything to Cathy’s character herself.
Scream Queens is exactly what the first trailer suggested: slasher killings (at least one death an episode, Murphy promised), plenty of screams and trashy television in all the best ways. The show does have the danger of losing itself to style over substance so the writing needs to be strong enough to buffer this, but I won’t hold my breath.
Rating: 3/5 stars