Even as a kid, I was a big fan of horror films. Unfortunately, no one in my home shared my love of the genre so I often had to watch them alone. And I watched everything. Old Hollywood horror, zombies, hauntings, and the ever-popular slasher flick. Even awful B-movie horror, the campier the better.
Since then, the horror genre has started to branch out more. Themes from other cultures have been woven into American stories a la The Ring and The Grudge. Found footage, possession, and any manner of remake of old horror movies are increasingly available. Since the creation of American Horror Story and The Walking Dead, we can even get unedited (but toned-down) horror on cable television.
This is very exciting for me, so I was thrilled to see the preview for Ryan Murphy’s Scream Queens, starring horror royalty Jamie Lee Curtis and AHS alum Emma Roberts. It promised a lot of campy meta fun; and for the most part, it delivered.
The show opens in a sorority house, Kappa Kappa Tau, in 1995. There’s a rocking party happening downstairs, while upstairs one of the KKT sisters is giving birth in a bathtub. This sets off a chain of events that lead to the present, where a new KKT is held in the iron fist of Chanel (Roberts) who is at odds with Dean Munsch (Curtis). Due to a ruling by the Dean, KKT is forced to accept all those who pledge, including Grace, the Dorothy to Chanel’s Wicked Witch. The other pledges lead to a Glee-worthy cast of misfits becoming sorority sisters with the rich snobs in charge.
The show then immediately descends into murder after murder and all the ridiculous logic you’d expect in a B-level horror flick. The murders would be brutal if real, but are presented in such a way that they become comedic.
Much like Glee, Ryan Murphy relies on stereotypes to let you know what the characters are all about. While this can be useful, especially in a show that is designed to be ridiculous, it does leave you wondering if this will just be the same story that’s told over and over in every slasher flick and simultaneously mocked and revered in Cabin in the Woods. Only time will tell.
While this first episode seems to rely more on star power than plot to grab viewers, there are some performances than stand out. Curtis and Roberts rule the screen whenever they appear. Glee alum Lea Michele remains mostly in the background, but when given a chance to speak plays neck brace-wearing Hester with an intensity that is as alarming as it is funny. Nick Jonas plays Chanel’s boyfriend’s gay BFF, Boone, with a dark undertone reminiscent of Chanel herself. And Niecy Nash appears to be the comedic voice of common sense as security guard Denise.
Despite its name, Scream Queens is more in line with its predecessor Glee than it is with American Horror Story, so those looking for true scares should probably avoid it. However, if you’re looking for an hour of fun a week, or looking to ease a new audience into the horror genre, this could be for you.
Check it out Tuesdays at 8PM on Fox.