Scream Queens Review – From Pilot To Present
“What fresh hell is this?” Chanel Oberlin haughtily chirps at the ring of her doorbell during the Scream Queens pilot. After watching every episode to date, what fresh hell this is indeed! In eight episodes Scream Queens has received its share of mixed reviews with some critics deeming it a hilarious dark comedy and others declaring it a vapid celebration of mean girls behaving, well, meanly. Why not be both at the same time?
The wheel has not entirely been reinvented, meaning that this is definitely not the first time that we have been entertained by a tale that intersects murder with mean girls. Films like Heathers and Jawbreaker combine comedy with the macabre and share a dark comedic spirit. I love a good dark comedy and consider Scream Queens to be a fresh take on the genre with its well-peppered allusions to other works of fiction and expert salting of metajokes. If the devil inhabits hell – consider Kappa Kappa Tau to be the chic new pastel pink Hades. Comedy is subjective and Scream Queens will not appeal to everyone.
Elaborately stylish, reverential and hysterical, Scream Queens serves us with one creatively staged murder after another and an ongoing mystery to solve – who is the Red Devil? In addition to a great soundtrack (a wealth of 80’s and 90’s throwbacks) with no shortage of impractical fashion choices (pearls, tulle, skirt suits, fur) and really great hair, Scream Queens is fun, hilarious and very pretty to look at. With few episodes remaining we have yet to learn the truth behind the Wallace University slayings and what appears to be an elaborately executed revenge plot remains somewhat of an enigma.
In the pilot we were introduced to Boone Clemens, played by Nick Jonas. In the second episode “Hell Week” Boone Clemens becomes an early victim of the Red Devil killer. However, by the end of the episode he is revealed to be alive and secretly in league with the killer. By the eighth (and most recent) episode “Mommie Dearest” we seem to have come “full circle Jonas” with Nick’s return and confirmation that there are in fact two Red Devils and Boone is one of them.
In the last episode a sighting of both Red Devils at the same time occurs in the home of University Dean Cathy Munsch, played by the original “Scream Queen” Jamie Lee Curtis. As the star of one of the greatest horror franchises of all-time and daughter of a Hitchockian muse/screen-horror legend, horror royalty Jamie Lee Curtis is in her element as Dean Munsch. Curtis is witty, funny, devious and surprisingly boss in the role. When the Red Devil arrives at her home she foils the attempt to kill her in the shower and manages to defeat not only both Red Devils but a third assailant (whom we learn at the end of the episode was Kappa’s national chapter president Gigi Caldwell (Nasim Pedrad) dressed in a “discount bin” Halloween costume). The shower scene is one of the season’s best with Curtis channeling her mother’s (Janet Leigh), famous death scene in Alfred Hitchock’s Psycho. After surviving, Curtis quips “I saw that movie – 50 times!” before knocking out Red Devil #1 (no doubt she probably has!).
“Mommie issues” are a common thread throughout the season. In the pilot Dean Munsch asks student Chad Radwell (the philandering boyfriend of Kappa sister and president Chanel #1) about his “mommie issues” and central character Grace Gardner (Skyler Samuels) joins Kappa as a legacy because of her mother (who was once a Kappa sister who “tragically died in a fire”). Chanel attempts to destroy Grace by revealing the truth about her mother after which she apologizes over coffee and shares horrific stories about her own matriarch. The topic of motherhood comes up often and the series even commences with the most fundamental visual representation of motherhood – a newborn baby in his mother’s arms. The entire season is punctuated by nuances (both subtle and overt) of all things maternal.
Scream Queens is masterfully filled with pop culture references. For example, when Chanel #2 (Arianna Grande) visits Chanel #1 (Emma Roberts) from beyond the grave she hits us with a barrage of references to the various men she has met in hell. These range from Adolf Hitler to the notorious physicist Carl Sagan who, naturally, provides her with advice to get out of hell (where unfortunately, we are advised that there are no dinosaurs). Billie Lourd, who plays Chanel #3, is the real-life daughter of Carrie Fisher. #3 always wears furry earmuffs reminiscent of her mother’s iconic Star Wars look which begs the question of whether or not it is an intentional nod to the Princess of Alderaan herself. Not since the rapid-fire conversing of the Gilmore Girls has there been a series that ambitiously packs in as many allusions as Scream Queens does. The proverbial cherry on top however, is Jamie Lee Curtis herself. Blink and you will probably miss something!
Brilliantly dark and witty, if TLC’s Waterfalls is “your jam” this fresh brand of hell is definitely for you!
Scream Queens airs on Fox Tuesdays at 9pm.