HOLLYWOOD—I’ve been waiting for this series to premiere after news surfaced months ago that Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan was planning a frightening take on the horror genre. Many speculated if “Scream Queens” would be the sleeper hit of the fall TV season or a bust.
I can say after the 2-hour premiere the series has my attention. Not only does the series consist of a stellar cast including the original ‘Scream Queen’ Jamie Lee Curtis, but notable turns from Emma Roberts, Skyler Samuels, Keke Palmer, Abigail Breslin, Niecy Nash and Nick Jonas.
“Scream Queens” has the perfect balance of wit, sarcasm, stingy one-liners, fear and the whodunit aspect that weaves a compelling narrative. The series opens with a flashback to 1995, where something horrific happened at Kappa Kappa Tau, where one of the sisters gave birth to a child, and was scorned by the rest of the sisters who were more concerned about TLC’s “Waterfalls” hit than helping a fellow sister in need. This is a major clue to the chaos that erupts on the campus of Wallace University in 2015.
Two hours is quite a bit of time to pack in a bunch of narrative and to introduce the audience to a slew of characters, all unique in their own. The Queen Bee of the KKT sorority is none other than Chanel portrayed by a wicked Emma Roberts. The girl delivers zingers in such a wicked way at times you can’t help but cringe, and at other times you erupt in laughter. She has a posse of minions who follow her around like little puppy dogs. Those minions include Chanel #2 portrayed by Ariana Grande, Chanel #3 portrayed by Billie Lourde and Chanel #5 portrayed by Abigail Breslin. Yes, it’s indeed fitting to see a troupe of characters named after another character.
The fact that Chanel used the term “white mammy” was beyond horrifying and then to hear her talk in black slang to the house maid was stunning. I love that Jamie Lee Curtis is in this cast, the fact that the original scream queen tackles those mean girls as Dean Cathy Munsch is lovely. It was a moment to see where Chanel’s wicked tactics evolved from, where a tan job went too far and the Red Devil emerged. There is good girl Grace (Samuels), her roommate and pal Zayday (Palmer) who portrays the black girl who calls it like she sees it, and a host of other pledges including a deaf girl, a lesbian and a candle wax eater who shake-up KKT rules.
Lea Michele is also a treat as a pledge with head gear. When the revelation occurred that any pledge could join the house, the number of members drastically dropped. Chanel being dumped by her boyfriend Chad (Glen Powell) who is a complete douche, was hilarity, especially when his sidekick Boone portrayed by Nick Jonas echoed anything he said.
The chemistry between Grace and Pete (Diego Boneta) is promising, but he has a bit of history with Chanel that is bad blood to say the least. The housemaid became the first casualty of the Red Devil killer who set-up Chanel to take the fall, but when Grace planned to alert police, a cover-up ensued, just like the typical horror flick, with Pete watching from a distance.
Munsch is character; I mean she slept with Chad, Chanel’s boyfriend. To see all of these characters have a potential motive for wanting to knock off people makes the series an intriguing whodunit, especially after Ms. Bean’s body disappears.
The funniest moment had to be the dismal of one of the sorority sisters who had the audacity to engage in a text war with the killer as her imminent death became apparent. Once again social media came to the forefront of fame, even in death. Gosh, what does this say about our generation!
What works for “Scream Queens” is there are characters you care about and characters that you can care less about, but when people you care about or empathize with die horribly, it strikes an emotional chord. Seeing these kids amp it up in front of the cameras in an effort to gain fame – wow, to see the sisters being forced to stay on house arrest as a killer lurks is smart maybe? We get the meta approach, but at the same time we kind of get the opportunity to put ourselves in the shoes of these characters.
Grace found her way into the KKT secret lair, which traced back to the opening scene of the series. A juicy flashback showing the sisters being confronted by Ms. Bean and Dean Munsch who covered up the scandal, which begs the question what happened to the baby? Grace had red flags when she spotted the Red Devil costume in Pete’s closet. A bit too easy in my opinion.
The body count seriously amped up in the second episode with some supporting cast members bidding adieu. “Scream Queens” has found a way to weave an interesting mystery, all the while developing the core characters that will certainly shape or die as the mystery gets closer to being unveiled to viewers. Ryan Murphy and the gang have once again struck gold because this series is a must on my list this TV season. “Scream Queens” airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on Fox. Are you scared yet?