Sunday, November 08, 2015

Scream Queens - apocalypse dreams

tv series review

Scream Queens

Starring: Emma Roberts, Skyler Samuels, Lea Michele, Glen Powell, Diego Boneta, Abigail Breslin, Keke Palmer, Nasim Pedrad, Lucien Laviscount, Oliver Hudson, Billie Lourd, and Jamie Lee Curtis
Tagline: Pretty evil.

Right on the heels of MTV’s attempt to bring Wes Craven’s Scream to the small screen, Ryan Murphy and co. unveiled their own slasher series, the comedy horror anthology Scream Queens, on Fox. But even though the former very vehemently proved that doing slasher in the form of a television show is not without its challenges, it was still hard not to be excited about the latter.

The brain child of Murphy and his working partners Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan, Scream Queens seemed like a hybrid of American Horror Story (lite) and Glee (minus the show tunes) by way of Scary Movie, a combination that had the potential to land the show on many a guilty-pleasures list. Add to that a very talented cast that includes the likes of Jamie Lee Curtis, Emma Roberts, Lea Michele, and Abigail Breslin, and it’s easy to see why the show was one of the most anticipated television series of the fall.

The premise, too, seemed promising. The story revolves around the members of Kappa Kappa Tau, a sorority headed ruthlessly by Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts), the queen bee and leader of her posse of mean girl minions – Chanel No. 2 (Ariana Grande), Chanel No. 3 (Billie Lourd), and Chanel No. 5 (Abigail Breslin). Much to their chagrin, the Chanels are forced by the university’s dean, Cathy Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis), to accept all the pledges who want to join the exclusive house, allowing freshman Grace (Skyler Samuels), her roommate Zayday (Keke Palmer), and scoliosis-suffering Hester (Lea Michele) as well as a handful of other misfits to become a part of the club. But the sorority sisters’ luck takes an even worse turn when a 20-year old murder mystery resurfaces, and a serial killer dressed in a red devil costume starts targeting people linked to the Kappa House.

The series embraces its over-the-top slasher spoof cheesiness from the get-go, skewering horror tropes, sorority clich├ęs, and youth culture with aplomb. And the cast – Emma Roberts and Jamie Lee Curtis in particular – seems committed to their roles, no matter how preposterous their arcs may be. The lack of logic and cohesiveness are, of course, to be expected from the genre, and since we aren’t expecting realism from the series, its lack doesn’t really detract from the fun.

Where Scream Queen falters, however, is in how it presents its characters. In their eagerness to cast suspicion on everyone who appears on screen, the writers forget to make us care about any of their characters. And in a series where people are getting picked off one by one, it would help to give them some redeeming qualities that would inspire viewers to be invested in their fate. But Scream Queens gives us no such reasons. Even the principals fail to generate any empathy; Emma Roberts’ Chanel is incessantly obnoxious and Skyler Samuels’ Grace – the good girl to Robert’s mean girl – is simply bland. The humour too is unrelentingly, tiringly mean-spirited, and the series definitely isn’t for the easily offended.

Whether it gains momentum or loses steam from here on out, of course, remains to be seen, as there is still more than half the season to go. So far, Scream Queens has tried a little too hard to shock viewers with its politically incorrect humour, and the result has been quite uneven. The show certainly isn’t a masterpiece, but if you think you’d enjoy a blunt, offbeat slasher spoof, then you might want to give Scream Queens a try anyway.

- Sameen Amer 

Instep, The News on Sunday - 8th November, 2015 *

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