Review: ‘Scream Queens’ Spoofs Horror Spoofs

22 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Hollywood’s Next Big Thing: Skyler Samuels Goes From Stanford to ‘Scream Queens’.

If any of the fall’s new shows works harder to win us over than “Scream Queens,” I don’t want to hear about it — I’m exhausted just from watching Tuesday night’s two-hour premiere.Skyler Samuels grew up so close to Hollywood that when her mother, an Access Hollywood producer, needed someone to cover a Harry Potter junket, she sent her 7-year-old daughter.Scream Queens, the Ryan Murphy-helmed horror-comedy series that revolves around the (fictional) Kappa sorority at Wallace University, looks like one of fall TV’s best offerings.

There’s a very good chance that Scream Queens is going to lose a chunk of its viewers just a few minutes into the show’s two-hour opener, when vile sorority queen Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts) excoriates the house maid. “That obese specimen of human filth scrubbing bulimia vomit out of the carpet is Ms.That doesn’t mean, however, that she doesn’t plan to enjoy her latest gig, in the new Fox series “Scream Queens” that launches Tuesday at 8 p.m. The industriousness of this Fox horror spoof is reflected in the game performance of its lead, Emma Roberts, who marches through her role as a sorority-house storm trooper with a slightly grim determination, hunting down laughs that aren’t always there. Well, they sound a little bit like: “I am OBSESSED and will not eat, sleep or bathe until I see more.” (Note: If you have a friend who’s seen it, please check in on them during this difficult time.) Scream Queens—which premieres TOMORROW!—isn’t just the best new show of the season, but the most addictive new show in a very long time. In a subpar season where so many new shows feel so familiar, and you may think you’ve already seen the second episode before you finish the first, standing out ranks as an accomplishment.

The Campbell Hall graduate then had acting gigs on Nickelodeon and Disney Channel before landing ABC Family’s The Nine Lives of Chloe King and an arc on American Horror Story. Her obsession is ridding the campus of Kappa House — a goal that oddly enough seems to be putting her in competition with a homicidal maniac who is killing the Kappas one at a time. The 15-episode “Scream Queens” was created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan, and it shares its plastered-on-smile quality with the first Falchuk-Murphy-Brennan collaboration, “Glee.” Also like “Glee,” and the Falchuk-Murphy show, “American Horror Story,” it’s a riff on and mash-up of genre conventions. This glossy, glamorous, sophisticated horror-comedy from Ryan Murphy, starring Emma Roberts as the worst human being/sorority girl ever to exist—with stars like Jamie Lee Curtis, Lea Michele, Nick Jonas, Ariana Grande, Niecy Nash—is equal parts delicious and hilarious, and you will laugh harder than you have in a long time. It also has a genius concept that will keep fans guessing and obsessing: There’s a serial killer on campus targeting the girls of Kappa Kappa Tau (lead by Roberts), and each week someone will get killed off, inching viewers closer to the final answer of who the killer is, who the baby is (a mystery introduced at the very beginning of the pilot), and who will be left alive for season two.

Murphy has described it as “Halloween” meets “Heathers,” which looks about right, though you could come up with your own formulation — “Scream” meets “Animal House” or “Friday the 13th” meets “Legally Blonde.” Ms. Here, Murphy breaks down some cool insight on what to expect from Scream Queens—and his best advice to anyone trying to make their career dreams come true without sacrificing family… He said, “I know you’re super type-A and you love Stanford and you’re a brainiac, but you’re Grace Gardner now and if you let me, please take a chance when I ask you to stay on Scream Queens for a second.

I think with some of my shows in the past, it starts off really strong, and then there’s a bit of a lag in the season, and then it ends on a bang, hopefully. Honestly, if a college can’t tell if its students are demons (see: Buffy’s roommate, Kathy Newman – the 3,000-year-old Mok’tagar demon who disguised herself as a human), then we’re talking about a combination of both negligence and incompetence on a massive scale. Was it the moment where two hunky fraternity members — one played by Nick Jonas, an eye locked on his next gay club appearance fee — debated the possibility of one (gay) touching the other’s (straight) weiner during an impromptu cuddle session? (Maybe this was supposed to be some kind of hat-tip toward pernicious homosocial anxiety, but it ends up making the gay character look like a pitiful, closeted quasi-predator.) Or was it the scene where Roberts greets Keke Palmer’s Zayday, the sorority’s lone black pledge, by sweetly cooing, “Hello, hoodrat. This business has been very good to me, but I don’t miss it when I’m not doing something in it. “I understand the appeal of the relationship between fans and performers,” she says. “Al Yankovic got me onto Twitter, and in one day I had 100,000 followers. “And I realized this is something I needed to stay very far away from, because it would be easy to confuse a number like that with your self-worth.” As it is, says Curtis, she’s already reached the point that she quietly slips out of parties early.

Now dead bodies are turning up — several in the first hour alone — and they seem connected to a mysterious figure in a full-length red devil suit. The referential humor of “Scream Queens” tends to be better on the “Halloween” side of the equation than on the “Heathers” side, and some of its sendups of horror movies — or of horror-movie sendups — are pretty funny. Whether sparring with a sorority girl, dismissing an ineffective bedmate, or seducing a student’s father, she is clearly the queen of this particular TV campus and reason enough to enroll, at least for the premiere. Issues with sororities and private clubs aside, it’s not completely the school’s fault that after sorority sisters accidentally kill one of their members, another sister’s boyfriend ends up killing the guilty parties.

A confrontation between the killer and a not-too-bright sorority sister in which they stand a few feet apart and text each other is a witty take on “Scream” conventions, as is a scene in which a rent-a-cop played by Niecy Nash enumerates the obviously ineffective ways in which she’ll provide security for the sorority. It’ll be fun going back to school in January and moving back into my sorority house and going to class again after having lived in this fake sorority.

It’s pitched somewhere between the latter two: what studio head wouldn’t greenlight a fusion of Glee’s razor-sharp barbs, rapid pace, and chokehold on the zeitgeist with AHS’s low-grade scares and anthology format? But elsewhere, this blend of horror and comedy is a fairly typical mishmash of styles and tones that wavers between not doing enough and not leaving well enough alone.

It has the veneer of a bold move — a commitment to camp and full-bore silliness by a post-Empire Fox — but its underpinnings are conventional: Glee was a borderline sensation during its first few seasons, and AHS is a critically respected show with a loyal fan base and a thwack of Emmy nominations. Curtis’s winking, merry performance is its own self-contained slasher-film trope. “Scream Queens” bogs down, though, when it enters another familiar Brennan-Falchuk-Murphy territory, which could be called identity entertainment — their penchant for making any story, regardless of its subject matter or genre, deal largely in representations of (and gags about) gender, sexuality, race, class and whatever other categories they deem worthy of breaking down. First, Veronica begins college by investigating a serial rapist who targets victims through a safe ride program (it’s an incredibly upsetting storyline that reflects far too many issues with campus safety in real life). And it really isn’t hard to imagine it becoming the kind of sensation Murphy & co. are no doubt imagining: the plot is brisk, the action is pulpy, and the performances are as juicy as anything this side of Cookie Lyon’s manicure. And someone dressed in the school’s red devil mascot outfit wants to kill the girls off, along with other random victims whose randomness is one of the two-hour pilot’s more puzzling aspects.

Best of all is Lea Michele of “Glee,” who plays an affirmative-action pledge who’s locked into a neck brace and can make you laugh simply by darting her eyes helplessly around her limited field of vision. Granted, Yale’s Skull and Bones society is real, but the 2000 fictionalised version of the club covers up the murder by trying to kill another student/potential Skulls member who’s determined to uncover the truth behind the secretive group. And no, merely having Dean Munsch acknowledge the problem (“Out in the real world people just don’t talk that way to other people”) does not solve it, just as being willing to cast women who are not conventionally pretty does not give one free reign to mock their looks and disabilities.

Palmer and Skyler Samuels give the show something like a heart, albeit one that feels about an inch away from being ripped out and eaten at any given moment. Instead of the film’s protagonist (Sara) bunking with a demon a la Buffy, she meets Rebecca, an obsessive stalker who kills a kitten (seriously) in the dorm’s laundry room to make sure she doesn’t have to share Sara with anyone. But in addition to the university’s failed security measures, it keeps professor Roberts (played by Billy Zane) on its payroll – a man with a penchant for fedoras, scarves, and hooking up with students. Yet despite all its flaws, vulgarities and miscues, and for all the justifiable fear that, like many shows from this team, it will go screaming off the quality cliff, there is an energy to Scream most other new shows are missing.

Murphy’s camera tracks Roberts and her lackeys stomping down a hallway and turns her into a lioness on the hunt; Ariana Grande, serviceable and completely perfunctory, has a flirty text back-and-forth with her soon-to-be killer while they stand in front of each other, a great bit of tomfoolery. Falchuk navigates a porny Nick Jonas workout sequence with licked lips, and it says more about lust and vanity and menacing sexuality than the rest of the show combined. Believe me, calling those people and saying, ‘I’m sorry, but you’ve got to go this week’ has been incredibly upsetting because they all signed on for a year’s show. And that’s the main problem with Scream Queens: the show puts all of its energy into punchlines, and once it gets there it doesn’t have anything to say.

There are entire conversations and voice-overs devoted to exposition that exist solely to tee up spiteful one-liners for Roberts or her doofus frat boyfriend. I always got positive feed back on all the roles that I didn’t get —“She’s really great; she’s not quite right for this, but she’s right for something” — he said that for years.

But even more negligent than the lax security measures taken by the school is its refusal to protect students from the feral press who are taking the “if it bleeds, it leads” maxim to heart. There’s a version of this show somewhere that’s closer to lemonade, one that retains Roberts’ spark and its creators’ imagination but directs it at something other than a string of poison-tipped barbs. To make matters worse for the school, the gory climax of the film takes place onstage in the campus’s theatre, officially putting an end to Ohio Windsor’s nascent theatre program. There’s something sinister about Murphy and friends’ insistence that it’s okay to dive into the reprehensible because we’re all supposed to know they don’t mean it.

Horrible things happen in the various American Horror Stories, but they’re working in service of larger thematic interests: discrimination, control, infidelity. When Roberts’ character states that she can get away with anything because she’s white, pretty, and rich, it’s lazy writing masquerading as even lazier social commentary. It’s so fun to see John Travolta in full Robert Shapiro prosthetic makeup walk off the set and come to watch Lady Gaga do a scene, and meet her for the first time. The great thing that I’ve been able to do is have the confidence of Dana Walden and Peter Rice and Gary Newman and John Landgraf, so a lot of these things have not been pilot orders where you’re waiting to see, but straight to series orders.

So in the case of Scream Queens, we’ve been working on the script for a year and by the time we started shooting, we had more than half of them done and the rest obviously plotted out. Grace is really the eyes and ears of the audience when coming to college and joining a sorority and trying to date boys when you never really dated before and making friends and living with people. I also feel like I have two little boys and I want them to see a father that they’re proud of, and hopefully can get something from in terms of work ethic and things like that. I’m not writing American Crime Story, rather that has a completely different writing staff and that’s something I signed on to as a fan because I read these first two scripts and I’m like, ‘Why aren’t these getting made?’ These are the two best scripts I’ve ever read. I have [] and Ian [Brennan] and Tim Minear and James Wong, just an incredible group of collaborators all of whom have really stepped up and who are excited about it.

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