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'Scream Queens' Review: What Fresh Hell Is This?

By Jodi Smith | TV | September 23, 2015 |

By Jodi Smith | TV | September 23, 2015 |

Ryan Murphy’s new Fox series picks up in 1995, showing a woman moving through a party with blood on her hands. Once she gets to her sorority friends, they find that one of the Kappas had a baby in the bathtub, much to the dismay of the Head Bitch. After the bitchiest of sisters leave to dance to TLC’s “Waterfalls,” they return to find the new mother dead in the bathtub.

Flash forward to 2015. Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts) is the Garbage Person head of Kappa House, ruling over her Garbage Minions, Chanel #2 (Ariana Grande), Chanel #3 (Billie Lourd) and Chanel #5 (Abigail Breslin). Chanel immediately drives home what an insufferable, heinous, waste of flesh she is via voiceover and her use of the term “White Mammy” to describe the sorority’s housekeeper.

Dean Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) calls Chanel into her office to discuss her intent to shut down Kappa House. Munsch cites the drinking, pill-popping, and other incidents as her reasoning. We then get a flashback of Chanel, her predecessor and a spray tan gone very wrong, wherein the HBIC says, “OK, someone turn me into Jada Pinkett-Smith” before her “accident.”

Former Kappa sister Gigi (Nasim Pedrad) pops in to shut down Munsch’s intentions. “We’ll have a side boob mixer followed by a white party where everyone will be encouraged to wear — and be — white.”

That’s the kind of “shocking” and “controversial” humor you can expect from Scream Queens, along with a “fatties and ethnics” rant by Chanel and the revelation that she lied in order to get Pete (Diego Boneta) labelled a sex offender.


As punishment, Kappa is forced to take any and all pledges into their house. This includes Grace (Skylar Samuels), Zayday (Keke Palmer), Hester (Lea Michele), Tiffany AKA Deaf Taylor Swift (Whitney Meyer), and Sam AKA Predatory Lez (Jeanna Han).

Goddamn it.

Later, after Chanel accidentally/purposefully kills someone and forces all of the sorority pledges and sisters to assist her in covering it up, Grace and Pete decide to team up to blow the lid off of Kappa and their atrocities.

From there, the horror movie tropes continue to pile on top of layers of idiocy, Scream Queens strives for clever but lands somewhere in the vicinity of tasteless nonsense. Murphy pushes the spoiled, rich, white girl cliches to Jawbreaker-levels of insanity, but Roberts is a pale imitation of Rose McGowan’s Flawless Bitch.

Scream Queens has yet to find the campy horror schtick perfected American Horror Story: Murder House. Instead of strong leads, it has Emma Roberts, though she is at least balanced by the presence of Jamie Lee Curtis the strangely weird but likable Hester. It’s not enough to make up for the pilot, however. I found myself bored, waiting impatiently for the two-hour back-to-back episodes end. I never felt like that during Murphy’s AHS. Or even marathons of old episodes of Cops.

Bottom line: Murphy’s latest is unimpressive, and disappointing in its efforts to mine racist “humor” to villainize its characters. I’ll keep watching to see what twist Murphy is playing at, but the series is on a short leash.

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Jodi Smith is a Senior Reporter, Film & Television at Pajiba. You can email her or follow her on Twitter.