Television’s most powerful duo is back at it again, dipping their toes for the second time in horror; only this time with a completely new take. Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk (Glee, American Horror Story) have given new life to the television horror genre with their new show, Scream Queens; a must see for this year’s television season. Scream Queens follows the students of Wallace University as they face freshman year with a deadly new enemy, two decades after a mysterious death took place within the walls of sorority Kappa Kappa Tau. Brutal murders begin to occur on campus when someone dressed in a red devil costume starts targeting members of Kappa Kappa, and as the bodies pile up, the search for the villain is on. Scream Queens is lead by a killer cast, complete with horror veteran Jamie Lee Curtis, who plays the secretive Dean Cathy Munsch, hell-bent on stripping all sororities on campus of their status driven politics, and finding herself in a power struggle with reigning Kappa president Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts).
What Scream Queens offers that sets it apart from the pack is an incredibly self-aware modern “whodunit”, which combines horror, mystery, and comedy to create a refreshing camp-like feel that is often lacking from our television screens. The show excels in creating jokes that can reach a number of different audiences, from young to old, with references to classic horror films throughout the years. The most prominent of these would be the horror films of the 1990s, as Scream Queens invokes a feeling similar to the likes of Scream and The Addams Family. The ‘camp’ effect is intentional, and you can see it in the detail the creators have put into the show’s content. Shots such as close-ups of over exaggerated screams, and rapid cutting between character’s faces all resemble the ‘cheesy’ conventions of camp horror.
Scream Queens also offers audiences a great deal of 90s nostalgia, something meant as an homage to the horror films of that era. Gigi Caldwell (Nasim Predad) is the national president of Kappa Kappa Tau and her psyche is stuck in the 90s, causing her to dress as such, a nod to the clothing of the era. Wes Gardner (Oliver Hudson) is obsessed with making playlists which feature 90s songs, a nod to the music of the era.
The show’s soundtrack is also heavily influenced by 90s era music; one scene in the third episode is set to Backstreet Boys’ song “Everybody” as the Dickey Dollar Scholars (Kappa’s brother fraternity) fight the red devil dressed completely in white, just as the Backstreet Boys dressed in their music video for the same song. This scene is also a good example of Scream Queens’ intentionality. You watch a scene like this and are completely overwhelmed by how cheesy and almost lame it is, but it is intended to be watched this way, in an effort to create feelings of nostalgia.
All in all, Scream Queens is a stand out series among the freshman shows of the 2015 season. It mixes laughs with screams, and makes clever commentary on the horror films of yesterday, while referencing the culture of today. A guaranteed pleasure, Scream Queens will make you wish you were born in the 90s, and wish you could raid Chanel Oberlin’s closet.
- Laura Sebben