“Good evening, idiot hookers.” That’s just one line spouted cruelly from the lips of Chanel Oberlin, portrayed by Emma Roberts, in the TV show “Scream Queens” created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan. Even though “Scream Queens” is only in its first season, it’s already a phenomenon. In case you didn’t see one of the many people dressed up as characters on Halloween, there’s evidence of the fandom all over online. Nearly every moment of “Scream Queens” is gif-ready. Snappy one-liners, a gorgeous wardrobe and celebs naturally turn this show into a social media obsession.
The campy horror of “Scream Queens” offers Mean Girls-esque humor, some suspense and a whole lot of blood. Serial killers wearing Red Devil costumes are targeting members of Kappa Kappa Tau sorority. The sorority has a history of murderous secrets. Plus, its leader is the sociopathic Chanel Oberlin. The killers could be anyone, and people die each episode in cruel and unusual circumstances.
Despite the amount of blood spilled, “Scream Queens” is primarily a comedy. There are a few minutes that might induce heart palpitations, but those scenes usually involve humor as well. In episode five (“Pumpkin Patch”), the Red Devil chases one of the sorority sisters, Chanel #5 (because Chanel doesn’t care about her minions’ names) and her boyfriends through a maze. In this homage to “The Shining,” funny moments cut up the suspense. Halfway through the scene, the boyfriends, who are also twin brothers, force Chanel #5 to choose who she likes more.
Unfortunately, not all of the characters are so well-crafted. Kappa pledge Zayday Williams, played by Keke Palmer, is a major character, yet her personality is little more than a compilation of stereotypes about young black women. The unoriginality of this character is hardly the most offensive part of “Scream Queens.” Unfortunately, “Scream Queens” frequently makes jokes at the expenses of people of color, disabled people and gay people. These jokes come off as archaic and unnecessary. The viewer is supposed to enjoy hearing characters make appalling comments. But the comments are funnier when they’re random, not bigoted. The show and its actors are funny enough without tasteless humor. I could endlessly listen to Chad Radwell, the dim-witted president of the Dickie Dollar Scholars fraternity, played by Glen Powell, earnestly explain the indisputable rules of Truth of Dare.
The show also disappoints for anyone expecting campy horror in the tradition of “Tales from the Crypt” or the “Scream” franchise. Despite being created by two of the minds behind “American Horror Story,” “Scream Queens” offers no scream-inducing frights. As a TV show chock full of celebrities, those at risk for murder are secondary characters. The secondary characters don’t have story arcs or full personalities that would make the viewer emotionally invested in their survival or surprised at their deaths. With many overcomplicated or illogical plot points, the show doesn’t offer the viewer enough to care about who the killer is, which is supposed to be the show’s major cliffhanger and eventual reveal. None of the characters show enough humanity to earn an emotional response from the viewer. The characters are more like composites of jokes (ranging from witty and bitchy to juvenile and bitchy) in furry sweaters or pastel polos than actual people. The unrealistic characters make “Scream Queens” funny and addicting, but they also demonstrate the show’s flaws.
Despite its shortcomings, “Scream Queens” is enjoyable. It won’t provoke conversation or further contemplation, but it’s fun. The witty, dirty jokes, the references to other horror films, and the on point outfits are pure entertainment. “Scream Queens” is definitely not for everyone. Then again, the blend of comedy and horror is an acquired taste. Sometimes the show’s humor is too mean, too cringe-worthy, too offensive, too immature. At times, I feel bad for watching “Scream Queens”–but that doesn’t stop me.