'Scream Queens' S1E1&E2: Pilot & Hell Week

★ ★ ★ ★

First off, let’s go ahead and congratulate Scream Queens for doing what MTV’s "slasher" series Scream never could: have a bloody fun time — just make sure you leave your hatred for political incorrectness at the door.

Scream set a really high bar for itself in its pilot by comparing itself to the likes of Friday Night Lights, hoping to become a horror show (and not a horrible show) that made you care about the characters they were "brutally" killing off. They had to make this so apparent that they had the hyper-self-aware film geek Noah give this speech:

"You know, you got to remember that the whodunnit may not be as important in our story. … I’m saying you need to forget it’s a horror story, that someone might die at every turn. You see, you have to care if the smokin’ hot lit teacher seems a little too interested in his female students. You have to care if the team wins the big game. You have to care if the smart, pretty girl forgives the dumb jock. … You root for them. You love them. So when they are brutally murdered... It hurts."

Except the problem was it didn’t hurt. Not one bit. Scream never met viewer expectations and their kills weren't at all entertaining.

ScreamQueens S1

Be sure to watch Heathers because Scream Queens takes heavy inspiration from it. The show doesn’t care if you like their characters or not. If anything, you’ll end up liking them for the very same reason you love watching Regina George insult Lea Edward’s skirt in Mean Girls. They do give you the final girl Grace and her roommate Zayday to root for, but don’t even have to tell you to. Skyler Samuel’s Grace is already a much deserving lead than Scream's Emma. Curious and willful, the first thing Grace does when seeing a weird guy in a Devil costume is go after him. (Something the popular snob Emma would never do.) Her pairing with Pete only makes her even more fun to watch as the two conspire to do things like break into the dean’s office to get a file — easily reminding you of Veronica and J.D. from Heathers. It's just the particular way that Grace confronts situations that makes her a more resilient lead to follow and a perfect contrast to Chanel, who gave up being like Grace to be popular and hide her insecurities. Along with that, unlike Emma and Kieran (these comparisons between the two shows probably won't end soon. Sorry), Pete and Grace's relationship is purposefully rushed in a way that feels right for both characters. He's a bit of a weirdo stalker and Grace is just following her heart.

Scream Queens doesn’t just find inspiration in cult classics Heathers and Mean Girls, it embraces the slasher genre in ways that Scream (note: the show not the movies) never did. Ignoring the fact that Scream chickens out when it comes to killing off their characters (only killing off 4 characters - who survived past the pilot - and the killer - who doesn't really count because it was mandatory), Scream Queens outdoes Scream at any possible thing. Scream Queens outdid Scream when it came to commentary on technology in a funny and very cynical fashion (like how everyone was taking pictures of the crime scene and sharing them) to poke fun at the egocentrism of the Millenial generation, but the show also managed to do the same for Ariana Grande's death scene, which easily outdid the death spoiled by Scream's trailer. As well as that, Scream Queens bests Scream at comedy, too. While Scream focused heavily on meta-commentary and pop culture winks to write the jokes for them, the majority of the show was accidentally funny. Like Jake's facial reactions or how incompetent Emma was. Or how bad the killer was at killing... and giving a monologue.

Unlike Scream (this should be my new catchphrase), Scream Queens does an impressive job of keeping you guessing as to who the killer is. Right off the bat they give you a menagerie of motives and creepy suspects, all of whom (including Grace, the lead character) could be the Red Devil. The first time we see Chanel and Munsch interact with one another, they're already pointing out how suspicious they both are. The two face off in a fantastic way, although it's a little sad to see acting veteran Jamie Lee Curtis outshine Emma Roberts so quickly. Curtis's ability to show such an extreme amount of contempt for the campus she runs while falling prey to her own hypocrisy is funny to watch unfold. (Best quote being: "I've got news for you self-involved junior. Just because you know a guy who was in class with the dead girl's roommate does not mean it could have been you.")

From "White Mammy" to "Deaf Taylor Swift", it’s pretty clear that Chanel will have some trouble in the long-run as a character solely because she’s a cop-out for shock factor and some rather tasteless jokes. On the other hand, she’s Glee with no filter and gets several of the best one-liners. (Just like Madison Montgomery in American Horror Story: Coven.) Racism and homophobia aside, Chanel is an interesting character that’s fun to watch. Especially in scenes like her one-on-one with Grace, where Chanel shows more humanity in a couple of minutes than Scream’s Brooke did over the course of an entire season. There’s obviously a really good character there, it just needs a little work getting there.

The first half of the pilot was slower compared to the rest of what we've seen, but as soon as setting up everything was out of the way they were able to shed a spotlight on each member of their ensemble cast. Even Scream faced that issue (but to a far more severe degree). The pledges are all incredibly unique, from Candle Vlogger Jennifer to death-obsessed Heather, they're all given their time in the sun. The only person who doesn't come out as strong as the rest is Abigail Breslin as Chanel #5, who doesn't seem to have a firm grasp on just who she wants her character to be.

Scream Queens certainly won’t be for everyone. But compared to Scream (the show), Scream Queens is a far better homage to the slasher genre that’s worth sticking with.

ScreamQueens S1

Comments

3 comments

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Sep 25, 2015 6:24PM EDT

Chanel 5, Chad and Grace. If there are multiple killers.

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zazerhContributor
Sep 26, 2015 1:33PM EDT

I enjoyed these two episodes about 10x more than I expected. Great fun!

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RachelLEditor
Sep 26, 2015 5:54PM EDT

Ditto Zaz.

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