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TV Review: Scream Queens (Season 1, Episode 1)

EPISODE: HELL WEEK (PILOT)

THE APPETIZER: As the brashest and bitchiest Kappa House sorority leader Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts) is taken down a peg by the new school dean Cathy Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis), a devil-dressed maniac makes a murderous impression on campus.

WARNING: MINOR TO MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW. IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THIS EPISODE, STOP READING HERE!

PART 1

THE ENTREE: Well well. Coming only weeks after MTV concluded a bang-up job of translating Wes Craven's Scream into a clever and ever-entertaining small-screen delight, here comes Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk with starkly similar new series, at least on the surface, called Scream Queens. Here we go! In the two-part pilot episode dubbed Hell Week, the first stint directed by Murphy, the second by Falchuk, a preamble takes us back to 1995, where we meet a nondescript passel of college chicks at an upscale sorority party. We see that a gal has gorily delivered a baby in an upstairs bathtub, only to be found dead moments later...a shiny, devil-red mask and cape standing before her. Our killer, or at least a copycat of!

Cut to 20 years later (much like Scream the Series), where we pick up with Chanel Oberlin (Roberts), a bitchy and bossy sorority queen who, in the vein of HEATHERS, dubs her sycophantic minions Chanel #2 (Ariana Grande), Chanel #3 (Billie Lourde) Chanel #5 (Abigail Breslin), etc. Then we track our likely heroine, Grace (Skyler Samuels), as she arrives on campus for her freshman year. As Chanel's popular sorority Kappa Kappa Tao has fresh wrinkle under the watchful eye of new Dean Cathy Munsch (Lee Curtis), anyone and everyone can pledge their year...no picking and choosing. This brings out a gaggle of awkward and not-so awkward pledges: Neckbrace (Lea Michele), Deaf Taylor Swift, Predatory Lesbian, and even Grace and her roommate Zayday (Keke Palmer) among them.

See, Grace's deceased mother used to be happy in a sorority setting, and so in honor of her mom's memory, she feels it's worth a try. Problem is, once she and a few pledges show up to the house, Chanel #1 goes buckwild and buries the housekeeper's head in a piping hot vat of frying oil. Worse yet, she bribes the other pledges into blaming Grace if she, as planned, goes through with telling the coppers. Instead though, Grace teams up with local barista Pete (Diego Boneta) and devise a plot to infiltrate the sorority to get further dirt on Chanel's dastardly dealings. That is, until Chanel #2 suddenly gets a deathly visit from Red Devil himself. He butchers the poor bitch with a Michael Myers blade to torso. Oh, and Deaf Taylor Swift's head gets popped like a grape tomato when the Devil runs her pretty little head over with a sit-down lawnmower!

PART 2

As we pick up with the second hour of Scream Queen's inaugural episode, the sorority house agrees to go on lockdown, even if it means having pledges stay in the house against tradition. Dean Munsch, a sex-starved harridan, doesn''t want to be again known as the president of murder university, especially after what happened 20 years prior. So Denise (Niecy Nash), a comically inept security guard, is brought in and assigned to watch the palatial abode, while Neckbrace unspools a criminal mind for how to dispatch of Chanel #2's stiff corpse. Suspect much? Grace, still in tandem with Pete, goes on the investigation to find out what happened to the maid's missing body. Red Devil appears, skulks around, but all we get are false alarms when Chanel 1 and 5 pop up. The former tells Grace of the sister who died 20 years ago after giving birth, and Grace is smart enough to contemplate what we already have...that it's the child that, now all grown up, who is out for vengeful blood.

Could it be Pete, as Grace can only assume when finding a Red Devil costume in his dorm room closet? He shakes it off and says chalks it up to him being the school mascot, that's it. But he does fit the age range and pariah mold of an anti-frat/sorority lifestyle. My guess is no, it's way too obvious to be Pete at this point and time. Especially after we saw Red Devil knock him out and string him up with a "mind your own business" admonishment. Could it be Chad Radwell (Glen Powell), the hilarious jock-strap-douch-rag boyfirend of Chanel #1? He now has a motive after being dumped, but then again, he's also been banging Munsch on the side to get good grades. Could it be his gay iron-pumping brother Boone (Nick Jonas)? Oh wait, can't be him, he ends up served on a dining room table with his throat slit from ear to gory ear. Oh wait again, he's not dead at all, as we learn in the final shot of the episode when Red Devil scoops him up from the morgue in one piece. What gives!

Okay, enough of the plot talk, it's time to opine. Having just finished reviewing Scream the Series, I was quite concerned that Scream Queens would be too similar, or worse yet, too broad being on a major network like Fox. And while there's certainly shades of Scream in terms of subgenre and story-line, I have to give props to Ryan Murphy for pushing the envelope for what a basic cable channel can depict. The first episode, Hell Week, was a gorgeously enjoyable grue-gala with a blood-count only matched by its laugh out loud instances of biting, mordant sense of humor. Granted, the first part of the pilot was leaps and bounds more successful than the second, which I hope is not a sign of things to come. Whereas the first stint was rich in gore and inventive death scenes, the second fell more into interpersonal trappings and relationship drama. Hell, even an anti-gay agenda and micro-Glee-sing-along-stint was thrown into part 2. So if I had to score it, I'd give the first part a 9 and the second part a 7, totaling 8. All in all, I think the show - with its more seasoned, qualified cast, larger budget, and sure to be exorbitant death-toll - has great potential to rival and even overtake what Scream laid down this past summer. The real test? How difficult it is to correctly the guess who the killer is. So let's go guys and gals, let the guessing begin!

BLOOD & GORE:

  • Hands covered in blood.
  • A bloody newborn.
  • A body scorched by hydrochloric acid.
  • A human face (Mrs. Bean) blistered into a bloody pulp after being dipped in hot frying oil.
  • Chanel #2 gets stabbed twice in body with giant butcher knife, a modicum of gore.
  • A geyser of red after Deaf Taylor Swift's head is run over with a lawnmower.
  • A bathtub full of dried, crusted blood.
  • Throat impaled with butcher knife

MOST BIZARRE MOMENT: Not for nothing, but I don't think I'd ever see the day that a major network would let a gay dude with a massive boner roll around in bed with his own straight brother. Too damn classic!

MOST PLAUSIBLE SUSPECTS: Given that ending, we'd have to go with Boone as being at least complicit in the murders. Although, I will say, something about Grace's dad (Oliver Hudson) bumping 1995 Bryan Adams rang a little fishy to me. Then again, with 14 more episodes to go, it's WAY to early to start calling out killers. All in due time friends, all in due time.

Extra Tidbit: So what did you think of the first stint of Scream Queens?
Source: AITH

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