Because writer/director/producer Ryan Murphy was not busy enough with American Horror Story and American Crime Story, he also decided to follow up Fox’s Glee with another over-the-top series that takes on the horror genre to a lighter degree with Scream Queens. Packed with both veteran and younger stars, the concept is fun enough, with this series challenging MTV’s Scream to be the best horror/dark comedy about teens on television. However, does Scream Queens deliver the goods or miss the mark when it comes to being a proper horror send-up? The first season is now available on DVD, so anyone can catch up.
Set at a fictional university, the show’s first season revolves around the Kappa Kappa Tau sorority. Currently led by Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts), the sorority has a reputation for its cruel and snobbish ways, in addition to featuring very stylish members. Things are complicated by a 20-year-old murder mystery reemerging on campus, as a serial killer dressed as a Red Devil begins killing various students.
That’s just a basic summation, but the show has a largely satirical vibe that pushes for broad comedy and wacky characters. Roberts is joined by other sorority members including Skyler Samuels, Keke Palmer, Abigail Breslin, Billie Lourd and Lea Michele. Additionally, the cast also features Jamie Lee Curtis as the Dean, Niecy Nash, Nick Jonas, Ariana Grande, Nasim Pedrad, Oliver Hudson, Diego Boneta and one of the show’s true highlights, Glen Powell as Chanel’s boyfriend Chad Radwell.
With all the series has going for it in concept, it’s a shame I could not have been taken more in by it. To its credit, the series has some inspired moments of horror and hilarity. The pilot episode is promising and some of the characters are consistently great. “Thanksgiving” is easily the strongest episode of the entire season (and of course it had the lowest viewer numbers of the season). Sadly, the best moments are few and far between for a variety of reasons.
The chief issue is how the ensemble cast is unbalanced by a few dud characters. With a need to have some sort of bland audience surrogate, Samuels unfortunately carries a lot of the weight of the season, which really drags down the momentum constantly. Palmer is clearly the better character fitting this type and it’s now surprise that she upstages Samuels and became one of the de-facto leads in season two. At the same time, Roberts is the kind of character that either works or doesn’t and I really wasn’t much of a fan.
Curtis was a big deal for a show like this and while her dialogue delivery is stellar, much of what she has to do is pretty silly. It’s the kind of thing where the show’s reality can only bend so far and the various twists only do so much for a show rooted in a satirical world. Basically, Scream Queens is not funny enough when it needs to be and never scary enough either. It means the characters have to do a lot of work, but the writing is not strong enough to make me either look forward to their comedic abilities in the case of many of them, or be empathetic to the situation.
Again, the show has its share of highlights. Some characters really work well. The problem amounts to maintaining a tone and making it effective enough to support the show’s basic concept. Scream Queens has a lot to handle and unfortunately too much of it comes across as annoying more than anything. It’s surprisingly watchable, but not good enough for me to really recommend.
Encoding: MPEG-2 NTSC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Clarity/Detail: It’s only a DVD, but Scream Queens looks about as good as it can for this home release, with enough detail to be found in the flashy production design and murder sequences.
Depth: The Kappa house is large enough to actually show quite a good bit of dimensionality.
Black Levels: There is a lot of darkness in this series, for all its bright comedy. Night time scenes are frequent and the DVD does a fine job of handling the black levels. No real sign of crush.
Color Reproduction: There is a good amount of color present throughout, thanks to the stylf of the series.
Flesh Tones: Facial textures register quite well throughout.
Audio Format(s): English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Dynamics: This is a show heavy on fast-paced dialogue and on-the-nose soundtrack cues and music moments. It works well enough, even if it seems a bit too loud by design at times.
Low Frequency Extension: The LFE channel gets some moments to play when it comes to a few musical moments.
Surround Sound Presentation: There is a decent mix here for this DVD release.
Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is heard clean and clearly throughout.
It would have been great to hear from Murphy about what he wanted to do with this show. Some episode commentaries would have been nice. None of that though, even the disc art on this 4-disc set is bland.
- Rush Kappa (SD, 6:58) – The actresses stay in character to discuss the great things about being a Kappa, as violent clips from the series play.
- Between 2 Queens (SD, 11:17) – The actresses have one-on-one conversations with each other, where they talk about their likes and dislikes.
- Style Queens (SD, 1:37) – A very brief look at the costume design for the series.
Scream Queens is by no means terrible and plenty of others seemed to have jived more with the series than I did. However, I was at odds with the tone of the series and some of the weaker characters. This DVD set does a fine job representing the show, as far as its production, from a video and audio standpoint. More extra features would have been very welcome. If you’ve been looking to catch up on this series, this is not a bad way to do it.