I think I would hate to live in Ryan Murphy’s universe. The prolific producer, writer, composer (Glee, Nip/Tuck, American Horror Story) only writes about heightened realities with bright colors and over the top everything and it just all feels like it would be exhausting. In his new series Scream Queens he takes this penchant for dizzying heights to a college campus with a killer on the loose.
Now, it has been said that as I am not a horror fan I am not to be trusted on my opinion on this show. I reject that notion out of hand because it implies that I can’t discern quality if I don’t like the genre, which is stupid. Besides the fact that I have watched and experienced enough of so much media in my life I can look past genre disagreements and focus on the merits of the piece before me. All that said, this isn’t horror. Nothing that occurs in the 2 hour pilot is scary in any way nor is it even particularly suspenseful. I think that any potential horror was ruined by the camp tone.
Murphy has said that the series is supposed to be an homage to camp horror of the past. Think Sleepaway Camp or Leprechaun Where everything that happens is ridiculous and crazy but also scary. Here, Murphy focused too much on the (forced) comedy and over the top characterizations that he forgot the material he was spoofing took their scares seriously and ended up with comedy incidentally. Murphy has gone so far in the other direction that this show feels more like a joke that got away from him – it’s a farce.
Nothing about this show works on any level. The tone is so wildly insane that you can’t take anything seriously in the slightest. None of the deaths feel real, or scary, none of the characters are interesting nor do they react anywhere near the way a normal human would, and the only thing scary is how deeply boring the whole affair is.
The world that Murphy has created feels like a live action cartoon, perhaps by design. Tonally it feels a lot like the 1999 dark comedy Jawbreaker which managed to properly walk the line between funny and scary while still maintaining its bubblegum veneer. Scream Queens on the other hand feels joyless and forced.
The one bright spot of this mess of a show is Keke Palmer’s Zayday. While the character isn’t given a lot to do in the opener, what she does is some of the few entertaining moments that occur in the otherwise limp and obvious show.
I wasn’t planning on watching this but after seeing a few interviews with the cast, I was hoping that some of the fun they appeared to be having would translate on screen and override the potential for scares which would instantly turn me away. But instead Scream Queens is a boring, loud, mess of a show that wants to be horror, comedy, suspense, and mystery but ends up being a brightly colored eyesore. D-