DVD Review: Scream Queens: The Complete First Season

By , Contributor
Simply put Scream Queens is one of the funniest, most addictive shows to come down the pike on network TV in a long time. I missed the boat on this Ryan Murphy-, Brad Falchuk-, Ian Brennan-created show (the team responsible for Glee) when the first season originally aired in late 2015. Now the Complete First Season is available on DVD (no Blu-ray, sad to say) from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. Maybe the series' title and overall marketing scheme unfairly pitches it too narrowly as a horror-based show. Completely anecdotal, non-scientific research I've conducted (in other words, I've asked friends and acquaintances if they watch the show) has lead me to believe that many people are unaware of its anything-goes zaniness and satirical edge.

The following reflections are directed primarily at those non-Scream Queens watchers. Bear in mind, first and foremost, that Queens is an uproarious, gag-a-second comedy. Some of the humor is visual, but the sharpest zingers are laced into the smart writing—sold by the cast's expert, often dry timing. The horror elements, gory as they occasionally are, really take a backseat to the humor. Think of the lightest moments of Wes Craven's Scream movies combined with the bawdiness of a show like Strangers With Candy.

Emma Roberts leads a bang-up ensemble cast as Chanel Oberlin, the Queen B of Wallace University's Kappa Kappa Tau sorority (which also includes Abigail Breslin, Billie Lourd, and Skyler Samuels). Real-life "scream queen" Jamie Lee Curtis is Wallace U.'s Dean Munsch (yes, her last name serves as a tasteless-but-hilarious punchlines numerous times). Munsch opens up the heretofore exclusive Kappa Kappa Tau to literally anyone who wishes to pledge in order. Her main goal is to revoke KKT's charter, but in light of challenges to the legality of such a plan, Munsch is satisfied with seeing pledges like back-braced Hester (Lea Michele) wreaking havoc on Chanel's notions of how the sorority should be.

As the diversity increases at KKT, much to Chanel's dismay, a serial killer begins terrorizing the sorority. This deadly (but often clumsily inept) killer is dubbed the Red Devil due to his or her wearing the Wallace mascot's costume. The loose, on-going story thread involves the quest to discover the Red Devil's true identity. But the fun in Scream Queens has little to do with plot mechanics. Chanel's dictatorial rule over her sisters, the closest of whom are named in her honor (Chanel #2 and so on), forms the basis for the show's compulsive watchability. Add in Gigi Caldwell (Nasim Pedrad of SNL fame) as KKT's national chapter president (enlisted to defend the sorority's rights in the face of Dean Munsch's encroaching threats), plus Chad Radwell (Glen Powell) as Chanel's philandering boyfriend and there's no shortage to the inventive, outrageous gags.

Scream Queens is fairly in-your-face and definitely not for all tastes (what comedy is though?). The humor is rude and raunchy, but if that's your bag (as it is mine) it will leave you sore from laughing. It's not all innuendo and bitchy cat-calling. I mean, Chanel #3 (Lourd) goes around with earmuffs on—like all the time, indoors and everything. For awhile it seems like a low-key visual non-sequitur, but eventually #3 drops the explanation (in Lourd's terrifically deadpan fashion; she's the late Carrie Fisher's daughter—which accounts for the earmuffs, a sly nod to Princess Leia). I'm not about to explain why #3 wears those earmuffs, but suffice it to say I crack a smile every time I think of moments like that. Scream Queens is boss—get the DVD (or digital download) now and see what you've been missing.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is film and music. His new jazz album Good Merlin is now available.

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