Written by: Brent R. Oliver
Here’s a question you have to ask yourself, or at least I have to ask myself, because I do this for a living: Is it still considered camp to have a black actress going hardcore, over-the-top, stereotypically black or is that just plain old racism?
The security guard character in Scream Queens, Denise (Niecy Nash) is the most extra black, black caricature I’ve seen in awhile. The only way she’d be more black would be if she had died first. And, of course, that’s what this show is all about: unrelenting, merciless, pile-driving, train-wreck exploitation of all the horror memes that have saturated the genre for years.
Is it funny? Yes, often. Entertaining? Maybe. In short bursts, certainly. But, as a whole series, it seems like it’s going to become grating and self-indulgent with the quickness. Honestly, I’m still not sure about this thing. On IMDb it has a 7.1 rating and Metacritic scores it a way-average 59. Reviews are mixed, is what I’m saying. Folks seem to predictably either smother it with love or hate.
From my end, I definitely disagree with the reviews that say it’s offhandedly misogynistic and viciously mean. That’s missing the point, which is admittedly buried under a pile of fake fur, sequins, and pastel sweaters. It’s tough to get inside this show and figure it out. That could be because it’s way too genius for my stupid ass or it may be due to the fact that it seems like a dumb riddle wrapped in a lame mystery inside a jackass enigma.
“Exhausting” is the only way I can describe watching it. It just keeps coming. The daffy shit is murderously comprehensive; the foolishness is constantly spun at you in a whirlwind of
lampoon jabs that destroys any real story. It’s not possible to catch your breath. If you want to ride this ride, you just have to strap in and hope you catch one fistful of jokes before the next one smashes by. If the opposite of “subtle” is “obvious,” then Scream Queens is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s muscular, 70s, Mr. Olympia penis plunging at your yapper. And if you’re laughing, you may just feel your uvula get turned into a speedbag.
I was guilty of several snorts during this episode. I freely admit that. When Chad was wandering the misty graveyard fondling the tombstones and looking for a sweet plot to whack off on, I thought it was boss. The Halloween haunted house that turned out to be filled with the bodies of the devil’s victims was also killer.
But the plot was supposed to thicken and I just didn’t care about that. A revelation concerning the baby born in the bathtub in 1995 didn’t do anything for me. Grace’s father continuing to oddly screen horror films in his class didn’t engross me. Or even make me mildly curious. I. Don’t. Care. Who. The. Killer. Is.
And that’s the crux, isn’t it? No matter how entertaining or funny something is, the story is still at least partially important. As far as I’m concerned, humor is a necessary component of the terror business. The ability of a writer or director to lighten the mood with some comedy before bringing the horror hammer down is sublime. It heightens everything. But there’s no fear in Scream Queens, no hammer coming, and there’s no real story either. It’s not nonsensical; the narrative is progressing, things are coming to light, the plot is unfolding, such as it is. It’s unfolding like a paper airplane that says “Fuck You” in the middle. It’s unfolding like a drunk fat guy shaking out a lawn chair and spilling PBR all over the place. It’s unfolding like an origami turd. Scream Queens is to horror what Donald Trump is to politics.
Jamie Lee is the smooth eye of this shitstorm. The setting may be camp, but she ain’t setting up a tent. She remains flawlessly menacing, in the most slimy way. If there’s a linchpin to this whole endeavor, it’s JLC. And I’m sure her majestic machinations will be revealed later, as her cover-up of the original death in ’95 set this whole thing off. Her performance is a constant nod to the absurdity of the piece as a whole, but she holds a chilly, if smarmy, aloofness.
This is three episodes in, y’all. What the fuck are we gonna do if this thing goes the distance? We deserve better than this. I don’t think Scream Queens can deliver. I don’t think it wants to deliver. I think it took the easy way out, by memorizing the cliches that plague spooky movies and slamming them back at us so fast and furious that we’re too breathless to respond.
It’s worth noting that Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy are the creatives behind this. I only say “worth noting” because this show seems like American Horror Story fucked Glee and cranked out a stillborn PG-13 ABC family drama suspiciously akin to Switched At Birth.
I’d like to punch myself in the dick for still being awake writing this piece. Stay tuned. Next week I’ll either review the new episode or give myself a vasectomy to avoid it. Your votes and comments may influence that.