Scream Queens: “Ghost Stories” Season 1 Episode 9 Review

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A major character is offed as Scream Queens spools out what little mystery it has left.

For those who have been keeping up with the madness of Scream Queens, I think we can all agree that it’s high time we ditch the notion of this show being a smart horror-camp satire, and start thinking of it in terms of a Stefon sketch from Saturday Night Live. For example, this episode had everything: Japanese toilet monsters. Chad Radwell’s expert packing skills. A former Disney pop star riffing on the phrase “Once you go black….” And, of course, a bedazzled neck brace.

In all honesty, I think Scream Queens would be more successful in a succinct SNL-esque skit format. The show can dole out some sharp comedy, but it’s the spaces in between when it’s trying to work out its twisted mystery where it struggles. There are few other show on TV right now where the plot is simultaneously vital and totally unimportant.

This week’s episode featured some great moments as Denise comes up with the ludicrous idea to tell the Kappas ghost stories in order to make them more scared of what she says, and, in turn, less scared of the Red Devil who’s lurking around their mansion. The ridiculousness of this concept is Scream Queens at its absurdist best, and Niecy Nash does not disappoint with her riffs on the J-horror genre. By itself, this premise would’ve made for a truly hilarious skit, or even a solid half-hour sitcom. When it’s paired with the episode’s other elements, however, you realize how hamfisted the whole series often is.

Ryan Murphy, who wrote this week’s episode, certainly has a grasp on the comedic elements of the show, especially when it comes to making Chanel a magnetic and perfectly GIF-able screen presence. But his efforts could be used to spruce up some of the cast elsewhere.

Keke Palmer, as I’ve said before, is great as Zayday, but her and Grace have been so far removed from their Kappa sisters that they might as well exist on a separate show. The Zayday and Grace Mystery Hour resulted in everyone finding out that Boone is still alive, but, honestly, it was a lot funnier when Billie Lourd’s Chanel No. 3 had convinced everyone he was ghost.

In a weird way, this episode is the closest to the Scream film franchise so far. Characters hear horror stories and, in a completely unsubtle meta-twist, are forced to go through real-life versions of them with the Red Devil. Still, as anyone who sat through all of Community will tell you, meta jokes can only go so far. The genius of Scream is that it’s self-satirization never focused on a particular story, but on the nature of the horror genre in general. In this episode, we get the same joke played out in different versions. Did we really need to see Chanel No. 5 reenact the same ghost story that Hester had told in a previous scene? Not really.

I (sort of) got what I wished for this week, as “Ghost Stories” ends with Lea Michele’s Hester getting pushed down a flight of stairs to her death (to clarify, I wasn’t wishing for her death in particular, just for the show to start going after the main characters). Yet, the moment was seen coming from a mile away, and the actual act was carried out by Chanel in a bit of personal revenge, rather than one of the Red Devils. Where’s the fun in that?

At this point, I think it might be too late for Scream Queens to elevate itself beyond just a bunch of humorous bits strung together and into a true pulp satire. There are three episodes left, during which I’m sure we’ll learn the rest of what happened at the Kappa party of ’95, who the other Red Devil is, and which of the core cast are the most expendable (certainly not Abigail Breslin, who pretty much has a near-death experience each week and always walks away so Chanel can continue to torture her).

I do wish this show could’ve lived up to its initial hype, but for now, I think the best thing to do is to ride this wave out and take what we can get. At the very least, we’ll be entertained. Grade: B

 

Some Other Notes:

  • RIP Earl Grey. You were super handsome and had a killer accent. You will be missed.
  • Also RIP to Hester. Lea Michele’s intensity may have not been put to the best use when it was channeled through Rachel Berry on Glee, but it was absolutely fantastic here. I was never not laughing when she was onscreen.
  • Like the tape from The Ring, Grace’s hat fetish is clearly a curse and she has now passed it on to Zayday. Yes, I’m talking about that scene where she wore a beret WITH A YELLOW POM-POM ON TOP. I really hope she gets the help she needs, and soon.
  • Chad Radwell to Boone: “Listen, you probably already know this because you saw it from heaven, but I kind of had sex with a few girls in your bed after you died. I didn’t mean any disrespect, I just kinda wanted that feeling of vacation sex, you know?”
  • What we know about the mystery so far (for the .0001% who are following along for the story): Boone and someone else were both the babies in the bathtub at the ’95 Kappa party. Gigi, aka The Hag of Shady Lane, took them in and now they’re out for revenge. Dean Munsch has got to have something to do with this, or she’s legit just the world’s worst Dean.
  • Also, was Boone’s pretending to be gay a reference to how LGBT-friendly Nick Jonas is, or is it genuinely part of the plot so it would have been easier for him to infiltrate the Kappa house (remember when he wanted to be made an honorary sister)? Or, is it just something random they threw in for this episode to make sense of why he first came on to Zayday when he captured her? Am I putting to much thought into this?

 

By Mike Papirmeister

 

 

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