Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Scream Queens 1x04 "Haunted House" (I Scream, You Scream, But This Show Isn't 'Scream') [Contributor: Melanie]

"Haunted House"
Original Airdate: October 6, 2015

So, two weeks and four episodes later seems like a good time to talk about something I’ve alluded to in my previous recaps: Scream. This is something that Scream Queens seems dead-set on replicating but, in doing so, misses the point entirely. A lot of people, myself included, will call Scream a parody horror film in shorthand, but, more accurately, it’s a horror movie about horror movies. It follows Sidney Prescott throughout her teenage years into adulthood as she’s stalked by multiple killers, all donning the same iconic Ghostface costume. The film came out in the mid-90s, when horror was degraded to direct-to-video sequels, and many people attribute it with reigniting the slasher and horror genres.

The thing that made Scream work so well is that it had a clear-cut view on its own lines between parody, self-referential humor, true suspense, and thriller. The characters in all of the movies have seen horror films, and reference them constantly both in jest (Tatum’s last lines to the killer: “Please Mr. Ghostface, don’t kill me, I want to be in the sequel”) and in complete seriousness (Randy’s numerous rules to stay alive). The film utilized characters like Sidney –– who took the drama very seriously and very personally –– and juxtaposed them with characters like Randy and Billy, who pointed how much all of the ongoing chaos seemed like some horror movie. And this was all capped off in the end when it was revealed the killer’s motive was in fact to replicate a horror movie, tying it all together and painting a twisted, but undeniably human, picture to justify Sidney’s horror.

Scream Queens wants to think it’s doing that, even enlisting the talents of Jamie Lee Curtis as a genre homage. But the show is more careless with where it chooses to blend the seriousness and the genre awareness further; unlike Scream, it is a true parody in a lot of ways, creating moments of comedy (or attempted comedy) out of horror film ridiculousness. But, like I said, what we’re supposed to take seriously and what’s all part of the joke is clear. For example, toward the end of Scream, Randy discusses how Jamie Lee Curtis’s character in Halloween was meant to be the virgin, a young female character who survives because she remains pure. This is intercut with scenes of Sidney and her boyfriend having sex for the first time, creating a dark comedic moment, and an ironic omen for what’s to come. In Scream Queens, we’re blending the more serious subjects with the ridiculousness: Chanel tries to talk to her boyfriend about her insecurities in their relationship and he starts crying about her wanting him to stop sleeping with other girls as if it were a great betrayal to his character. There’s no line, there’s just the question of “well how am I supposed to read that?”

Furthermore, Scream Queens assumes a lot from us. As in the example above, Scream knows that the audience has seen or heard of Halloween or Friday the 13th but it will artfully explain to you, as a viewer, why that knowledge is so relevant. This show, however, simply assumes you’ll trust everything that it throws at you, with no blatant callbacks or clue of what it’s trying to be. The Red Devil killer is a watered-down Ghostface and an even worse attempt at Michael Myers or Jason, but that’s not talked about within the context of the show. Characters simply run in fear from him. After one death, they call him a serial killer in order to push the slasher motif. That doesn’t make sense. Unlike Ghostface, Jason, and Michael, who all had modus operandi to their killings, weapons, and victims, the Red Devil is haphazard and all over the place. Scott Kessinger did an in-depth study on parody and spoof vs. meta film in his book Scream: Deconstructed, and by his definition, Scream Queens, at this point, is feeling closer to Scary Movie than a postmodern take on genre.

And so, with that rant out of the way, let’s look at what happened on this week’s episode.

The episode opens with a YouTube montage-style prologue detailing Chanel’s weird Halloween ritual of gifting her Instagram followers with creepy decorations while they sob on the floor in joy. Anyway. The police, who are clearly in the dean’s pocket, are interrogating her to no avail. Not that it really matters, as she points out it would be next to impossible for her to been downstairs and upstairs and down again all while changing outfits. Denise busts in and decides she’s going to solve the murder in honor of her very good friend Shandel who is looking down on her from the Best Buy parking lot in the sky (amen).

Grace and Pete visit the washed-up sorority sister whose name they discovered last week to find her living off the grid in a trailer because, according to the flashback, the death of the unnamed sorority sister in the bathtub was like the worst thing to ever happen to anyone ever. The dean (who was just the university-Greek life liaison at the time, I think, it wasn't clear) created an elaborate cover-up to hide the body and the baby and evidently this Watergate-level conspiracy just destroyed the sisters so much that they all went crazy. Most important, however, is that we are explicitly told the baby was a girl. Meanwhile, Zayday talks to one of the brothers from the Dickie Dollar Scholars about the possibility of running for sorority president to help reclaim the Greek system (side note: he’s British so everything he says is instantly more interesting). This leads into an altercation while the sisters are making pumpkins, pitting Zayday –– who plans on running a haunted house to raise money for charity, against Chanel –– who responds by running her own haunted pumpkin patch.

Later (apparently at 3 AM), Chanel is sharpening her closet knife collection (as you do) while trying to think of a way to outdo Zayday. Chanels #3 and #5 decide they’re going to raise money for something only identified as “black, hairy tongue.” It’s as weird as you think it is. To no one’s surprise, our has-been sorority sister meets the Red Devil’s knife in her trailer while Chad and Neckbrace run into each other in a graveyard and bond over their necrophilia (again, as you do). The next day we’re back in Westin’s film class, this time where he is showing Children of the Corn and giving a ridiculously bland and shallow reading of it (also turning it off before the end?). Grace storms in and demands to know if she was the child born in the bathtub (a wild conclusion she jumped to based literally only on discovering she is the same sex as the baby). She walks out in a huff and Pete texts her to meet at a house that is, yes, LITERALLY on Shady Lane.

Turns out they aren’t the only ones interested. Zayday and the British frat brother (whose name is apparently Early Grey, everyone just take that in for a moment please) are scoping out the house for their haunted house fundraiser and Denise bursts in to inform them all that the house is haunted by a ghost called “the hag of Shady Lane.” They find a room full of creepy dolls and Denise pulls Zayday aside where they both accuse each other of being the killer: Zayday has a chainsaw so duh, and it turns out Denise once pledged Kappa before being denied because of her race. On campus, Chanel, Chanels #3, #5, and Neckbrace are running a smear campaign against Zayday before possibly the only important scene in this entire show happens. The girls are catcalled by a fraternity brother, and when their calm explanations that his catcalls aren’t wanted doesn’t work, they proceed to kick him where the sun don’t shine and hand him a beating to the cheers of onlookers. That night, Chad and Neckbrace meet up at the Shady Lane house, both under the impression the other texted them. In the midst of their strange foreplay, they discover Miss Bean’s decomposing body and several others, all victims of the Red Devil killer, throughout the house. They rush back to campus and their attempts to warn others backfire as students swarm the house for a Halloween scare.

In the house, Zayday is kidnapped by the killer in the midst of trying to get everyone to leave. The dean, the police, Westin, and the sorority discuss the situation and continue pointing fingers (weirdly in the list of bodies they name, Chanel #2 is strangely absent even though we saw her body quite prominently). Pete and Grace discuss further things they learned about the house, and realize the hag of Shady Lane was in fact some unknown woman taking care of the abandoned sorority baby. The final shot reveals Gigi sitting in the house, alone, in the get-up of the hag.

Episode 4 total body count: 1

In this week's WTF moments...

  • Black hairy tongue, WHAT? Why is that your charity?
  • Chad and Neckbrace’s psychotic necrophilia.
  • The Chanels attempt to have a meal of cotton balls and sauce. Sure.
  • The super feminist smackdown of the catcaller was random — but it was awesome.
In this week's killer suspects...

  • Chad: Continues to be weird and now apparently has a thing for dead bodies.
  • Neckbrace: Also continues to be weird, and now also apparently has a thing for dead bodies.
  • Westin: Still a creep.
  • Zayday: Between last week’s chainsaw and this week giving her motive to take out Chanel, she’s fishy.
  • Denise: Also given prime motive to hate the sorority this week.
  • Gigi: Apparently knows a lot more about the mysterious baby than we thought.
  • Chanel: She has a knife collection in her closet and continues to hate everyone.

The Halloween “fun” isn’t over, Scream Queens has two more Halloween-themed episodes, making up their three-week Halloween event. So look for this immediate storyline to continue as we take a look at Chanel's pumpkin patch Tuesday at 9 PM. Check back here for more recaps every week!

1 comment:

  1. How is Chad and Hester's love for dead things a WTF moment whine they mention it in episode 2 and 3?