TV Review: Scream Queens Season One

scream-queensSeason 1 of Fox’s dark comedy series premiered on 22 September, 2015, the brain child of creators Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan. With an avant-garde approach to social commentary, they create the worst possible stereotype of an elitist sorority headed by the quintessential “mean girl,” Chanel Oberlin (portrayed with an articulate poise by Emma Roberts.)
When the new dean of Wallace University, Cathy Munsch (acted by a true scream queen, Jamie Lee Curtis), threatens to close the Kappa Kappa Tau sorority unless they open their house to all interested pledges, a number of “undesirables” flood into the halls of the anorexic and shallow. Grace Gardner (Sklyer Samuels) pledges, hoping to learn more about her departed mother who love her time as a Kappa. Zayday Williams (Keke Palmer) tags along with sass enough to temper Grace’s naivety.
A killer, donning the school’s Red Devil mascot uniform, enjoys a killing spree, and the main targets are those in the Kappa Kappa Tau house. Trying to keep the body count down and the press quiet, Dean Munsch hires security guard Denise Hempfield (Niecy Nash), and the Kappas host a national representative of the sorority, Gigi Caldwell (Nasim Pedrad.) One of the pledges reveals an unnatural attraction for death and dying, another a love for candles, and a third an obsession with Taylor Swift.
As the body count rises, the mystery deepens.
Existent members of Kappa Kappa Tau (KKT) are all called Chanel, since getting to know their real names proved unnecessary to its president. Chanel number 2 is portrayed by the ever-vapid Arianna Grande, #3 by Billie Lourd (who makes earmuffs an integral fashion statement), and #4’s death bore nothing more than a mention in the pilot episode. Abigail Breslin portrays Chanel #5 who can’t chose between twin lovers. Chad Radwell (Glen Powell), one of the Dicky Dollar Scholars, dates Chanel, but finds fidelity difficult. His friend Boone (Nick Jonas) dislikes the hold Chanel has over his friend.
Everyone in the cast is a murder suspect. Twenty years earlier, one of the KKT sorority sisters died after unexpectedly giving birth during a campus party. Any of the co-eds on campus could be the child and perhaps the murder. The Dean has a storied past, Grace’s father has an unhealthy obsession, and the even the cleaning lady has motive. Dead bodies disappear. The murder mystery advances as red herrings and clues vie with a death-per-episode. The Red Devil employs ingenious ways to achieve its ends. Who knew a lawn mower could be so deadly, for example.
Scream Queens is not frightening, except to think such stereotypically awful, self-absorbed elitists might exist. The language and adult references are over-the-top, prompting a Rotten Tomatoes Reviewer to write that the show is “too tasteless for mainstream viewers and too silly for horror enthusiasts…” However, for film enthusiasts, picking up the nods to past films is interesting. Jamie Lee Curtis studied her mother’s iconic Psycho role for one of the episodes, capturing nuances of the famous shower scene.
With dark, sniping social commentary, Scream Queens explores the cruelty young people visit upon each other, the prejudices of the elite, and obsession with image, youth, and money. In one scene, a sorority sister exchanges “words” with her killer while he threatens her in her own room. She takes a moment out to update her social media status during the murder.
The show won a Critic’s Choice TV Award for most exciting new series, a People’s Choice for favorite new TV comedy, and won an award for its excellence with hairstyling and makeup. Several of the cast earned nominations for awards as well.
Season 2 of Scream Queens is scheduled to premiere on Fox on Tuesday, 20 September, 2016. The new season is to move the action from the New Orleans college campus to a hospital setting in LA. The producers promise three Halloween episodes, more deaths, and a new mystery.

Movie Review: The Suffering

the-sufferingAn estate appraiser heads out to the country to spend a few days at an old farm with the caretaker and his help to…well, appraise.  It’s clear from the first day that there are secrets buried within the history of the property and slowly things surface that make the appraiser’s job a difficult and disturbing one.

I loved the idea of the innocent protagonist being an appraiser, as it gave a great reason for his snooping about in areas that otherwise would be too spooky to go.  So rather than the audience growing frustrated at the idiot who insists on nosing about in those dark nooks and crannies that no one has any business going into, we are given a rationale behind it.

Aesthetically the film was pleasing, as was most of the acting, but three fourths into it things started heading downhill.  I don’t think I quite rolled my eyes but I certainly could have.  The acting turned south when a new character came out of nowhere who probably could have been left out altogether, followed by some very random scares that left me thinking there was no way the film could be redeemed at this point.  It seemed that things were starting to happen for no apparent reason other than cheap scares, and questions rose that I didn’t think would ever get answered.  It began to feel like a different writer/director took over, with the genesis of a good idea that ran on nothing but the fumes of jump scares (though some of which were genuinely creepy) and a protagonist who’s only real “suffering” was receiving a hearty blow to the head every twenty minutes–concussions on the regular.

But then the end came and it did indeed manage to pull itself together and answer almost every question I had.  Overall the film was well made, some legitimately creepy scenes and perfect for that modern crowd who will get a kick out of jump scares.  Just remember to wait it out.  There’s a zinger of a twist hiding there that ultimately redeems most of anything you may consider inadequate.

Autumn Sangria

autumn-sangriaAutumn is a time of change, so I suggest we switch up our Sangria, dress it with the proper spices and make it ready for the fall.

This simple recipe produces delicious and attractive results.

2 peeled and chopped pears
4 peeled and chopped apples
Jim Beam’s Fire Whisky (about 2 ½ cups)
Burnett’s Pumpkin Spice Vodka (about ½ cup)
½ quart apple cider
bottle Pinot Grigio
cinnamon sticks

To make a sangria suitable for an autumnal gathering, begin by cleaning, peeling, and dicing fruit of the season. I used Bosc pears and a mix of Gala and Granny Smith apples. Place the fruit in a bowl and cover them with Cinnamon whisky and Pumpkin spice vodka. I went heavier on the cinnamon because I like Jim Beam’s spicy bite. However, adjust the proportions to suit your taste. Float a few cinnamon sticks atop. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
When preparing the drink for consumption, pour the drunken fruit into an appropriate container. (I used my crystal punch bowl.) Add ½ a quart of apple cider and 1 bottle of cheap Pinot Grigio. Turning Leaf caught my attention with its pretty label, appropriate name, and inexpensive pricetag. Give the mix a gentle stir. When serving, be sure to add a scoop of the fruit to float atop the wine glass. (The fruit was my sister Heather’s favorite part of the drink!)
Cheers, and happy haunting!