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'Scream Queens' review: An overdose of venom

Abigail Breslin, Emma Roberts, Billie Lourd and guest-star

Abigail Breslin, Emma Roberts, Billie Lourd and guest-star Ariana Grande in "Scream Queens." Credit: TNS / Steve Dietl

THE SERIES "Scream Queens"

WHEN | WHERE Tuesday night at 8 on Fox/5

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Kappa House at Wallace University is the sorority from hell, literally. Ruthlessly ruled by alpha mean girl Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts), bad stuff has happened here in years past, yet still it's the most sought-after sorority on campus. Strange, because Chanel is not only a vicious snob, but homicidal and racist. Finally, Dean Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) has had enough, and lays down an edict: Anyone can join the exclusive Kappa House. Freshman Grace (Skyler Samuels) and her roommate, Zayday (Keke Palmer) decide to pledge. Bad decision: A mysterious person dressed as a devil has just begun to thin Kappa's ranks. This slasher comedy is from "American Horror Story's" Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan.

MY SAY A little admission, or perhaps confession: I love the comedy/horror genre. Can't get enough of it. "Tucker and Dale vs. Evil," "Shaun of the Dead" and, of course, "Evil Dead II" -- all great movies that are disgusting, mindless, idiotic and funny.

But who doesn't love this stuff? Obviously Brennan, Falchuk and Murphy do, because "Scream Queens" is their homage to the genre. The essential tropes are here and so are the cliches -- not that there's anything wrong with cliches, because they're part of the joke and often are the joke in comedy/horror.

Logic, cohesive story, and character development are also appropriately shredded in "Scream Queens." Again -- that's no problem and actually a requisite. The comedy/horror genre, the best of it, abhors logic and character development. That stuff is for fancy horror movies.

Comedy/horror has to get just two things right -- the comedy and the horror. The comedy has to actually be funny, the horror done with gusto and conviction. Laugh one minute, scream the next.

That's exactly where "Scream Queens" falters. The writing is sharp, but sharp-edged too. Overwhelmed with venom, "Queens" tends to be more mean-spirited than free-spirited. The cast is energetic, particularly Roberts and Curtis, who look like they're having a great time. But they can't quite convey that fun to the audience.

The horror? It's pretty much nothing you haven't seen before.


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