'American Horror Story' writer blends horror, comedy in 'Scream Queens'

(From left to right) Ariana Grande, Emma Roberts, Abigail Breslin and Billie Lourd make up "the Chanels," a clique of disproportionate power operating within their murder-stricken sorority. "Scream Queens" is written by Ryan Murphy of "American Horror Story" and Glee." It debuts Sept. 22 on FOX. (Courtesy/Fox)

Ryan Murphy, writer of FX’s Emmy-winning television series “American Horror Story,” brings forth a monster mash of comedy and horror with his new show “Scream Queens,” premiering Sept. 22 at 8 p.m. on Fox.

Working alongside his fellow co-creators of “Glee,” Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan, Murphy takes viewers on a thrilling ride into the murder mystery-esque events of a college sorority house with a chilling history.

In 1995, the members of Wallace University’s Kappa Kappa Tau sorority were more concerned with attending a party than saving the life of one of their dying sisters as she “bleeds out in a bathtub after giving birth unexpectedly,” writes media review website IGN. Twenty years later, all hell breaks loose as a the newest generation of Kappa Kappa Tau sisters are targeted by a masked murderer called the Red Devil Killer who is killing them off one by one.

Although “American Horror Story” has a great influence on this show’s storyline, “Scream Queens” isn’t all gore, no play. In fact, the Los Angeles Daily News calls it “a more comic sister to his [Murphy’s] ‘American Horror Story.’”

A large part of the show’s comedic appeal is it that depicts the slightly exaggerated nature of how college students, particularly those involved in Greek life, interact with and treat one another ‒ an element likely to have been drawn from “Glee.”

For example, the pre-established group of sisters called “the Chanels” are your stereotypical, superficial sorority girls and they’re not so happy about the university dean’s new rule that they must welcome any and all pledges, most of whom have personalities in sharp contrast to that of the Chanels. 

On one end of the spectrum there’s the head Chanel, Chanel Oberlin, a queen bee in her own terrible right. On the other, there’s Grace Gardner, whose reason for pledging is based on her desire to connect with her deceased mother, who was also a Kappa Kappa Tau sister.

Regardless of how they portray themselves to the outside world, anyone on the show has the potential, at times even the motive, of being the masked slasher.

Murphy, Brennan and Falchuk have amassed an all-star cast for their comically terrifying series. Featured actors and actresses include Emma Roberts, Nick Jonas, Abigail Breslin, Skyler Samuels, Lea Michele and the original scream queen herself, Jamie Lee Curtis.

Besides featuring some of the biggest talent in the industry, the cast is unique in that each of its members fit so naturally into their character’s shoes, allowing the show’s comedic aspect to fall naturally into place.

Perhaps the most unique aspect though, is that Murphy wrote Jamie Lee Curtis’ role as dean of Wallace University specifically for her ‒ a rarity in Hollywood.

The writing behind “Scream Queens” is so crucial to the show as a whole that Curtis went as far to say “the reason that we’re all here, it’s the writing.”

Every week someone is “written off,” bringing audience members one step closer to the unmasking of the Red Devil Killer. Suspense-riddled and fast paced, viewers should expect to scream.


Joey Spagnuolo is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at joseph.spagnuolo@uconn.edu.