We know the phrase “like mother, like daughter” but Jamie Lee Curtis may be taking things a little far…she’s dying in a shower just like her mom. Dying on-screen anyway, the actress tweeted a photo this week showing her recreating the Psycho shower scene that stared her mother, Janet Leigh, some fifty-five years ago. The tweet indicates the scene is for an upcoming special episode of Scream Queens, the new Fox show from co-creators Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Bennan. She also gave a shout-out to Glee director of photography Joaquin Sedillo, one of those hardworking Hollywood people who never quite gets the credit they deserve.
Murphy and Falchuk are best known for creating two wildly-loved yet polar-opposite shows: Glee, and the American Horror Story anthology. All their television work however, including FX plastic surgery drama Nip/Tuck, and Murphy’s previous WB teen show Popular, have a macabre edge that highlights the thin veneer of popularity and glamour, and the cost of self-hatred. Even when it’s encrusted in comedy, the team’s storytelling oozes cautionary tales.
Brennan was the mind behind the original Glee script which he wrote as a feature film based on his high-school show-choir experience. After five years without interest, a friend passed the script to Murphy who immediately sold it to Fox. Brennan remained on the show as co-executive producer and writer, and is part of the creative team behind Scream Queens.
Queens is being promoted as a sheer romp of horror/comedy, a campy send-up of the horror that AHS fans adore told in the tone and visual style of Glee. Jamie Lee Curtis can’t actually die yet, she’s set to star all season as a University Dean intent on shaking things up for one particularly ridiculous sorority by forcing them to accept any pledge. After some brutal hazing comes the first murder, committed by someone clad in the University’s stolen mascot devil costume. Each week will see a new victim, and next season the show will reboot AHS style with a new location, new cast, or both.
Taking hold of many beloved tropes from feature film the series looks to stir up The House Bunny, Animal House, and Scream 2 for a brand new kind of TV casserole. To draw viewers the creative team has front-loaded a powerhouse cast. Besides Curtis the show stars Emma Roberts, Lea Michele, Abigail Breslin, Nasim Pedrad, Skyler Samuels, Niecy Nash, Billie Lourd, Glen Powell, Lucien Laviscount, Ariana Grande, Nick Jonas, Deigo Boneta, and Oliver Hudson. Whew! And those are just regular cast, there will be plenty of victims for the choosing.
Murphy and Falchuk are smart to pay homage to Psycho, especially with Jamie Lee Curtis at hand. Her look is an homage to her mother, and the producing team owe so much of their horror success to Hitchcock’s boundary-breaking work. Psycho still tops charts as a masterpiece of filmmaking and one of the most frightening movies of all time. It was the first to show any sympathy to a criminal and play on the fragility of the average mind. It was also one of the first to show the female star in her underwear. Made at the end of Hitchcock’s deal with Paramount, the studio distributed the film but required the director to finance it. He spent $800,000 making it and saw it gross $32 million.
With that inspiration the team behind Scream Queens will set out this season to redefine comedy-horror television in their own special way. The two-hour premiere shows on Fox Sept. 22.