'Scream Queens' Is the Ultimate Horror-Fueled Road Trip Podcast

Americana wanderlust can be a real Scream.

scary movie locations
Design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist

Podcasts about movies and travel are a dime a dozen, but in the rare Venn diagram where the two genres overlap, Scream Queens combines quirky wanderlust with plenty of humorous horror. Hosted by “Your Soul Survivor” Mr. Josh and “Final Girl” Justine, two longtime friends who live in the Oklahoma City area, the show is a hilarious romp around the United States, with each monthly episode embarking on a drive to different destinations as the duo discusses horror movies inspired by said destination en route.

Capturing the authentic essence of a road trip, podcasts are recorded in the car, meaning discussions of films like House of Wax, The Shining, and Aliens might include wind tunnels, car horns, or whatever other meandering frivolities might emerge. In a similar vein as other movie recap-style podcasts, wherein hosts break down films scene-by-scene, Josh and Justine chat their way through each horror flick, differentiating themselves by peppering in quirky roadside attractions and experiences at places like Shenandoah National Park, Disney World, and the Josephine Tussaud Wax Museum in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Each episode is split into two parts, deep-diving into horror movies during the first half as they drive to their destination. Midway through, they go off-mic to immerse themselves in said destination, visiting museums, dining at restaurants, hiking trails, and in some cases, driving their own excavators at Dig This, a “heavy equipment playground” in Las Vegas. (Tune into the Maximum Overdrive episode for more on that..) In the second half, the pair are back in the car to discuss their experiences, highlight their favorite scenes, and dole out “knife ratings,” their metric for rating movies on a scary scale, with one being the least scary and five being a real scream. The laughs along the way feel just as authentic as their experiences, thanks to the palpable chemistry between two friends. As a result, each episode feels like riding along in the backseat, giggling over hot takes on Paris Hilton’s acting acumen and the cinematic masterpiece that is Jaws 3-D.

“It’s combining our love for horror and all the road trips we were doing already,” says Josh, who started Scream Queens with Justine in 2016 when they covered Jaws on their way to Ocean City, Maryland. “It’s a good opportunity to get out and see the US, and see all the quirks and weirdness that the country has to offer, through the lens of horror.”

ocean city maryland
Ocean City, Maryland | Mark Wilson/Getty Images

“We just thought, ‘We’re pretty funny right? We’ll find our niche out there with people,’” adds Justine. “It’s a unique little approach. We get to experience traveling, and making those connections with the movies we love and the places we’re going.”

Such places have taken them to all corners of the country, from Roswell to the Mall of America, with lots of laughs along the way.

“I always drive. Justine has all the notes in front of her, so she steers the ship,” says Josh of their on-the-road podcast dynamic. “Some days we have windy days or rainy days, some days the driving conditions are perfect, or we’re on a terribly bumpy road. That’s part of the trip.”

“I keep us on track,” explains Justine, who guides the conversations along through each movie. “And I hold the actual recording device that has microphones angled, and that’s how it picks up the sounds from the road and the vehicle.”

Since their inaugural Jaws episode, the two have honed a formula that works: keeping their recording to the car so they can experience their destinations as naturally and authentically as possible. After all, that’s what social media is for.

“We learned we can’t really record while we’re in the field,” Josh says. “It just doesn’t really work out. It’s gotta be in the moment. We add the extra stuff on TikTok and Instagram. Our stories are usually centered on promoting the show or being funny while we’re out doing trips.”

The two focus on keeping things light and funny, highlighting their natural rapport and shared affection for horror movies and offbeat travel, avoiding negativity and mockery in favor of pithy banter. Where to go—and what they cover—varies based on movies they’re eager to talk about and finding a destination that aligns, or conversely, plotting a trip somewhere and selecting a movie to match, like The Nightmare Before Christmas for a trip to Disney World or The Descent 2 for Carlsbad Caverns National Park. As Oklahomans, they also emphasize lots of local travel throughout their road trip-friendly state.

“We like to showcase where we’re from, Oklahoma City and its surrounding area, and pepper in day trips to different attractions in Oklahoma,” notes Justine. Said Oklahoma attractions have included trips to Tulsa to cover Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (star Heather Langenkamp has a “circle” on the Walk of Fame at the Circle Cinema), Annabelle Fun Farms to navigate corn mazes and discuss Children of the Corn, and Bartlesville for Poltergeist III, where the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Price Tower is a local stand-in for Chicago’s Hancock Tower from the film.

Between the local jaunts, the duo clock serious mileage on trips as far-flung as California and Massachusetts. The former was the subject of an epic Scream episode, which took them to wine country to visit the house from the original film that has long played a pivotal role in their horror interests.

“The film locations can be some of the funnest. They can bring out your sentimentality more than other episodes,” says Josh. “Scream came out when I was like 13, and it blew my mind. It got me into horror movies, and shaped my view on film in general. Getting to go there and stepping foot in a space that you’ve watched a million times, and smelling it, and feeling the banisters. It was very surreal.”

“It felt full-circle for our podcast, because it had been such a dream to do, and a love of ours since childhood,” echoes Justine. “A highly influential movie. Visiting those locations was a bucket list. I had never been to Napa Valley, so it was a dream.”
 

halloween in salem, salem massachusetts at halloween
Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts | Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images

Other outings have taken them to The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, aka the hotel that inspired Stephen King to write The Shining, and Salem, Massachusetts, a legendarily spooky town that the two are using as source material for upcoming episodes on Hocus Pocus and The Witch.

“They really embrace the Salem witchy aspect, and Hocus Pocus, and being able to go to all those filming locations, they really put them up front,” says Justine of their most recent trip to a town that’s been on their radar for years.

“We wanted to do it for Halloween,” adds Josh. “The whole town is overwhelmed by tourists, and it’s like a party in the streets, almost like Disney World-level crowds spread out across a small New England town. It’s what you want for Halloween, everyone is dressed up, there’s witch stuff everywhere, a huge celebration of Halloween.”

Similar to bucket list films like Scream and bucket list destinations like Salem, the Scream Queens have other iconic horror flicks they’d like to go big for.

“We want to do all the big franchises. We haven’t done Halloween or Friday the 13th yet, or the newer ones like The Conjuring,” Josh says. “Like Scream, we were waiting for something special. Same for Halloween and Friday the 13th—we want to wait for something special.”

In between the big trips, they’re good at being spontaneous too. Notes Justine: “I love that we will feel inspired by something spur of the moment. We hear about an event happening somewhere, and we’re like, ‘oh my god, it would be perfect.’”

“We’re good at pivoting,” adds Josh. “We’ve never missed a month. We’ve managed to do an episode, even at the height of the pandemic, when we went to the grocery store and covered The Crazies, which was a pandemic zombie movie.”

Another pivot is the addition of a Scream Queens YouTube channel, which allows the friends to show more of their personalities. After connecting with the horror community on a national and international scale, through conventions and social media, the two use the visual medium as a way to share more of themselves with their audience. And just like their podcast, it’s a means to make people laugh, and look at movies differently. Beyond the horror genre, Josh and Justine post a wider array of fun reaction videos to everything from The Notebook to Hocus Pocus 2 trailers.

“We call it ‘Blindspots,” because our movie reactions are blindspots for movies we haven’t seen together,” Josh notes. “We just watch it, have fun, laugh, and people either like our reactions or not—and let us know in the comments. It’s the same spirit of the podcast.”

Describing themselves as the little podcast that could, totally self-funded and free of sponsors, Scream Queens captures the authentic realness of two lifelong friends with a shared love for horror and road trips—whose lovable, laughable rapport makes you want to come along for each and every ride.

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Matt Kirouac is a contributor to Thrillist.