Sub­ur­ban zom­bie tale

Drew Bar­ry­more in an un­likely role as as a zom­bie churns out fun and gore in co­pi­ous amounts in Santa Clarita Diet, writes Aref Omar

New Straits Times - - Groove - Aref@nst.com.my

NICE to eat you. Fleshly squeezed brains and guts. Eat your heart out. The cheesy puns are end­less when it comes to com­bin­ing the zom­bie and com­edy gen­res. A far cry from the (un)deadly se­ri­ous­ness and bleak at­mos­phere of the likes of The Walk­ing Dead, there’s a lot of fun to be had with those poor de­cayed and shuf­fling odd­i­ties.

Ever since Ge­orge Romero’s clas­sic Dawn Of The Dead (1978) movie, with scenes of out­right hi­lar­ity (pie in the face, anyone?) that ac­com­pa­nied its so­cial com­men­tary on con­sumerism, the irony and per­va­sive black hu­mour.

Zom­bies are now big busi­ness and there’s plenty to chew on. Those with a pen­chant for Bri­tish wit love Shaun Of The Dead (2004), while a more Amer­i­can brand of funny is un­earthed in Zom­bieland (2009).

Movies aside, there’s been a string of TV se­ries with an un­dead twist as well.

The comic book-in­spired dram­edy iZom­bie, fea­tur­ing the pret­ti­est zom­bie by far, seems to be go­ing strong with its up­com­ing third sea­son air­ing next month in the US.

With the new Net­flix se­ries Santa Clarita Diet, a fam­ily liv­ing in the tit­u­lar quiet sub­ur­ban town out­side of Los An­ge­les has to deal with one of its mem­bers turn­ing into a zom­bie.

And adorable big screen rom­com ac­tress Drew Bar­ry­more makes the most un­likely can­di­date for an un­dead char­ac­ter.

At the same time, she’s iron­i­cally the liveli­est of the char­ac­ters in the first sea­son of the 10 30-minute episodes.

She plays Sheila who, to­gether with her hus­band Joel, are real es­tate agents liv­ing a vaguely idyl­lic, if not bor­ing, ex­is­tence to­gether with their teenage daugh­ter Abby.

Things get weird and hi­lar­i­ous when she un­ex­plain­ably be­comes an un­dead one day and dis­cov­ers that she has an un­con­trol­lable crav­ing for raw hu­man flesh.

Her new con­di­tion also sees her be­com­ing (From left) Bar­ry­more is ex­am­ined by young quack doc­tor Skyler Gisondo, while Olyphant and Hewson get ner­vous about her hunger pangs.

a free-spir­ited pixie, giv­ing in to her de­sires and dreams with vim and vigour.

A quick check with their next door neighbours’ nerdy son Eric (Skyler Gisondo), who se­cretly has the hots for Abby, con­firms that she is un­dead with no pulse and thick black blood. Duh!

Tak­ing a break from his tough guy roles, Ti­mothy Olyphant (of Dead­wood and Jus­ti­fied fame) plays Joel with a slightly neu­rotic glee that at times gets pretty loud.

The mo­ments when he freaks out af­ter re­al­is­ing that Sheila is no longer what she used to be will ei­ther make you laugh or cringe slightly.

Young Aussie ac­tress Liv Hewson im­bues Abby with typ­i­cal angst and teen vul­ner­a­bil­ity, who de­cides to take life se­ri­ously

by help­ing her folks to find a solution to their un­prece­dented predica­ment.

The funny mo­ments come when the fam­ily has to deal with their lu­di­crous sit­u­a­tion, keep­ing their se­cret from pry­ing neighbours and keep­ing Sheila’s hunger sat­is­fied.

It doesn’t help that Sheila’s ini­tial postlife zest is even­tu­ally over­taken by her slow bod­ily de­te­ri­o­ra­tion.

There are plenty of twists and turns too, as well as the char­ac­ters get­ting deeper into tight spots that adds to the drama and ten­sion.

A lit­tle mix of dif­fer­ent shows from Des­per­ate Housewives to Dex­ter, Santa Clarita Diet keeps things light over­all, since it’s a com­edy af­ter all.

The only way it gets heavy is in the gore depart­ment, which, in one scene, sees an an­gelic Bar­ry­more all blood-spat­tered while goug­ing on the en­trails of a vile fel­low re­al­tor.

It’s an odd show: Zom­bie fans might find the fam­ily sit­com-like set­ting a bit bland, while reg­u­lar TV fans might find the blood and body parts off-putting.

Santa Clarita Diet does get messy at times, with the gags be­ing a hit-and-miss af­fair. But over­all, the se­ries is en­ter­tain­ing enough with in­cre­men­tal devel­op­ments that will keep more ad­ven­tur­ous view­ers in­vested af­ter catch­ing a few episodes.

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