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
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.