I think we can all agree that 2016 was rubbish, punctuated by the occasional depressing shitstorm. So far, 2017 is just bleak, barely registering on the Shrug Scale of shit-we’ve-all-just-got-to-get-used-to a.k.a. the new normal. So it’s the perfect time to turn your brain off, get grizzly and relish some zombie face-munching fun.
Welcome to Santa Clarita, a deeply boring middle-class suburbia somewhere in dull dry Southern California. Sheila and Joel are good-looking super-normal upwardly mobile estate agents (or realtors as they say over there) quickly sliding down the slippery slope into a totally ridiculous situation. Poor Sheila dies, only she doesn’t. Life goes on as normal, as best they can, while she, Joel and their teenage daughter Abby deal with the fact she is now a zombie.
This domestic family comedy stars Hollywood heavyweights Drew Barrymore as Sheila and Timothy Olyphant as her nervous husband Joel who is surely in the running for some sort of husband award. I would have thought that a dead zombie partner who might eat you or your daughter in a pinch is probably good grounds for divorce, but considering what’s going on he seems pretty chilled out.
Sheila is very ill, but totally determined to go to work anyway. This seems sadly realistic, as does Sheila’s heartfelt desire to be at least 80% more impulsive. This is what having it all feels like ladies! Eventually something’s gotta give. In a sensible drama it would be a nervous breakdown. In a silly, grizzly, comedy it’s a hideous vomit scene where Sheila brings up an unidentified vital organ and a lot of puke. Despite all this, Sheila gets her wish. In death she is extremely impulsive. This dead woman is loving life and is filled with joy as well as fresh bloody meat unwillingly provided by a creepy co-worker. When the gruesome twosome quickly realise that raw beef isn’t enough to satisfy Sheila’s new appetite, they come around to the idea of killing people. But only bad guys – their ideal is “a young single Hitler”. “We’d be heroes!” they say, in awe at all the good they’re going to do.
The awkward sit-com style neighbours are both police officers, to add a frisson of danger. Strangely no one seems to really be scared of Sheila despite her signficant lack of impulse control and desire to eat human flesh. Both Joel and Abby are still very huggy and physical with her. I’m not sure I’d snuggle up to someone who hungers for my fleshy parts, not in that way anyhow.
Next door’s 16-year-old Eric is the resident expert, and like most zombie horror shows, he refuses to use the ‘z’ word. “I don’t like that word”, he says “it’s inherently negative”. Remember, this is SoCal zombieism – positive, upbeat, live-your-best-life vibes… even if you’re dead. And the worrying changes at home are enough to push Abby off the rails, or at least into the comic book shop looking for answers and perhaps the scrawny (and very willing) arms of nerdy Eric.
There’s not a great many laughs in these 30 minute episodes but you’ve got to give them credit for not messing around. The whole extraordinary situation is explained in less than half an hour. Santa Clarita Diet is fun and lighthearted, all considering. It take itself less seriously than iZombie – there’s no global zombie conspiracy to thwart; not yet at least. It’s extremely silly comedy with B-movie gore fans in mind. And it’s worth sticking around for the funny lines, when they come. In a morgue, trying to find alternative sources of food “This place is creepy” frets Sheila.”Yeah, well, so are we” says Joel.
Stuart Heritage in The Guardian says “It’s still possible that Santa Clarita Diet will go down as one of Netflix’s biggest failures”. I doubt it. There’s plenty of appetite for out-and-out ridiculous comedy horror in the general grimness that is 2017.
All 10 episodes of Santa Clarita Diet are available now on Netflix.