By Jay Hunter – Question, what would happen if you took conventional Americana housewife comedy ala Cougar Town and threw a bucket load of gore at it? Answer, Santa Clarita Diet. The Drew Barrymore led Netflix original series is quite the conundrum, managing to be both highly formulaic and totally original all at once.
Shelia (Barrymore) and Joel (Scream 2’s, Timothy Olyphant) star as the real-estate couple who’s suburban lives are thrown into chaos as Sheila – without explanation – becomes a zombie, by way of profuse vomiting. The upside is, Sheila is now more adventurous and energetic, the downside is she wants to eat human beings.
It would be easy to judge Santa Clarita Diet by it’s cover, becoming another property that neuters horrors most beloved creatures; the same vein as Twilight and Warm Bodies. But the show plays the material so tongue-in-cheek, whilst not shying away from the blood and guts it’s hard not to love it. The show takes note from 90s proto-dark humour but also interesting shades from Showtimes, Dexter. As Sheila’s appetite evolves from simply graving raw beef into living-breathing human flesh, both her and Joel team up to kill – their targets being “the prototype would be young, single Hitler” type.
The effect of a monster finding home in a placid community is one that’s been explored often in comedic horror – think Edward Scissorhands. And of course, not all the jokes hit home, but with the sheer volume delivered from the cast it’s easy to shrug off some of the more eye-rolling pop culture references. The material works best when Olyphant and Barrymore are on screen, such is there insatiable chemistry, but Santa Clarita does a great job of portioning out the undead arrival effect on other characters too – Liv Hewson as Sheila and Joel’s daughter, Abbey is a particularly great addition. The series unfortunately ends on a gambling cliffhanger instead of wrapping things up nicely, but there’s no denying a second series wouldn’t be welcomed.