Arts & CultureFilm & TV

Netflix’s ‘Santa Clarita Diet’ turns a suburban mom into a flesh-eating zombie



A Netflix original series came out this week with an unusual premise: A suburban mom living with her family in Southern California suddenly becomes a zombie who feeds on human flesh. Starring Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant, the horror-comedy Santa Clarita Diet is 10 episodes of witty banter, corny jokes and a totally self-aware plot and cast of characters. It’s all so ridiculous that somehow it works, and if you can deal with the total cheesiness of the whole thing, then this show worth watching.

Of course, zombies are a pop-culture fixture right now — and really, haven’t they always been? — but this is a new take on the genre. There are the classic symptoms of flesh cravings, superhuman healing ability, lack of pulse or heartbeat and endless energy with no desire to sleep.

Barrymore’s character Sheila takes these all in surprising (and slightly unbelievable) stride. But then again, this show is not meant to be questioned in terms of its believability. It’s always difficult to tell how someone would act in such a situation, but it’s fair to say that most characters might be taking the whole “Sheila’s a zombie” thing a bit too easily.

Sheila’s daughter Abby (played by Australian actress Liv Hewson) and her husband Joel (played by Olyphant) join Barrymore as the stars of the show. Abby’s the stereotypical, deadpan, I-don’t-really-care teenager. She doesn’t have a lot of friends and recruits the nerdy boy next door to help with her mom’s “issue.” In more ways than one, this show relies on stereotypical tropes to further its story development.

Olyphant, who some might recognize as either Pam’s former romantic interest on The Office or a deputy U.S. marshal on Justified, takes a comedic turn as Joel. He struggles with some of the ethics of killing people to satisfy his wife’s cravings, wondering if it is okay to kill someone if they are a “bad person” like a pedophile. His character is there to balance out Barrymore’s off-the-handle Sheila, while also throwing out some one-liners and punchlines. 

Barrymore takes on her role as Sheila with obvious on-screen enthusiasm. In interviews she has said that “it goes beyond wacky” but it “totally liberated” her in her personal life. Meanwhile, it’s obvious that comedy may not come naturally to Olyphant, but that might make him even funnier. The one liners — while very cheesy, yes — are always perfectly delivered. His high-strung personality makes up for daughter Abby’s monotone voice and unfazed expressions. 

If you can take a bit of gore, like a three-foot pile of intestines and a brain smoothie, along with some cheesy jokes, it’s worth watching Santa Clarita Diet. The premise alone is enough to draw an audience there and keep them for all 10 episodes of season one.

Watch the trailer for Santa Clarita Diet below:


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Casey Miller

Casey Miller