Drew Barrymore plays a zombie in this zany and frankly absurd comedy, in which a married suburban couple attempt to balance an ordinary life with her cannibalistic, murderous tendencies.
Starring Drew Barrymore, Timothy Olyphant, Liv Hewson, and Skyler Gisondo
Even the picture displayed of “Santa Clarita Diet” on Netflix’s Home Screen draws the eye, with Drew Barrymore gleefully looking heavenward, blood covering her chin. Or hands. Sometimes there are Marigolds involved, just to really push the point home that this isn’t a typical family sitcom from the off.
In fact, “Santa Clarita Diet”, from its title, to the entire premise is a pastiche of the suburban family sitcom. We meet Joel and Sheila Hammond, merely existing through their humdrum lives, with their offensively picturesque and lavish abode, jobs as real estate agents – just so we can see more egregiously handsome properties – and a teenage daughter, who they struggle to understand.
As it turns out, the event that livens up the lives of the Hammond family comes in the form of…well, Sheila’s death. After projectile vomiting all over the floor of a house they are in the process of showing to a prospective buyer (I’ve never seen so much vomit in my life), Sheila coughs up a strange mass, and revives with a newfound lease of…afterlife, I suppose. With a libido through the roof, and a sudden unbridled energy, it’s like Sheila is a new woman. And she is. Because now she has a craving for human flesh, that must be satisfied and manoeuvred around their otherwise ordinary suburban existence.
Suddenly, the bumbling couple must find a way to constantly procure new bodies for Sheila to feast upon, while evading detection from either the neighbours or the police force. Invites to dinner suddenly become much more tense, with Sheila prone to rabid murder sprees without any warning. Conversations while scrubbing up small parts of human bodies become common place, characters more focussed upon the tremendous inconvenience than they are by the trauma of the event.
It’s brilliantly bizarre, seeing the Hammond couple getting themselves into increasingly more insane and zany situations as they lose control of the freight train they appear to be on. With the gleeful bright camera characteristic of “The Big Bang Theory” or “Friends”, we are treated to the sight of Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant covered in rain ponchos, kitting out a storage locker as a murder room. Upon discovering a paedophile moving into the neighbourhood, or literal Nazis, the response of the show is one of unbridled glee, as Sheila and Joel set about acquiring their latest victim.
If you thought that Joel and Sheila’s daughter would be a grounding influence upon the show, you’d be wrong. Abby (played by Liv Henson) is the perfect foil to the ditzily flighty Sheila and disarmingly sweet Joel with her brutal, cutthroat forthrightness. She is the only one out of the three who seems to know exactly what to do to handle every situation, yet another way that the show tips the traditional family dynamics on its head. Despite Sheila and Joel constantly worrying about involving Abby in their problems, she consistently rescues the pair from their worst mistakes, generally replete with eye rolling snark.
Drew Barrymore is brilliant here. She is her typical level of brazen, ditzy and naive that we’ve seen her do in films like “50 First Dates”. If you responded to that and found it funny there, you are sure to love the show. Unfortunately, Barrymore is also a little like Marmite. People definitely have strong opinions when it comes to her presence, and if she’s one of those actresses who makes your skin crawl with some of her mannerisms, then “Santa Clarita Diet” is most certainly not for you.
Timothy Olyphant is also brilliant as Joel, who is so earnestly sweet and devoted even when his wife is literally tearing people apart with her teeth. The source of much of the comedy, Joel is often to be found sloping along after his wife, attempting to clear up her messes, and generally creating a bigger one.
A breakout star, by rights, should be Liv Henson. They are so likeable and hilarious as Abby, and manages to create many laughs from their to-the-point, dry delivery of lines that I am eager to see them grace the screen in far more things now that “Santa Clarita Diet” has come to an end after three seasons.
Other brilliant performances are given by Skyler Gisondo as next-door neighbour Eric, who knows an overly convenient amount about zombies to aid Sheila in her current predicament, while also harbouring a massive, socially awkward crush on Abby that results in him trailing her like a lost puppy dog. Perhaps the only one to get shaken and terrified by the events that they see, Eric is an adorable audience substitute, to much humorous fanfare.
Elsewhere is the incredibly inquisitive sheriff’s deputy Anne, played by Natalie Morales (also brilliantly funny in Netflix’s “Dead to Me”). Both her inappropriate questions, as well as her devout faith resulting in a massive misunderstanding about Sheila’s condition, cause side-splittingly amusing moments as the show develops, and it’s a crying shame that this role wasn’t featured more prominently.
Ultimately, “Santa Clarita Diet” has a really strong, and absurd premise, that it runs with and milks for every bit of comedy that it’s worth. There’s a massive amount of gore, bringing laughs even to the most macabre of moments. At its heart, however, it’s about a family. A marriage with tremendous strain, and the extraordinary lengths that one will go to for those that they love. The characters are a joy to watch, and that’s the real incentive to follow the journey along. With only 30 episodes, “Santa Clarita Diet” is an easily digestible treat.
Santa Clarita Diet is available to watch now on Netflix.