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Review: Netflix original series ‘Santa Clarita Diet’ is a gory, funny and fresh take on the zombie genre

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Netflix | The Daily Wildcat

The show art for "The Santa Clarita Diet" on Netflix. The show is a horror-comedy Netflix original series.

At one point or another in the long, painful journey of life, we may have all wondered what it might feel like to wake up one day with an insatiable craving for human flesh.

Or maybe not.

Either way, this unfortunate plight serves as the foundation for the new Netflix original comedy-horror series “Santa Clarita Diet.” The first season of the series became available to stream in its entirety earlier this month. The zombie genre may feel slightly tiresome at this point, but this show finds a way to keep it fresh.

Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant star as adorable couple Sheila and Joel, a husband and wife team of real estate agents who work together to sell houses.

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While showing a house one day, Sheila suddenly starts vomiting uncontrollably; not the ideal situation for prospective house buyers to see. Joel takes Sheila home, leaving the bathroom with disgusting vomit all over the walls, making viewers feel bad for whatever cleaning crew the realtors use.

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Sheila wakes up shortly after and realizes she can’t feel her own heartbeat and her blood has turned into a thick, tar-like substance, much to the dismay of Joel and their daughter, Abby (Liv Hewson). In a panic, the family consults their next-door neighbor and Abby’s classmate Eric (Skyler Gisondo), who tell them Sheila is now dead but also undead, explaining her lack of heartbeat and sudden endless craving for meat. 

At first, beef and chicken satisfy Sheila’s cravings, until she gets a taste of human flesh, of course. You know what they say; once you go human you never go back. This leads Sheila and Joel to the realization that they must now start killing people in order to keep Sheila fed, which turns out to be a pretty effective couples' bonding exercise for them.

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The series walks a fine line between comedy and horror but surprisingly pulls off both genres quite well. Barrymore and Olyphant both give funny, effective performances in their roles, and their chemistry works well on screen, both comedic and romantic.

Much of the show’s humor lies in Sheila’s ability to act like a normal California wife and mother while secretly going home at night to eat human flesh, as well as Joel’s ability to try to maintain the situation while delivering many witty one-liners and simultaneously trying not to lose his mind because of his now-zombie wife.  Sheila is typically funny, but her character can sometimes get fairly annoying. A love for Sheila’s character also requires a love for Drew Barrymore’s acting, simply something that not everyone possesses.

Joel soon rises as the funniest and most interesting character on the show. He also becomes the world’s greatest husband because he still loves his wife after learning about her new condition and even decides to change his way of life to revolve around killing people so she can eat them. Most guys would probably bail at that point, so he’s definitely a keeper.

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The humor in the series works pretty well for the most part, but the excessive gore may turn some viewers off. The beginning scene of Sheila’s excessive vomiting is unnecessarily disgusting and could potentially force some weak-stomached viewers to exit out of Netflix right then and there.

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This is ultimately a show about zombies, so some gore and other grossness obviously come with the territory; but some of the more gruesome parts feel overdone and unnecessary, serving to simply gross viewers out instead of adding to the authenticity of the series. Perhaps the showrunners wanted to use the gore to shock viewers and keep them interested in the show, but it still feels a bit overdone.

The show may not excel in every aspect, but it offers a fresh, unique take on the zombie genre and has solid characters and a funny script as well, making for a show that is still about a million times more interesting to watch than “The Walking Dead.”

Just try not to eat too much food before watching.

Grade: B


Follow Alec Kuehnle on Twitter.



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