Starring Maria Thayer, Michael Cassidy and Ray Wise
Directed by Kyle Rankin
Written by Kyle Rankin and Andy Selsor
Out on DVD May 2nd from FrightFest Presents and Icon
“After a girls night out, endearingly awkward Deb wakes up in the bed of the most attractive guy in Portland, Maine. She’s thrilled, but she can’t remember much of what got her there. Pretty boy Ryan only knows it was a mistake and ushers her out of the door…into a full-scale zombie apocalypse. Now, a walk of shame becomes a fight for survival as the mismatched pair discovers that the only thing scarier than trusting someone with your life…is trusting them with your life”.
Coming from the Frightfest Presents banner, Night Of The Living Deb comes at you like a Judd Apatow zombie film. It’s a patchy affair, with as many hits and misses in its gag ratio, but there’s some great work here in a film that was clearly a lot of fun to make.
Redhead Deb (Maria Thayer) is on a quest for love. But she very rarely has luck due to some…unconventional social skills. She’s consistently inappropriate and quotes poetry every ten minutes. When metrosexual neurotic Ryan (Michael Cassidy) wakes to her in the morning, he wants her out. But pretty soon, the hangover and walk of shame isn’t the problem. It’s the zombie apocalypse. Not that it seems to bother Deb much. She approaches the situation like she does every other, with irreverence and optimism. And so the two go on a journey of self-discovery and survival, running into Ryan’s father (Ray Wise) and knucklehead brother (Chris Marquette) on the way.
The zombie and romantic comedy genres seem to be good bedfellows recently. Burying The Ex and Life After Beth both worked to varying degrees of success, and Zombieland became an instant hit. But the daddy, the one that all must be judged by, is still Shaun Of The Dead. And Night Of The Living Deb, even with its punny title, doesn’t really compare.
Where Shaun had likeable and relatable characters in a heightened but still recognisable reality, Deb has fairly insufferable characters and a cartoony gloss that only looks cheap and superficial.
Deb and Ryan are greatly realised characters, don’t get me wrong. The details of each of their neuroses are fully formed and never falter, but they are also incredibly unlikable. They’re funny, but you’re never laughing with them. It’s a shame, as the ideas behind each character is full of potential. And Thayer and Cassidy are totally committed. But the decision to set them in almost a sitcom environment really harms audience engagement.
Director Rankin shoots the film in a very clean, easy to grasp manner, but it’s too damn bright and bland. While thoroughly professional, it looks like one of those teen TV dramas. And the dreaded CGI blood pops up too regularly.
How about the zombies? They’re OK. They’re your usual zombies. Some get shot in the head, some eat people, the usual. Like the film in general, they’re just a bit bland and seen it all before.
But the performances save the day here. Like the leads, the supporting cast do well. Ray Wise always classes up any joint, and Chris Marquette has some great comic timing, like a gun-toting brainless Jason Biggs.
And while the story is predictable, the script provides some great zingers, even in the odd scene providing some genuine insight into relationship stuff. In the end, like most rom-coms, it’s quite feel good. Perhaps that was the aim here was, to put more weight on the rom-com aspect instead of horror. If that was the case, it works.
It’s just a shame the film didn’t have more ambition. It moves at a brisk pace and is never not fun, but why would you watch this zom-com when you can watch Shaun Of The Dead again?