Over the weekend, a new series premiered on Netflix called "Santa Clarita Diet" which takes a fun spin on the zombie genre of television. It is most certainly defined as a horror-comedy, and who better to take the female lead in a production like this than Drew Barrymore?! Alongside Timothy Olyphant, who plays Barrymore's husband, and Liv Hewson, the couples' daughter, Barrymore takes on the role of Sheila Hammond - loving wife, mother, and real estate agent. The Hammond family lived your typical routine, boring life until a sudden transformation in Shelia causes a bit of tension in the Hammond household.
The following review contains spoilers, so please continue reading only at your own risk!
While on the job showing a house as part of her real estate agent job, Shelia unloads a fucking ton - not just a lot, but a fucking ton - of puke all over the bedroom and bathroom of the very house they are selling. After discovering his puke covered wife in the puke covered bathroom thinking she was dead, Joel Hammond is scared shitless when his wife springs back to life in his arms and is even more freaked out when he finds out she has no heart beat. It isn't before long that a longing hunger begins to set in in Shelia, and the family soon comes to realize that Shelia has transformed into a zombie! But she's not your every day, mindless zombie who just roams the Earth to feed the hunger. She is (for the most part) in control of her body and mind, she can (mostly) resist urges and she's still fully mentally capable - something most television zombies (and zombies in general) aren't. But the hunger soon becomes too unbearable and Shelia must feed!
Shelia's first kill is a slightly justified killing - a coworker who just won't back off. She does a pretty good number on him and manages to get a good chunk of his bigger build down before having to give up when her husband stumbles upon them. The second kill is also a spontaneous, instinctual kill - and it is after him that the Hammond's realize that future kills must be planned more accordingly. They know the need to feed Shelia's hunger, but they must also be careful just who they kill or body parents end up in jail, leaving sixteen year old Abby parent-less. Without giving away too many of the juicy details of the show, Shelia manages to feed her hunger in (sorta) responsible ways - all the while, her husband Joel is working hard on finding a cure for what he believes is an illness. After encountering a fake paranormal persona, they manage to come in contact with Dr. Cora Wolf, who they believe has the ancient answers of how to heal Shelia's condition and return her back to her familiar living self. To the poor Hammond's dismay, it turns out Dr. Wolf does have a remedy - it's just not exactly the one the family wanted to hear.
You see, over the course of the series, Shelia's body begins to fall apart slowly. First, her pinkie toe manages to fall right off her foot while she's in the bath, and soon after, her eyeball just falls right out of the socket. Dr. Wolf says her tested remedy works (on mice) for this part of the disease, but the remedy will not restore true human life back into Shelia. In other words, Shelia will not be falling apart at the seams anymore, but she's also going to be dead, and stay dead. While this is upsetting news to Joel, Shelia looks towards the brighter side of things that hey, at least her eyeball won't be popping out anymore! Without giving away how the series leaves off, let's just say things for the Hammond family can't get any worse, right?!
This first season of the series was pretty great. It is a fun take on the zombie genre and a totally awesome horror-comedy series. If you like Ash vs. Evil Dead, this show will definitely appeal to you. Don't expect the cheesy storyline and over-the-top gore that Ash presents though (which we love!), Santa Clarita Diet is certainly a lot more tame when it comes to the gore factor, and it's a bit of a more "realistic" (as realistic as a zombie story can get I suppose?!) take on zombies. The jokes are clever, the story will catch your attention and leave you wondering, but the best part I took from the whole series was the morality issues the series presented, which i thought was fascinating.
While absolutely, no question about it, the show is hilarious and witty, there was an underlying rise of morality issues the show presents, if you're looking at it from a realistic point of view. Let's say, for example, you're beautiful wife of two decades suddenly becomes a member of the undead! She needs to feed - must like Shelia. Where do you get your food from?! Zombies need human flesh - it's the only thing that can temporarily numb the endless hunger that drives them. The Hammond's must bring their morality into the picture when they come to the realization that they can't just kill anybody. Not just for fear of getting caught, but because they'd feel shame for killing a decent, harmless human being. The couple are presented - twice - a piece of meat that they can kill and feed off of - but they see the goodness in the person and must make the decision not to kill. They instead opt to try and go for the bad guys of the neighborhood.
Another morality issue the show brings forth is just how much do you involve the family in the feeding process. Luckily, there are only three members of the Hammond family - the parents and their only daughter, Abby - so the pact is already small. But Shelia and Joel must make two decisions for the better of the family. The first decision is whether or not Joel should be tagging along to the kills. While Joel would obviously love to be there to support and defend his wife during this newfound dark period in her life, when presented with his opportunity to kill, Joel totally blows it. Joel must decide if this is something Shelia should be left to do on her own, or if it is something that he will need to "man up" and just do. If your significant other turned tomorrow, would you be able to offer support in killing for the one you love?!
Following up on that - our next issue involved Abby. Abby feels she should be involved in the matters of the adults, and wants to be a part of the family affairs. After accidentally stumbling upon "leftovers" and a fresh corpse, Abby quickly makes her feelings known that she needs to be more informed of what was going on with her parents. If you had children and your partner become a flesh eater, how informed would you make your children?! Would you be able to tell them you're leaving the house for a few hours to go find mommy some human flesh to hold her over? Do you bring them with you?
And finally, the moral issue that hit closest to home for me is one that is not brought up until the end of the series: if the love of your life became a zombie tomorrow, and over time her condition worsened and she became more zombie than human, would you be able to end their suffering? Shelia asks her husband if he had to kill her, how he would do it. But it raised another question to me. Could I kill my loved one if she was no longer mentally the person I knew? If there was a chance she would harm me and my children - could I possibly put an end to the zombification of my partner? Be careful how you answer that one - Joel answers Shelia's question of how he would kill her and she is not fucking amused by the answer!!
In summary, and on a much lighter note than where this led to, the series is a fantastic and welcomed addition to an otherwise crowded genre of film. Drew Barrymore absolutely kills the role of a zombie mother and the supporting cast totally kick ass in bringing Santa Clarita Diet to life. It's a fun, lighthearted take on a dark theme and it's just done so damn well. It's a relatively short season of only ten episodes, so on a rainy day definitely take the time to grab your favorite snack (these sweet gummy body parts pair nicely!) and give this a watch, as we defintely cannot wait until the second series of this comes to Netflix!