Night of the Living Deb (2015)

First published by TwitchFilm


“It seems sort of like a zombie apocalypse!”, observes Deb Clarington (Maria Thayer), quickly assessing the situation around her and unhesitantly taking appropriate action where so many other heroes and heroines in this genre spend half their film just working out what’s what.

Not that her savviness always pays off. “You know these are not the sprinter types, they’re more of the oldschool, cerebral palsy variety,” she says, not realising that the zombie slowly shuffling up to her really did have cerebral palsy in his former life, and that his fellow undead are a whole lot faster. In other words, Night of the Living Deb, from Kyle Rankin, the director of giant bug comedy Infestation (2009), knows its tropes, and knows that we know them, yet still, in keeping with its title, keeps taking us in one direction only to overturn our expectations with a sly gag.

Rankin’s romzomcom begins with meat-loving Deb drunkenly picking up vegan Ryan Waverly (Michael Cassidy) in a Portland bar on the eve of Independence Day, only for him to have second thoughts about her the following morning – even as all around them have succumbed to a water-borne zombie virus. An irrepressibly perky goofball, Deb has us too wondering if we love her or hate her, with Thayer doing a valiant job of playing her both ways – although if you are not on Deb’s side by the end, a misjudged, super-saccharine speech that she gives to camera might prove excruciating.

On the way there, though, she sparks off hilariously with Ryan’s corrupt, ambitious, brownie-baking father Frank (Ray Wise) and gormless brother Chaz (Chris Marquette), as these citizens of Maine take armageddon in their stride, and even find time, mid-massacre, for a spot of relationship-building. It is a tad hit and miss, but just about charming enough to survive the overcrowded zombie market – and for a film set over the 4th of July, and featuring one character obsessed with Christmas, Night of the Living Deb sure comes with a lot of Easter eggs.

Anton Bitel