Night of the Living Deb is a zombie-romantic-comedy, or zomromcom. So that’s a thing.
It’s also smart, funny, occasionally genuinely creepy and occasionally a bit too awkward for its own good – especially at the beginning, when we haven’t actually twigged to what the rules are.
Deb Clarington (Maria Thayer, Those Who Can’t, Comedy Bang! Bang!) an oddly attired young woman is persuaded/pushed into approaching a vacuously pretty hunk at a bar and what appears to be a one-night stand ends awkwardly when said hunk, Ryan Waverly (Michael Cassidy, The Magicians, The Night Shift), throws her out – into a zombie apocalypse on July 4th!
Circumstances bring them together – her car is better for mowing down hungry zombies than his bicycle – and they set out for his father’s home. Said home being a mansion with a wall and wrought iron gate – guarded by Ryan’s macho-but-not-terribly-bright brother, Chaz (Chris Marquette, Joan of Arcadia, Broken Horses).
Dad turns out be rich-as-Croesus Frank Waverly (Ray Wise, Agent Carter, Fresh off the Boat), a man who has connections to Maine’s governor and whatever-the-hell-it-is that’s going on.
Thayer gets to really go for some bizarre comedic beats – she’s chipper and wisecracking (an unusual but not unwelcome change from most zombie movies), though she has better chemistry with her drinking buddy/BFF Ruby (Julie Brister, Review, Comedy Bang! Bang!) than Cassidy’s Ryan. Ruby could have/should have had more to do. Brister is pretty terrific.
Once past the awkwardly staged bar and morning after sequences, Living Deb picks up the pace, stuff gets funny (and occasionally creepy). Thayer’s best bits appear to be improvs around the solid script by Andy Selsor. She’s brash – in more than just her sartorial style – but there are moments that break up the movie enough that she never (quite) becomes too annoying or too precious.
Cassidy is more stolid than a leading man in this kind of film should be – Ryan is too metrosexual/hipster in his feigned coolness (he thinks you shouldn’t kill zombies in case there might be a cure) – and doesn’t really spark with Deb. It’s easy to see why their one-night stand would end with them getting away from each other – it’s just not exactly clear why they’d end up together. Ryan’s ex, Stacy (Syd Wilder, Bad Weather Films), seems more his real speed.
Still, once Night of the Living Deb gets going, it’s a fun ride that takes some unexpected turns and provides more than a little fun.
Director Kyle Rankin (Infestation) seems a bit uncertain in the early going but once he picks up the pace, Living Deb does, indeed, come alive – helped by Wise’s energetic performance and Thayer’s sheer nerve.
The Night of the Living Deb DVD release comes with a pretty decent selection of bonus material: Audio Commentary (Rankin, Thayer, Cassidy, Selsor and Capolillo); a solid Behind the Scenes featurette; the theatrical trailer and a 6-minute Blooper Reel.
Grade: Night of the Living Deb – B
Grade: Features – A
Final Grade: B+