Zom-coms have become a genre that is difficult to do well. When they are successful, it’s usually because they are so over-the-top and absurd you have to laugh. With the grand-daddies of the genre in recent years being Shaun of the Dead and Dead Snow, I think the creators of Night of the Living Deb can breathe easy knowing their contribution could certainly be added to this roster.
Deb (Maria Thayer) is an oddball kind of gal. She is quirky, awkward, quotes Longfellow, and is sometimes just plain weird. On the 4th of July Eve, she spots the handsome and aloof Ryan (Michael Cassidy) at a local bar. Encouraged by her friend Ruby (Julie Brister), she approaches him only to find out that he has an obnoxious fiancée Stacy (Syd Wilder), who breaks up with him the minute she finds out he has rejected his father’s offer to join the family business, a booming water filtration company in town. Left in Stacy’s dust, Deb ends up at Ryan’s place, and the morning after neither of them can remember what happened the night before.
To add insult to this awkward injury, the townspeople of Portland, Maine have become bloodthirsty zombies overnight. Leaving Deb and Ryan stuck with each other as they try to reach their families and survive.
I wasn’t sure what to expect because, quite frankly, I do not like horror-comedies. However, I was pleasantly surprised by Night of the Living Deb. Despite being an indie film, the funds were raised via a Kickstarter campaign, director Kyle Rankin gives us good, crisp production value. The two leads were well cast, with Thayer nailing the role of the awkward, slightly delusional Deb, and Cassidy displaying great timing as the handsome straight man Ryan. Writer Andy Selsor hits all the right notes with the script which ranges from clever quips to insane conversations between the two. The film offers several laugh out loud moments that keep things moving faster than your typical zombie shuffle.
Being a huge Twin Peaks fan, I was also pleased to see none other than Ray Wise playing Ryan’s slimy father, Frank Waverly. Although he has become typecast as the kooky/crazy/creepy father of late, it works here. Throw in Joan of Arcadia and Fanboys’ Chris Maquette as Ryan’s gauche and whiny brother Chaz, and you get an ensemble cast that is heavy on the zany.
Night of the Living Deb takes the awkward morning after and makes it even more ridiculous with zombies. This indie zombie charmer is definitely one you should see.
Saturday, October 17, 7:00 PM, Scotiabank Theatre
Tickets can be purchased at the Toronto After Dark website.