Santa Clarita Diet
When Sheila Hammond encounters a virus that turns her undead, she must integrate her newfound necessities into their current lifestyle. With the help of her husband Joel and her daughter Abby, the family wrestle with questions about morality, loyalty, and independence.
There is a hesitation in me before I start any kind of horror. Movie, television, podcast—no matter the medium, it seems like the genre often falls victim to terrible writing, mediocre effects, overacting, or some tragic combination of the three. More often than not, I find myself looking at the screen in disgust, but it isn’t brought on by any kind of gore or jump scare. It’s usually the result of a plot hole that just can’t be ignored, or a blood spatter that shines like corn syrup. I just can’t buy into the campiness.
As such, it took about six months and a great deal of peer pressure for me to finally turn on Santa Clarita Diet (along with the slight insinuation that I had the same personality as one of the characters—those who have seen it can probably guess which one). Even from the first episode I knew that I had made a terrible mistake: I should have started it sooner. This series was so much better than I ever could have guessed.
The magic of this show begins with an endlessly charming cast with a chemistry that soars above the standard. Santa Clarita truly pitched a perfect game with its stars. If you weren’t already in love with Drew Barrymore, you will be. Skylar Gisondo and Liv Hewson brilliantly play off of one another as their characters navigate a less-than-normal, coming-of-age kerfuffle. I never understood the societal fascination with Timothy Olyphant until I saw him play a slightly distressed, middle-aged husband of suburbia, dedicated to helping his wife as she takes hold of her own wants and desires (what that says about me, I’ll leave for you to decide, but nevertheless, he absolutely steals the show). This cast was made for this show, masterfully selected in a way that feels desperately rare.
What’s better is that the cast’s talents are supported by a consistently solid script. The concept of the show is at once unique and relatable—the uneasiness of the undead perfectly juxtaposed to the idealized white picket Americana. The question of what’s for dinner is an everyday struggle of the average household, even if it doesn’t usually involve murder to feed Mom. The agony of an unrequited crush is familiar to plenty of teenagers, even if it doesn’t usually entail helping each other build a bomb.
Santa Clarita takes the everyday and elevates it ever so slightly into the world of absurdity, landing it with exquisite comedic dialogue. It’s ridiculous. It’s funny. Sometimes it’s ridiculously funny, but it never loses sight of the reality that it creates for itself.
The truth of the matter is that Santa Clarita has the most heart of any Netflix comedy we’ve seen to date. Please take a moment to enjoy the irony.
The horror genre has long used zombies as a means to amplify humanity, and Santa Clarita absolutely thrives in those spaces. It is a love letter to the living. It treats the human decisions (starting a new career, communicating with teenagers, managing impulsivity) in the same way that they treat undead decisions (the morality of killing bad people for selfish reasons, or how to kill a lot of infected clams). The characters handle all of their challenges equally and as a family. Although their encounters with the undead do change the family, it’s more of a gradual growth. A roll with the punches.
Joel doesn’t suddenly become a criminal mastermind after years of being a realtor. Sheila doesn’t suddenly become a good liar after years as a people pleaser. The family handles the undead stressors in the same way you or I might, which brings the show to a new level of relatability. It’s horror, without a doubt, but like all of the greats of the genre, it’s also about so much more.
Santa Clarita Diet is a fast-paced, shenanigan-driven horror that uses impeccable comedy to drive the story straight into your heart. You will feel for the characters, justify their terrible actions, root for their success, and wonder what they could possibly do next. The stakes are constantly rising, without ever reaching the point of feeling contrived.
Don’t be the fool who waited six months to watch this one. Start it as soon as you can and let the delight fill you to the brim.
Santa Clarita Diet: A Love Letter to the Living
- Writing - 10/1010/10
- Storyline - 10/1010/10
- Acting - 10/1010/10
- Music - 7/107/10
- Production - 8/108/10
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