#SGWatch4U is our weekly screen review column where we tackle anything from film to TV/Netflix.
Are zombies seeing a renaissance in cinema? The case for it could have been made maybe a decade ago, with power comedies like Shaun of the Dead (2004) and award-winning drama The Walking Dead (2010) bursting onto the entertainment scene; and allowances made for Hollywood blockbusters like World War Z (2013). Since then, however, it’s been one B-grade horror comedy after another (2014’s Zombeavers springs to mind), and the zombie genre felt progressively tired.
But then along came Santa Clarita Diet, Netflix’s original horror comedy series about a suburban family who have to get used to mother figure Sheila Hammond (Drew Barrymore) becoming a zombie. It was a fresh take to the zombie narrative—no apocalypse, no rotting, incoherent members of the undead; Sheila and her husband Joel (Timothy Olyphant) are even able to continue their lives as Santa Clarita realtors. Unfortunately, a year later, the freshness of the show seems to have been left behind in the pilot season.
We pick up immediately where we left the Hammonds in Season 1—Joel in a mental institution, Sheila chained in the basement, and their daughter Abby (Liv Hewson) and her friend Eric (Skyler Gisondo) running around the kitchen trying to cook up the Serbian “cure” that will stabilize, but won’t reverse, Sheila’s condition. It’s a lot of parts that, frankly, most won’t remember, given that the Season 1 finale aired Feb 2017.
On that note, Season 2’s opening episode doesn’t quite match up to the fun and effortless humor of its preceding episode. There’s a fair amount of blood and decent jokes, but we’ll go out on a limb (pun intended) to say that meaningless banter between Joel and an unsound fellow patient probably isn’t the best way to open a series after a year-long wait. And it doesn’t get much more eventful after the first episode.
The not-so-happy Hammonds
One thing to look forward to is Skyler Gisondo’s Eric Bemis, the awkward son of the Hammond’s neighbor. The gawky 22-year-old comes into his own here, with a newly developed character arc separate from his former “pining-after-Abby” narrative—plus numerous chuckle-worthy punchlines. Drew Barrymore, too, remains a treat to watch, her infectious effervescence translating well from flesh-eating, protective mum to competitive realtor. The lines get blurred often, but that might be the intended point.
Otherwise, brace yourself for the same old gags and family escapades cycled in 30-minute episodes—which make for light, leisurely watching, but are otherwise forgettable. The series also keeps with its tried-and-tested formula of dangling cliffhangers in the last few minutes of each episode. That said, the plot twist at the end of the first episode makes all of Santa Clarita Diet’s lackluster return to Netflix worthwhile—and fans of Ramona Young’s stoic Rite Aid salesgirl Ramona will be pleased to see her return for an, ahem, meatier role.
Despite the zombie premise, the success of Santa Clarita Diet’s premiere lay in its dialogue-centric humor and tender familial moments; not the physical comedy. Its charming ensemble quickly endeared us to its personal brand of humor—a little kooky, often over-the-top goofy; the second season doesn’t do much else to stretch that victory. For all its laziness though, you’ll likely blow through the season via Netflix’s auto-play function—like the mindless TV zombie that you are.
Santa Clarita Diet Season 2 premieres on Netflix Mar 23.