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  Night of the Living Deb Love You To Death
Year: 2015
Director: Kyle Rankin
Stars: Maria Thayer, Michael Cassidy, Ray Wise, Chris Marquette, Shawn C. Phillips, Brian Sacca, Syd Wilder, Pete Haase, Julie Brister, Grant Garry, Randy Morris, Shay Backe
Genre: Horror, Comedy, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: It's the night before the 4th of July holiday in Portland Maine, and Deb Clarington (Maria Thayer) is out with her best friend Ruby (Julie Brister), lamenting the fact that they don't have dates for tomorrow’s celebrations - or tonight's pre-celebrations, for that matter. Just then, Deb spots a handsome chap across the bar who Ruby encourages her in no uncertain terms to go over and try to chat up. She needs a lot of persuasion, but finally agrees, yet when she wanders over in what she hopes is a casual manner and strikes up a conversation he seems distracted, even though he has bought her a drink. He is Ryan Waverly (Michael Cassidy), and he is here with his fiancée Stacy (Syd Wilder). Oh great, thinks Deb...

Well, she is The Terminator of sarcasm, as Ryan ends up calling her later on. But you're thinking wait, this doesn't sound like a horror movie from that opening, it sounds like a romantic comedy, ah, this could be both and indeed it was. Director Kyle Rankin's idea was not so much to attempt to rip off Shaun of the Dead for the umpteenth time, but to bring something fresh to a subgenre that had been repeating itself for some years by then, and that was to make a zombie comedy with a woman in the lead. Maria Thayer secured a rare opportunity to grab centre stage, and as if she was well aware of the chance she was getting she excelled in the role, the best reason necessary to give this a chance.

How the apocalypse starts in this one is thanks to a polluted water supply, although for a change it's not quite Armageddon with undead flesheaters because the authorities do a pretty good job of keeping it under control, assuming you're not one of the unfortunate souls to be trapped in the town already. Deb is, waking up from a night spent in Ryan's apartment with a hangover and not much recollection of what she's been up to, but what she can surmise is that she's not the most welcome presence and Ryan is plotting to ensure this one night stand remains just that. He simply wanted to get back at Stacy, who spurned him the previous evening, and he now regrets this, so manages to get Deb out to her car and away.

But she doesn't get far since she cannot help but notice the preponderance of zombies on the street, so one thing leads to another and it's the odd couple of Deb and Ryan fighting to survive. Normally in such situations, especially in horror comedy, it would be the man with the wisecracks and resourcefulness, but refreshingly in this case Thayer was afforded many genuinely funny lines which she delivered with eccentric aplomb, making it clear she was the star of this show, good as Cassidy was in the second banana role. At first you might not be sure what to make of Deb, much as Ryan is, but stick with her and you would perceive her true value, she's knowledgeable thanks to her job at the local television station and able to think laterally, which is handy for escaping the zombie trouble.

This wasn't a road movie like Zombieland, however, as though Deb wants to get to see her mother who lives outside the danger zone, the pair do get waylaid when she tries to save Ruby (too late, but stick her in the back of the car anyway in case there's a cure forthcoming) and more importantly thanks to a very neatly scripted plot from Andy Selsor, they end up at Ryan's father's house, he being played by the perhaps inevitable Ray Wise. But you hire Ray Wise because he's very good at his job, and he won a decent number of laughs himself as he is the millionaire responsible for the contamination (his son is more an environmental activist in an act of rebellion); not to mention he thinks he has a helicopter ready to take them to safety, that's himself, Deb, Stacy and the other brother Chaz (Chris Marquette). The manner in which this played out might not have broken any new ground other than a winning a minor battle in the gender movie wars, and it did sag a little when the sparky Thayer was sidelined from the focus, but it was such a pleasant surprise in an overstuffed style of horror that you warmed to it easily. Music by Steven Gutheinz.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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