The rom-zom-com (yeah, you guessed it; romantic zombie comedy) is becoming an increasingly fruitful subgenre, with Kyle Rankin’s (director) Maine-set entry the latest in a line that includes such films as Warm Bodies and the classic Shaun of the Dead.
Klutzy Deb’s (Maria Thayer) ‘raging lady boner’ – a line delivered exquisitely by Deb’s Christmas jumper wearing best friend, Ruby, played by the fabulous Julie Brister – for dreamy Ryan (Michael Cassidy) leads to a blurry 3rd of July one-night stand. Flash to Independence Day morning and zombies have overrun the whole town. With just each other for company, the unlikely pair have to team up to go check on Ryan’s family.
It’s a testament to Andy Selsor’s writing and the performances of the two leads that I would have happily watched Deb and Ryan awkwardly process the events of the night before in a straight up quirky rom-com. But, I guess the zombies are a bonus!
It’s this first half hour spent pretty much exclusively in their company that arguably works the best. Their double act is wittily written and sparkily performed. Think a slightly toned-down Kimmy Schmidt (complete with red hair and jelly shoes) trying to make it work with Kevin Smith-era Ben Affleck. I know that sounds bizarre . . . and it is. But, it just works!
As a result, the film does slip up somewhat when we reach Ryan’s family home and our attention is spread across a larger set of characters. However, Rankin and Selsor know they’ve struck gold with their leads and the big finale sets the focus firmly back on Deb and Ryan.
Rankin also deserves credit for turning me onto some new music. Spencer Albee, Happy Fangs and Colin Rankin (the director’s brother?) were all unknown to me going in, but their accompaniment brings the film to life over the opening credits and sends the film out with a deserving crescendo at the finale.
Night of the Living Deb is a blast! The jokes are sharp, the music’s joyous and the two leads are just perfect. It turns out there’s still life in the zombie genre after all.
Night of the Living Deb is out now on UK VOD services via FrightFest Presents.
Screener and images provided by Fetch Publicity. Thank you!