Thursday, 14 June 2018

Night of the Living Deb

Debbie Does Zombies

Night of the Living Deb
USA 2015 Directed by  Kyle Rankin
Icon/FrightFest Presents... DVD Region 2

I may have mentioned it a few times on here that I don’t usually respond that well to comedy shenanigans unless it’s written by Woody Allen or stars The Marx Brothers but, every now and then a movie comes out which will tickle my funny bone in just the right way (not the way that leaves the whole arm paralysed and makes you grimace in pain while you wait for circulation to return). Night Of The Living Deb is just such a movie and it really breathes new life (and death) into the not that old ZomRomCom sub-genre of flesh eating zombie movies.

The movie stars this little whirlwind of an actress called Maria Thayer as the title character, Deb Carrington, beginning with her being egged on to talk to the “50 shades of heeey” guy at the bar they are having their 4th of July eve celebrations in. The guy's name is Michael Cassidy and, playing Ryan Waverly, he makes an excellent foil for Deb’s amazing one liners. The chemistry between them is wonderful as they suddenly, on their ‘morning after’, find themselves in the middle of a zombie apocalypse with Ryan, at first, not all that enthused about what might have happened the night before they woke up in bed together.

However, this particular ‘day after’ is an onslaught of zombie carnage as the two try to pick up friends and relatives to save from destruction, including famous genre actor Ray Wise as Ryan’s dad, the head of the water company responsible for accidentally turning the majority of the town’s population into flesh devouring monsters. On the way through this trip of a movie, various genre tropes are discussed, movies quoted and there are so many funny gags coming at you all over the place that for a moment there I actually did have a Groucho flashback because Thayer’s delivery is that good as the love struck, over enthusiastic survivor with a heart of gold. Indeed, although the film isn’t a 1930s screwball, romantic comedy in name, it certainly does have a lot of moments that viewers might notice as Deb’s character is as persistent and unflappable in the pursuit of Mr. Waverly as Katherine Hepburn was with Cary Grant in some of those classic movies like Bringing Up Baby so, you know, you can probably tell I thought a lot of this movie on first viewing.

The film is full of the necessary ‘zombie splatter’ scenes with many classic moments from the history of zombie cinema being referenced here but there’s also some nice commentary on the genre too. For instance, there's a nice little scene when Deb slows them down to a halt as a zombie slowly shuffles towards them and she makes a comment about not worrying too much because these are obviously the old style, classic zombies which shuffle about like they’ve got cerebral palsy. Only to be told by Ryan that the zombie in question is someone he knows and he really does have CP... and then the fast running zombies suddenly appear to continue the pursuit.

In regards to this kind of zombie tribute, there’s also the much hackneyed scene where the characters identify that they have two shots in their revolver and so Deb says they can ‘tap out’ if it comes to it. Quite besides the fact that Ryan stresses his displeasure at the idea of being shot in the head if he’s about to become a zombie, he points out that when Deb is making the ‘tapping out’ motions, the order she does it in has her killing herself before shooting him... which really isn’t going to happen. And it’s great little moments like this that really liven up what could have been a not so good film and turn it into a truly fun and entertainingly great one.

There are also some great gags in the details too and I particularly loved the comment on the mentality of the people of Maine (which looks like it kinda matches my own in this regard) when the camera pans past some graffiti on a wall which says, “Your all going to die” but with the correction added where someone has crossed out the word ‘your’ and replaced it with the grammatically correct “you’re”. I love stuff like this and this movie could probably have gone on for another hour before I got bored with it. I also especially liked the throw away stuff near the end about the sanity of the way in which ‘zombie begets zombie’ (which is how I say this without putting spoilers in to give the game away) is something which defies logic in the wide variety of zombie movies. It’s a nice little moment and it gives rise to hope at the climax of the movie.

The film is not all that predictable... well, okay, it kind of is in terms of where the story might be heading but it takes the least predictable route there, for the most part. It also isn’t without its problems... well... only one problem that I could detect actually (apart from not having a sequel made). When a broadcast is made from a TV station towards the end (presumably, at least partially, in homage to Romero’s original version of Dawn Of The Dead), the consequences of that broadcast are shown and they are the kinds of things which would take a day or two to be happening in the world outside the small town which this feature uses as its setting. However, we then cut back to the main action and it could only have been 5 minutes or so, at best, in terms of the chronology of the narrative so... yeah. I suspect the director realised that though but just relied on the great God of artistic licence to make the scene work which is... well, I’m a little pernickety about such things but this is such a joy to watch that I can forgive it that little slip up easily.

And that’s really all I can say about this one. Night Of The Living Deb is absolute gem of a movie and, like Alan Jones says in the introduction to this ‘FrightFest presents...’ DVD... they get everything right. The DVD also has a ‘Making of featurette’, which I didn’t watch... and a Blooper Reel which, contrary to the majority of blooper reels I’ve seen, is actually quite funny, for the most part and doesn’t outstay its welcome. If you are a fan of either zombie movies or comedy/horror films then you could do a hell of a lot worse than to watch this truly genius little film. All I can say is, please, can we have Dawn Of The Deb now?

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