Gentlemen, ask yourselves one question. What would you do if one day your beautiful wife started throwing up 100 stomachs worth of vomit, no longer had a heartbeat and started bleeding a weird black gunge? Well, a new series on Netflix happily and gorily deals with that scenario.
Santa Clarita Diet is a black comedy that centres around a ‘happy’ suburban real estate couple, Joel (Timothy Olyphant) and Sheila (Drew Barrymore) Hammond. Together, they have a teenage daughter, Abby and the main focus of the show is this tight family unit coping with the fact that all of a sudden, Sheila has become one of the living dead. In the sentence before last, I put ‘happy’ in inverted commas because it’s that special brand of suburban happy where appearances are everything. If a family is particularly good looking, they have a big house and an expensive car then they are living the high life and must
be happy. However with these characters, it’s not quite that simple. Whilst Sheila wishes that she was more spontaneous and impulsive in her general personality, Joel has taken to smoking weed in private in some kind of misguided attempt to feel normal. Whilst they think their lives are boring and predictable, things are about to get a lot more interesting.
As soon as the virus takes hold, after the whole vomiting thing is out of the way, things seem improved or at least from Sheila’s point of view. Joel thinks it’s weird that she’s eating nothing but raw meat whilst Sheila has taken much more of an interest in sex with her husband and by sex, I mean not just straight up humping. Whilst this all sounds good, things very soon get out of control when Sheila goes off raw meat and craves something a bit fresher. This is where things get gross.
If I were to recommend this show to anyone, the first thing I would ask is ‘Do you have a strong stomach?’. I would just like to point out that it takes a lot to make me gag. I can watch the lawnmower scene from ‘Braindead’ and eat a lasagna at the same time but there is something about watching someone place a load of body parts (including an ear) into a blender, whisk it up and drink it down. That is more than enough for me. Of course being on Netflix and not on television, they’re not subject to any visual guidelines so they can show what they want even if that does involve watching a man getting his fingers bitten off. I haven’t got a problem with the gore but I do have some issues with the overall appearance.
This is one of those ‘modern’ comedies where the characters don’t talk to each other in the normal way. The humour is derived from the things they say and no one seems particularly concerned about how it is delivered. It’s as if the actors are trying too hard to be funny. A notable example is Sheila’s friend and next door neighbour who derives endless amusement from embarrassing her son by telling Abby that she is part of his ‘spank-bank’. It does feel very unrealistic but it’s an unrealistic scenario.
As Sheila’s hunger for flesh grows, the family is placed in a difficult situation when she kills and eats someone. She then enlists the help of at first Joel and then her daughter and neighbour’s son to help get rid of the remains. It is at that point that they both decide that they need to kill people for Sheila to eat. The idea then grows further so they only kill ‘bad’ people although ironically, most of the people that actually end up dead by their hands weren’t technically ‘bad’ in the breaking the law sense. As all of this murdering is going on, the family are unfortunate enough to live between two cops who do have this amusing rivalry going. I’m sorry, I just think it’s funny to watch two law enforcement officers shout obscenities at each other as they water their front gardens.
It’s a wonder why Joel and Sheila have been together since they were in high school as they never seem to have any arguments. You might think that was a good thing but how can you know if you and your partner can survive if you never have any arguments. They can only manage mild disagreements. In fact, the way this family acts altogether is very weird, flesh eating withstanding. The way that Abby deals with her mother’s living death by skipping school, play around with tear gas and plant a flash bang in the rose garden of her friend’s asshole stepdad. Even after Joel goes so far as to commit murder, he spends the rest of the episode being hugely ‘appreciative’ of everything around him.
I was looking forward to the ending of this series and that is not as sarcastic as it reads. I won’t spoil anything but I will say that the whole series is Joel’s quest to find a cure for his wife’s condition. For a moment, there is hope… for a moment. If you want to find out, watch it on Netflix.
In summary, for all it’s modern annoyances I think that the show is quite unique and certainly is what it says it is. I enjoyed it and I do think it does deserve another series if only to answer the several questions that still remain. Questions like, where did the virus come from? How has the virus been around for several centuries and there has only been a limited number of cases? But I think the most important question is, How did Sheila get infected? which is a bit of a vital plot point.
It’s only a short series of 10 episodes, each with a run time of 30 minutes so I would say, give it a go. If you like gore and Timothy Olyphant (which I know I do) then it’s a good little diversion which is all you can ask for.