By: Addison Wylie
Let’s not beat around the bush: the most comparable film you can mention when talking about Kyle Rankin’s Night of the Living Deb is Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead. Both Shaun and Deb are underdogs dealing with a zombie outbreak on the fly while trying to figure out their own issues with romance.
The strongest thing you can say about Rankin’s horror/comedy is that while Night of the Living Deb is as clever and charming as Shaun of the Dead, the film finds ways to set itself apart from Wright’s – or any other – quirky, spooky flick.
Most of the praise falls on Maria Thayer’s performance as happy-go-lucky Deb Clarington. She’s akin to an awkward sprite, catches herself rambling, and quotes Henry Wadsworth Longfellow because…why not? After side contributions to films like Accepted and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, a thankful Thayer conquers the lead role and makes us believe that this amusing person has been long-existing before this story began. Thayer’s Deb plays along the same tune as Molly Shannon’s Mary Katherine Gallagher or Martin Short’s Ed Grimley, but bold optimism has Deb take on a new brand of absurdity.
Maria Thayer’s performance also brings out the best in the supporting cast. Julie Brister plays a scene-stealing BFF who is thankfully spared shallow material, Chris Marquette continues to prove he’s the go-to guy for filmmakers who need to cast an obnoxious sibling, and Michael Cassidy – who plays Ryan, a straight man to Deb’s innocence – can play the voice of reason and also seem crazier than Thayer with his character’s steadfast eco-friendly behaviour. The bickering between Ryan and Deb further escalate the laughs in this “first date from hell”.
It’s a let down to watch this unique zom-rom-com resort to a generic final act. Andy Selsor’s spunky screenplay sells itself short by abandoning the film’s weird sense of humour to dish out unsurprising survival scenarios and a halfhearted attempt to satirize social media. Up until then, Night of the Living Deb is a blast.
Night of the Living Deb screens at Toronto After Dark on:
Saturday, October 17 at 7:00 p.m. @ Scotiabank Theatre
For more information on the festival, visit the official TAD webpage here.
Buy tickets here.
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