Season 2 of the Netflix Original Santa Clarita Diet hit the streaming platform last week and I watched it all in one day. It’s a small series, like most of Netflix Originals with 10 episodes each. It’s a horror-comedy Victor Fresco and follows the Hammond family as the lives of Joel (Timothy Olyphant) and Sheila Hammond (Drew Barrymore) turns from suburban Real Estate agents to zombie 101. Taking place in Santa Clarita, California, as Sheila’s taste for human flesh grows, the family works to hide it from nosey neighbors, find a food source, and understand the mythology around why Sheila got that way and if she can get back to normal. Below are a five reasons you should give SCD a shot, without spoilers of course.
When it comes horror-comedies, strong characterizations isn’t really a thing, but in SDC, the characters and the relationships with each other are the most importantly their relationships to each other as a family is the core of the show. Whether it’s father-daughter joking, mother-daughter bonding, or the entire family working as a unit to keep Sheila safe, each character feels related and loved in every scene. It may seem simple, but a horror comedy where there is a kitchen full of blood, dismemberment, and your mom’s eye pops out doesn’t seem like the right environment for a show with family bonding, but it is.
2. Zombie Lore
Zombies are pretty straight forward. Something dies and it comes back from the dead as a stumbling feeding machine or in other cases a raged out feeding machine. With the excpetion of movies like Fido, Warm Bodies, or the Girl with All the Gifts, zombies aren’t really shown as being anything but well, reanimated corpses. The show itself is akin to iZombie in the idea that zombies can walk around like humans, but instead of being a bad mix of energy drink and bad drugs, this zombie “curse” involves Serbia, hundreds of years of mythology and a race to figure out how it started and how if it’s spreading. The lore itself is similar to others but distinctly apart from them, culminating with Mr. Ball-legs in season 2. It’s a fresh look at a genre that has been done to death.
3. Real Relationship Issues
Your wife is now a zombie, what do you do? If you’re Joel Hammond, you love her and try to make sure she has everything that she needs. For a show that takes a lot of things lightly and whose overall genre is zom-rom-com (zombie romantic comedy) the ways in which Joel and Sheila fight are all too familiar for people in long-term relationships and the way they carry each other’s burdens is all too relatable. Ultimately, Sheila and Joel took vows that for them are now going past death. Joel is a husband who will do anything and everything to help his wife stay safe, happy, and alive – well as alive as a zombie can be. Beyond their dynamic, when they do fight they have some great take-aways, take the images above, “I’m sorry, but…” is never an apology.
4. The Pressure of Being a Woman
Where iZombie is about zombies gaining the personalities of the people they eat, SDC is all about Sheila performing a 180-turn and leaving behind the meek mild-mannered woman who does everything she can to satisfy the people around her and dim her intelligence and ambition for the men she works with – including her husband – to a confident woman who is assertive, opinionated, and doing what she needs to. Throughout seasons 1 and 2, Sheila has to actively bring out her old self in interactions with the business men around her just to get by.
When it comes to the comedy, SDC uses a mixture of jokes, sight gags, slap-stick, and dark humor to illicit laughs from the audience. The reason there are so many avenues for a laugh is because each actor has a way of delivering them and their character’s personality fits it well. By using different comedic strategies for each character, the show is able to deliver humor without it feeling out of place. Whether it’s a missing toe, situational lack of awareness, or the simple act of eating a guy in your backyard in the suburbs, the show brings laughs for everyone’s funny bones. I found myself laughing nonstop in some episodes just to have it balanced through the flow of the story. The comedy is in that perfect campy range of Tucker and Dale Vs Evil (2010) and The Babysitter (2017) with the relationships between the characters keeping the comedy and one-liners believable.
If you’re a horror fan, Santa Clarita Diet is for you. If you’re a person fed up with the zombie sub-genre and looking for a new take, it’s for you. This is a show that can pull you in regardless of you alignment to the undead. But be warned, it is gory, gross, and definitely meant to make you do a double take.