Night of the Living Deb, 2015
Written and directed by Kyle Rankin
Starring Maria Thayer, Ray Wise, Chris Marquette, Michael Cassidy, Syd Wilder, Julie Brister
After a girls’ night out, endearingly awkward Deb wakes up in the apartment of the most attractive guy in Portland, Maine. She’s thrilled, but she can’t remember much of what got her there. Pretty boy Ryan only knows it was a mistake and ushers her out the door… into a full-scale zombie apocalypse. Now, a walk of shame becomes a fight for survival as the mismatched pair discovers that the only thing scarier than trusting someone with your life… is trusting them with your heart.
Night of the Living Deb was always going to be compared to Shaun of the Dead. Not only is it a ‘zom-rom-com’, but it also steals the joke of inserting a regular person’s name into a George A. Romero zombie movie title. It makes you question whether or not writer/director Kyle Rankin thought he was going to get away this gag without people noticing. That Shaun of the Dead came out so long ago that audiences have forgotten it existed? Either way, Night of the Living Deb is not on the same level of quality of Shaun of the Dead. Not by a long shot.
The movie follows the titular Deb, who wakes up one morning after a one night stand with a chap named Ryan, who promptly throws her out of his apartment. They’re not separated for long, however, as they quickly learn that their town has been overtaken by zombies and this seemingly odd couple must now work together in order to survive.
As a character, Deb isn’t the most likeable, though this is not the fault of star Maria Thayer. Rankin was clearly trying to create a New Girl-esque quirky character, but Deb just comes across as an awkward caricature. She suffers from the same fate as Sandra Bullock’s Mary does in All About Steve, where she’s not odd or kooky, she’s just socially unaware. Thayer, bless her heart, tries her best but the script holds her back far too much.
And because Deb isn’t the greatest of characters, her relationship with Ryan never works either. Which sadly means that the driving force of the movie ultimately fails. It’s an issue that the plot of Night of the Living Deb is so simple and telegraphed that it’s hard to get invested in the first place, but her annoying “quirkiness” and his bland character-less shell of a body mean it’s impossible to care about their survival. Thankfully, there’s some good comedic performances from Ray Wise and Chris Marquette to alleviate some of the boredom, but they aren’t there to save every scene.
Like a lot of horror comedies, Night of the Living Deb isn’t scary enough to be a horror and not funny enough to be a comedy and so ends up being neither. It certainly tries to be a comedy more than a horror (there really isn’t any attempt at scares and/or creating tension), but Night of the Living Deb simply isn’t funny. Jokes are attempted, but none of them stick. And it’s infuriating when watching a zombie movie that really has no stakes in terms of character survival. At no point do you ever feel like Deb and Ryan aren’t going to make it out of a situation alive, and so the outcome of each scene really doesn’t matter.
Comparing Night of the Living Deb to Shaun of the Dead is unfair, as each movie should be judged on its own merit. But the simple truth is that Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg laid out the blueprint for a successful zombie comedy and no one has even come close (with the exception of the brilliant Stalled). But Night of the Living Deb isn’t bad because it’s not as good as Shaun of the Dead, it’s bad because it’s boring and totally unfunny with an 85-minute runtime that feels too long. And by giving your movie a title that is a clear rip-off of Shaun of the Dead means you’re bringing those unfair comparisons on yourself.
Also, the movie plays over the course of a couple of days, which renders the joke in the title useless.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth and a contributor on The Flickering Myth Movie Show. You can follow him on Twitter @ThisisLukeOwen.