Santa Clarita Diet is a zany AF comedy-horror Netflix original concoction infusing dry humour, gruesome horror, slapstick comedy, and gross-out antics. Some of you out there might get a genuine thrill from such a series, but the first and foremost thought of yours truly after viewing was, “What the fuck did I just watch?”
SCD follows Sheila (Drew Barrymore) and Joel (Timothy Olyphant) a married 40-something real estate team living in a suburb just north of L.A. Sheila’s pretty tame and pragmatic, with very vanilla tastes in the bedroom, and bland pauses wherein she considers her level of bravery. Joel’s a pot smoking professional who externalizes his life’s frustrations on a toaster oven. They also have a daughter Abby (Liv Hewson) who is apparently a teenager but is so self-sufficient she might as well be their forty-year-old tenant.
Life takes a drastic turn for the family when Sheila vomits — a lot — and then starts wanting to eat people. She also doesn’t have a heartbeat. In addition to her insatiable appetite for flesh, she is pure id (a la Dr. Freud): buying an SUV on a whim, getting her pussy eaten by her hubby, and dancing with her friends.
So… she’s not your typical zombie.
And this isn’t your typical zombie show, if that is what you would call it. I admit, upon watching the the trailers for the series I was under the impression Santa Clarita was more in the cannibalistic vein, and the obvious parallels to the South Beach Diet set up my expectations that this would be a comedic and nuanced satirical look at beauty obsessed culture. That is not what this show is, but hey, you can’t always get what you want.
Joel and Abbey just want to have a wife/mom who doesn’t eat human flesh, but they can’t get what they want either. But they love their mommy dearest, so they apply that West Coast perkiness and cheer to the task of finding bodies for her to munch on. If you love being grossed out by bloody viscera this is where the show will tickle your fancy. There also seems to be absolutely no moral, legal, or ethical implications to the show other than wide-eyed “WHAAAAAA’s?” from folks from time to time, and that’s where the show falls flat for me.
Without real tension and conflict the show then pivots its focus to the wacky pseudo-realism which centres around the acquisition of dead bodies as the main goal. This formula is ripe with potential; however, the pacing, tone, and narrative of the show all collide in an incongruous mess. Barrymore tries her hardest to use her trademark quirky/cute card to create the levity the show demands, and sometimes her jokes land, but without anchoring in a substantial plot, she gives off the impression she’s just drifting from scene to scene.
For a show mostly about flesh the story is missing, well, meat. The gags (and gagging) are the central crux of the show with the gruesome, gross, and garish as the highlighted elements of the series. So, hey, if you want to watch people getting eaten and laugh, perhaps Santa Clarita Diet is to your taste. But for me, I will pass on any second helpings.