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Jason Widgington [Celluloid 10.18.15] zombies apocalyptic comedy

The zombie romantic comedy is a difficult film to get right. It all depends on the tone of the script and the direction taken by the filmmaker in bringing it to the screen. Films in this very specific sub-genre either focus primarily on one of the elements – love (Warm Bodies), laughs (A Little Bit Zombie), or blood and guts (Braindead, aka Dead Alive) – or strike a fine balance between all three (Shaun of the Dead, Deathgasm), all to varying degrees of success. In Night of the Living Deb, director Kyle Rankin (Infestation) seems to be trying for the latter, but does he succeed?

Maria Thayer (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) plays Deb Clarington, a goofy, Longfellow-quoting camera operator for a local news channel in Portland, Maine who, after a girls night out, wakes up in the apartment of the town's most attractive man, Ryan Waverly (Michael Cassidy). Quickly realizing that they don't have much in common, the proverbial walk of shame ensues but is cut short when the pair discovers there's been a zombie apocalypse overnight and they must work together to get Ryan to his family and Deb to Virginia, where her mother is. It's a simple plot, really, but it's all that's needed to set up the gore gags and comedic bits, all while displaying the growing affection between Deb and Ryan as they bond while killing zombies.

While there is some carnage in Night of the Living Deb for gorehounds, it's mainly played for laughs. As a matter of fact, the focus is squarely on making the audience laugh, particularly through the considerable comedic chemistry between Thayer and Michael Cassidy (TV's Men At Work). As Ryan, Cassidy displays a Paul Rudd-like charm in playing the humorous straight man to the lovably annoying goofball, Deb. The timing and chemistry between Cassidy and Thayer are such that the duo can almost be considered an Abbott and Costello for the modern age, equally delivering witty wordplay and physical comedy. Portraying Ryan's ambiguously evil father, Ray Wise (Twin Peaks) delivers his usual solid performance, as does Chris Marquette (Fanboys) as Ryan's obnoxious brother, Chaz.

Andy Selsor's screenplay offers nothing new, either in the way of zombies or jokes, but Night of the Living Deb still manages to be a fun way to spend close to 90 minutes, largely due to the undeniably charming title character. Maria Thayer owns the role, playing Deb to perfection and forcing the viewer to forgive and even forget the film's lack of originality. When it comes to zombie comedies, that's not such a bad thing, is it?

Recommended Release: Infestation

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