Slaughter in suburbia: ‘Santa Clarita Diet’ kills

Slaughter in suburbia: ‘Santa Clarita Diet’ kills

May 3, 2019

Everyday challenges of suburban life—like parenting, keeping up with work and, of course, killing people for food—are struggles Drew Barrymore’s character in “Santa Clarita Diet” faces in every episode. But the show, which centers around a recently zombified mom and her Californian family, is about much more than what part of the human body most tastes like chicken.

Barrymore’s character, Sheila Hammond, is turned into a zombie after eating a batch of bad clams. And if that sounds weird, get ready for the plot of this oddly fascinating comedy.

Sheila Hammond is forced to kill and eat people—but don’t worry, she only kills bad people. Sheila has a strong stomach and given the amount of deaths per episode, so should the audience. From a Nazi baseball team to a friend’s abusive ex-husband, the Hammonds work their way through the less than friendly parts of their neighborhood, all the while trying to maintain some semblance of a normal life.

For Sheila’s husband, Joel, and daughter, Abby, played by Timothy Olyphant and Liv Henson respectively, life with a zombie mom isn’t always easy. It’s their struggle to stay together as a family that makes “Santa Clarita Diet” so much more than just “Modern Family” with zombies.

Sheila, Joel and Abby become increasingly separated throughout the show as the parents try to shield their daughter from the more gruesome and illegal aspects of their family life—like, you know, murder. Though most parents don’t have to hide their crime sprees from their children, the desire to keep your kid safe in a dangerous world is something most parents, and even older siblings, can understand.

The Hammond family is like every other family, minus the homicide. Strangely enough, it’s the serial murders that bring them together and, sometimes, tear them apart. The show demonstrates how we all try to stick by our family, even in the toughest situations—through the strange lens of a zombie-killing spree.

This heartwarming and at times nausea-inducing Netflix original was created by Victor Fresco, who made “Better Off Ted,” a similarly absurdist comedy. “Santa Clarita Diet” mimics this mix of real life with an unreal twist, creating a show that perfectly combines the supernatural with the suburban.

Fresco manages to merge the absurd with the normal in every episode by creating small moments of suburban dialogue randomly interrupted by the new world of zombies. Parenting your daughter is a lot harder when any complaint against her is met with the retort, “Well, at least I don’t murder people.”

And it’s this hilarious merger between these two universes that makes the show not only funny but compelling. The audience isn’t just drawn into who Sheila’s next victim will be. We want to know if Joel, her husband, will be able to accept her new murderous lifestyle, or if Abby will finally be included in the family business (murder, not selling houses).

The show isn’t just some gory comedy, it’s about family. It’s compelling because it’s about standing by the people you care about—even if that means helping your zombie-mom find her next meal.

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