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I am beyond stoked to be championing Kyle Rankin’s tragically under-seen rom-zom-com Night of the Living Deb. This comical effort is filled to the brim with zany humor and features a titular character that is nearly impossible not to fall in love with.
Night of the Living Deb follows newsroom camera operator Deb Clarington (Maria Thayer) as she wakes up the morning after a casual hook-up to discover Portland, Maine has been overrun by zombies. Joined by Ryan (Michael Cassidy), her gentleman caller from the night before, the pair attempt to get the hell out of town and make their way to safety before they become infected.
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This flick is a breezy watch, clocking in at under 90 minutes. It’s lighthearted fun. Not to mention, it’s one of a very small handful of quality horror pictures set against an Independence Day backdrop. Better yet, it’s not so seasonally focused that it can’t be enjoyed year-round.
Night of the Living Deb succeeds, in large part, thanks to fantastic characters scripted by Andy Selsor. Deb is dynamic and endearing. She always says the wrong thing. She’s awkward. She’s overly enthusiastic. She’s very much a bull in a china shop. But as you get to know her, you also come to realize that she’s genuine and has a heart of gold. It’s quite clear that she would do absolutely anything for anyone. And that realization makes her impossible not to warm to. By the second act, I was in her corner and cheering for her.
In addition to being undeniably likable, Deb is also quite capable when it comes to navigating chaos. She jumps into action and thinks on her feet. She’s quick-witted and adaptable.
Michael Cassidy is also great in his turn as Ryan, Deb’s love interest. He’s her polar opposite, the Yin to her Yang. He serves to offset her awkward energy by being a bit more stoic. It’s quite charming to watch as he goes from being somewhat repelled by her to appreciating her quirky charm to ultimately realizing he might just have romantic feelings for Deb.
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The legendary Ray Wise features in a scene-stealing supporting turn as Ryan’s super-rich, super-uptight, super-conservative father, Frank. He’s the antithesis of everything Ryan stands for. And Wise seems to be having a great time chewing up the scenery while clutching his guns and doing his best to ensure his carbon footprint is as large as is humanly possible.
The film also serves up some memorable tertiary characters. Christopher Rodriguez Marquette is smartly cast as Ryan’s bumbling brother Chaz. And Syd Wilder is pitch-perfect as Ryan’s vapid ex, Stacy. The sequence where Stacy loudly simulates sex with Ryan’s entire family in earshot is as funny as it is awkward. Not to mention Brian Sacca is unforgettable in his turn as the overzealous employee of a paramilitary organization tasked with keeping the residents of Portland contained within city limits. He has great comedic timing and rivals Deb for the title of the most awkward character in the film.
I should probably warn prospective viewers that Night of the Living Deb is funnier than it is scary. But It’s a romantic zombie comedy so that’s by design. The jokes are smartly written and the chemistry between the leads is charming. This flick is absolutely everything you could want from a rom-zom-com.
Though I said the film is a little light on proper scares, it’s still absolutely rife with tension. Deb and Ryan are under constant attack from the undead. Accordingly, the comedy works well to provide a sense of levity and the level of intensity serves to keep the audience engaged.
All in, Night of the Living Deb is a riotous zombie comedy with top-notch characters. This flick will keep you chuckling from start to finish. If you’re keen to check it out for yourself, you are in luck. Night of the Living Deb is streaming for free (with ads) on Tubi, Plex, Vudu, FreeVee, and The Roku Channel as of the publication of this post!
That’s all for this installment of The Overlooked Motel. If you want to chat more about under-seen and underrated films, feel free to hit me up with your thoughts on Twitter @FunWithHorror!