31 Days of Halloween — Day 23: Night of the Living Deb (2015) — by Dr. Shock

Night of the Living Deb 2015

Editor’s note: Dave “Dr. Shock” Becker is a host on Horror Movie Podcast and the Land of the Creeps horror podcast. He is also the mastermind behind DVDInfatuation.com, a movie review blog where he is watching and posting one review every day until he reaches at least 2,500 movie reviews. Follow Doc on Twitter: @DVDinfatuation.

I was a big fan of director Kyle Rankin’s “Infestation,” a horror / comedy / apocalyptic film from 2009 in which mankind’s existence was threatened by an invasion of giant bugs. So when I saw that Mr. Rankin was also responsible for 2015’s “Night of the Living Deb,” my hopes were high. But while “Infestation” drew me in almost immediately with its humor and special effects, it took a while for me to warm up to the director’s latest offering, and its title character was the reason why.

Take, for instance, the opening few scenes. While relaxing in a bar with her good friend Ruby (Julie Brister), Deb Clarington (Maria Thayer), who works for a local news station in Portland, Maine, spots a cute guy across the room and, cheered on by Ruby, gathers up the courage to talk to him. The guy is Ryan Waverly (Michael Cassidy), who’s in the midst of having a fight with his fiancée Stacy (Syd Wilder).

Jump ahead to the next morning, when a confused Deb wakes up, all alone, in Ryan’s bed! Ryan is actually in the next room, chatting with his brother on the phone and trying to figure out a way to get Deb to leave as quickly as possible. Deb overhears this, but pretends she’s been asleep until Ryan finally walks in. At this point, Deb, with a big smile on her face, talks of spending the day (which is July 4th, a holiday) with Ryan and his family, acting as if they’re already a couple. At first I thought she was having some fun at Ryan’s expense, but the problem is she doesn’t let up, and a few minutes later what might have been funny is … well, kinda creepy. Seriously, I had no idea what to make of this film’s quirky lead character.

I wasn’t crazy about Deb at the outset, but I have to admit I warmed up to her as the movie progressed, and by the time the final credits rolled, I absolutely loved her.

Shortly after parting ways, Deb and Ryan have a few frightening encounters on the streets of Portland, and before long realize that, at some point during the night, a quick-moving disease transformed most of the town’s citizens into bloodthirsty zombies. Luckily, the two are able to make their way back to Ryan’s apartment, where they formulate a plan to collect their loved ones and head for safety. Hopping into Deb’s car, they first stop to check in on Ruby (who has already “turned”), then rush over to pick up Ryan’s gun-loving brother Chaz (Chris Marquette) as well as his father (Ray Wise), a self-made millionaire who controls the entire town’s water supply. Ryan is also relieved to learn that Stacy spent the night with his family, and wants to make up with him.

As it turns out, Ryan’s dad is the one responsible for the zombie outbreak (an experimental chemical was accidentally released into the town’s drinking water). Still, despite his role in this disaster, Ryan’s dad has enough pull with the Governor to order a helicopter that will lift them all to safety. But, unbeknownst to Ryan, dear old dad has no intention of bringing Deb along. Will Ryan risk his neck for a girl he barely knows, or will he save himself instead?

One of the strengths of “Night of the Living Deb” is its cast. Marquette and Wise (both of whom also had major roles in “Infestation”) play Ryan’s corrupt dad and gun-crazy brother, and have their share of entertaining scenes (Marquette is especially hilarious as the imbecile you can’t help but like). In addition, Syd Wilder is both sultry and aggravating as Ryan’s overbearing fiancée Stacy, taking what is basically a one-note character and breathing as much life into her as possible.

But “Night of the Living Deb” is all about Deb and Ryan, and how a zombie outbreak brought them closer together. Both Thayer and Cassidy do a fine job as the mismatched couple (she is spontaneous and unpredictable but lacks self-confidence; he is an ecology nut who turned his back on his family’s fortune, yet doesn’t have the strength to stand up to his father or brother when the chips are down). Yes, there have been hundreds, if not thousands, of movies in which a man and a woman, from different sides of the tracks, fall desperately in love. But how many were set during a zombie apocalypse?

Ultimately, “Night of the Living Deb” doesn’t quite work as a horror movie; aside from a few close calls with the undead early on, there’s not much here to get your pulse pounding. As for the comedy, it’s slightly more effective, due mostly to the film’s witty dialogue (while looking through Ryan’s fridge for some snacks to take on their journey, Deb instead finds nothing but health food. “Coconut milk?” she says sarcastically, “Are we in Portland or on Gilligan’s Island?”). I also liked how the film played fast and loose with the accepted rules of a zombie apocalypse (from what started the outbreak to the manner in which its spread), which is sure to give zombie aficionados a few chuckles. But it’s not the kind of movie that will consistently crack you up. What sets “Night of the Living Deb” apart from all the others is the love affair that develops between its two leads, and while that’s not exactly what genre fans want to hear, I think the film’s charms may just win them over in the end.

At least that’s how it was with me.

— Dr. Shock

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Dr. Shock also appears on this horror podcast: Land of the Creeps

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4 thoughts on “31 Days of Halloween — Day 23: Night of the Living Deb (2015) — by Dr. Shock


    Day 23 – Dr. Giggles (1992)

    As someone without any prior knowledge of Dr. Giggles, I expected a cheesy little slasher with some charm thanks to it’s fun value. Basically, I figured it would be a doctor version of The Dentist. Instead, it’s mostly just a snoozefest that never managed to capture my interest. My biggest disappointment is likely tied around the fact that none of the death scenes were impressive. On one hand, Dr. Giggles features a wide variety of kill methods, although every death is tied around Dr. Rendell having access to the heart of his victim. The problem I had is that there was never much blood in any of the kills. With fake blood being a fairly cheap thing to make, I’d assume that a small budget movie like this would be loaded in blood to up the fun factor. That’s not the case and it keeps the death scenes from being a positive in the movie.

    While a bit over the top in nature to the point where I couldn’t believe he was real, unlike a character like Dr. Alan Feinstone, the highlight of Dr. Giggles was Larry Drake as Dr. Rendell. For a man that wasn’t physically scary, despite his size, Drake brought some fun to the character and I appreciated it since fun wasn’t an easy thing to find in this film. If you’ve never watched Dr. Giggles, I can assure you that Rendell lives up to the title of the film by giggling quite a bit. It’s very odd and a little uncomfortable seeing such a large man giggle as if he’s a little girl. Rendell was also responsible for the one truly memorable scene of the film. Throughout the first half of the movie, there was a never answered question that had haunted the town of Moorehigh for decades – how did Rendell Sr. help his son escape the house when the authorities finally caught Rendell Sr. for all of this evil doings? I’d rather not spoil that reveal, but it’s easily one of the craziest scenes I’ve seen in a horror movie all year long. With both blood and shadows on the wall being used, it made for a highly memorable visual.

    Character wise, I couldn’t care about anyone. The final girl, Jennifer Campbell (Played by a pre-Charmed Holly Marie Combs) has some decent sympathy for her with her mother recently dying, her dad now dating an unlikable woman, dealing with health problems revolving around her heart, and walking in on her boyfriend making out with one of her friends, but Jennifer disappears for large portions at a time, to the point where I keep forgetting that she’s supposed to be a main character. The rest of the characters are mere cannon fodder, and uninteresting fodder at that. With uninteresting characters and death scenes that failed to live up to their potential, I was left bored and checking the time frequently in the second half.

    Overall, I went into Dr. Giggles expecting some dumb fun and while I did get one of those things, the fun never truly came. The kills left a lot to be desired, the characters were instantly forgettable, and the film dragged on despite being ninety-five minutes. Larry Drake as Dr. Rendell was the sole decent thing about the movie. Truthfully, I wouldn’t be against the idea of seeing a Dr. Giggles remake with the basic idea of a deranged doctor killing off a bunch of people in order to get their hearts. I wouldn’t even mind if a remake would have the same amount of comedy that this film had. Chances are, the only way you can be entertained by this film is if you watch it with some buddies to laugh at the stupid things happening in the film. Although the film has one killer scene, there’s far better wacky horror comedies to watch instead.

    Rating: 3.5/10

  2. Day 23: 13 Cameras (2016)

    Rating: 7/10 (stream it)

    — — — — — Contains spoilers — — — — —

    What I liked:
    – The film is an interesting twist on the home invasion sub-genre.
    – The landlord is crazy creepy and perfect as a horror movie figure; I could smell him through the screen.
    – Just. Incredibly. Creepy.
    – The film often puts the viewer in the position of the voyeuristic landlord.

    What I didn’t like:
    – None of the characters are particularly likable.
    – The voyeuristic nature of the film made me feel a little scummy.

    • ***********SPOILERS FOR 13 Cameras***********

      One other thing I liked that I forgot to mention there^ is that I liked the twist about midway through the film where the landlord attacked and trapped Hannah in the basement of the house. That added a certain “ticking time bomb” element to the movie.

  3. Day 23: The Loved Ones (2009)
    Rating: 8/10

    A girl gets revenge (torture) on a guy who doesn’t go to the prom with her. Then it gets even better! The script is nicely woven together. Another great film from Australia.

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