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Night of the Living Deb (2015)

Dark Sky Films
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/6/2016

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/14/2016

If you've seen one or more movies, then you know that making a good movie is apparently a challenge. And if you watch a lot of movies, like I have, then you realize that the majority aren't very good. Things get even tougher when one endeavors to tackle a specific genre. Make no mistake -- some categories of films are more complicated to master than others. A great example of this is the horror-comedy. Making people laugh and making them scream would seemingly go hand-in-hand, as these are the most extreme reactions to movies. However, if you go too far in either direction, the film can quickly become off-balance. Let's see how Night of the Living Deb fares in this category.

Deb (Maria Thayer) and her best friend Ruby (Julie Brister) are at the bar for a pre-July 4th night of partying. Deb spots Ryan (Michael Cassidy) across the room and decides to make a move on him. Unfortunately, she runs into Ryan's girlfriend, Stacy (Syd Wilder), just as the two are arguing. Ryan ditches Stacy and decides to hang out with Deb. The action then shifts to the next morning, as Deb awakens, realizing that she's had a one-night stand with Ryan. Ryan, on the other hand, has been awake, ready to ask Deb to leave, as he clearly regrets what happened. They go their separate ways in a very awkward moment. And then they both realize that something odd has happened to their town, as the streets are deserted, save for the occasional flesh-eating ghoul. Deb retrieves Ryan, and they head for his father's house, hoping to find safety there. This is only the beginning of Deb's adventure, as she learns about secrets in Ryan's family and that she must muster the courage to survive.

From the outside looking in, I'm sure that reviewing movies seems easy -- Hey! We all do it in our daily lives anyway, right? Reviewing truly awful movies is a breeze, as I simply list the bad qualities. Critiquing a truly great movie can be a challenge, as it can be difficult to put into words what makes a film move you. And then we have movies like Night of the Living Deb. This movie is so painfully mediocre that it's hard to find the exact words to describe how it comes close to doing things right, but never quite gets there.

Let's start by giving credit where credit is due. Night of the Living Deb is a clever title. And it makes one think that this is going to be a horror comedy. But, in actuality, the movie steers much more into comedy territory. Yes, there are zombies and there are a few moments of mild gore, but the movie doesn't ever make any true attempts to be creepy or suspenseful. Instead it focuses on the awkward situation into which Deb and Ryan are thrown and how their meet-cute becomes a nightmare. So, the movie is almost like a rom-com, but with zombies. (Rom-Zom-Com?)

The problem is, Night of the Living Deb is not especially funny. I may have chuckled a few times, but overall, the comedy here is very pedestrian and often falls flat. The humor never comes from a clever place and the jokes are either too broad or simply dumb. This issue is further compounded by Thayer's performance as Deb. We learn from the extra features that the goal was to make her unique, but the result is someone who is simply annoying. Deb is supposed to be a free-spirit, but it feels as if Thayer is in an improv class at times, as she spouts one-liners and jokes that feel out-of-place and aren't funny. And given some of the on-set footage of Thayer, this behavior seems to come directly from her and not the script. (My wife gave up on this movie almost immediately based on her reaction to Deb.)

Night of the Living Deb comes from Director Kyle Rankin, who has had an odd career. After winning the opportunity to direct a feature for the second season of Project Greenlight, Rankin then went on to direct of indies like Infestation. This latest project shows that he still has difficulty finding an even tone for his films. Night of the Living Deb has the qualities to be an OK movie, but it never excels at any of them. It's not very funny or exciting, although there are usually things happening in each scene. (The movie does have an interesting take on zombie contagion.) The real issue here is that this want to be Shaun of the Dead with a female lead. But, it's not in that film's league, as Rankin and Writer Andy Selsor clearly mean well, but they don't have enough devotion to the drama. This movie may be worth a rental, but like Ryan's approach to Deb, you'll want to forget about it the next day.

Night of the Living Deb never addresses gas mileage in older American cars on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Dark Sky Films. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors are especially good here (Rankin makes nice use of daytime photography) and the image is never overly dark or bright. The image shows a nice amount of depth and the picture is rarely soft. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track delivers some nice surround sound and stereo effects during the action scenes. It's not to the level of big-budget action films, but it certainly adds some presence. There are a few subwoofer effects during these scenes as well.

The Night of the Living Deb Blu-ray Disc contains a few extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Writer/Director Kyle Rankin, Actor/Producer Michael Cassidy, Maria Thayer, Writer Andy Nelson, and Editro Tony Copulillo. "Behind The Scenes" (30 minutes) is a making-of featurette which contains interviews with the creative team and the cast. We hear how the project came about and a description of the characters. From there, we get a look at the production, complete with a wealth of on-set footage. The extras are rounded out by a 10-minute reel of BLOOPERS and a TRAILER.

Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long