On Friday, Feb. 3, Drew Barrymore will hit the small screen in Santa Clarita Diet, a new horror-comedy from Netflix. Initially, the show's ads veered toward the ambiguous, featuring Barrymore raving about a new diet that let her "satisfy her cravings and eat whoever [she] wants." If it wasn't clear, she meant people: the trailer is packed with stomach-churning gore, including her character, Sheila Hammond, chowing down on various body parts. But viewers may be wondering what exactly that means. Is Sheila from Santa Clarita Diet a zombie? A cannibal? As Hammond family friend Eric (Skyler Gisondo) says in one clip, "She is dead and also undead," but don't call her a zombie. "I don't like that word. I think it's inherently negative," he explains.
The series follows Sheila and her husband Joel (Timothy Olyphant), two realtors raising their teenage daughter in a sleepy Los Angeles suburb. They lead a pleasant but humdrum life — that is, until Sheila undergoes a "dramatic change" that turns her into a flesh-eating monster. Netflix was initially coy about the plot, but there's no use tip-toeing around it now, because Sheila's transformation is an "abrupt, vomit-filled thing that occurs early in the pilot," according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Sheila doesn't waste any time embracing the change. She gushes about her newfound energy, even if her eating habits now find her drenched in blood, gnawing on severed limbs, and blending organs into macabre smoothies. Her family, too, seems surprisingly on board, offering to help her find deserving victims for her gruesome meal plan. "From now on, we f*ck everything up together," Joel reassures her in the trailer.
It's a fresh addition to the crowded field of zombie fare, which includes brain-munching favorites like The Walking Dead, Ugly Americans, and iZombie. In fact, Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer even helmed the first two episodes. But Santa Clarita Diet doesn't regurgitate tired story lines — it's an original production all its own. The AV Club's Erik Adams calls it "a bright spoof of suburban living," while THR praises its ability to make a "wacky high concept seem effortless."
It's exactly that ingenuity that drew Barrymore to the role in the first place. "What if she finds herself, and we do this sort of Cro-Magnon type of evolution with her over the course of the 10 episodes. No gimmicks, no prosthetics, just an awakening,” she previously told USA Today. "There’s a real optimism to the show ... It’s not heavy, but it’s not lacking in a sort of sweetness, if you will. But it’s also got bite and backbone and balls.”
Just as Sheila isn't exactly a "zombie," Santa Clarita diet isn't exactly a zombie show. Instead, it lands somewhere between supernatural and sitcom. You'll have to queue up your Netflix account this Friday to see how Sheila stacks up against the rest of television's undead.