Ever wondered what American Pie would be like, but with zombies? Neither had I, but here we are with raunchy zombie comedy, Eat Brains Love, which had its world premiere at FrightFest 2019 this past weekend, and the results are a mixed bag of guts…
…Making what I would call a long awaited return to horror comedies is director Rodman Flender, whose film Idle Hands is an underrated 90s gem. With Eat Brains Love, Flender is back to deliver yet another raunchy, highly gory and pretty funny laugh fest for the whole zombie-loving family. With a script from Mike Herro and David Strauss (One Tree Hill), the film follows the zombie-scapades of a pair flirtatious teens who have been infected with a sexually transmitted zombie virus, Jake (Jake Cannavale) and Amanda (Angelique Rivera). Hitting the road to find a cure, the pair find themselves in a strange romance, unaware that they are being hunted by a government agency and their prized telekinetic/psychic who happens to have a crush on Jake, Cass (Sarah Yarkin). How’s that for an awkward love triangle?
If you’ve seen Idle Hands, you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect with Jake and the rest of this cast. Jake himself is your typical, burnout loser with a capital L who tokes up the second he wakes up, and is dumb enough to think that rubbing Listerine on his junk prevents STD’s. Despite that, he’s an okay guy, and Cannavale brings a lot of charm to the character. Partnered with him in this odd adventure is Amanda, who is your pretty basic girl next door that Jake has had a crush on for years, a girl who suddenly starts to fall in love with Jake for no apparent reason (more on that later). But these two, like Cass and the others, no matter how well or not well-written their characters are, have a ton of endearing qualities brought forth by the cast that make these people fun to watch, no matter how much you may question them and their motivations.
And oh yeah, are there questions to be had with these people. Eat Brains Love has a great cast, but the script really makes it difficult to want to cheer for them. For one, both Jake and Amanda become zombies in what is one of the funniest and simultaneously shockingly gory scenes I’ve seen this year, one in which they eat a good fraction of the kids in their school, including their friends. But, they don’t really seem to care. Each is more worried about hooking up with the other. This is that tough line in a horror comedy which Eat Brains Love frequently trips over. It’s no envious task to balance laughs and scares, but the key ingredient which similar zombie comedies like Shaun of the Dead have is that occasionally, our heroes act like real people and take the situation seriously, no matter how unbelievable. Not the case here. Which is fine if you’re just looking for a few laughs, but don’t zombie-shuffle over to Eat Brains Love if you’re looking for anything containing genuine human emotion.
That being said, Eat Brains Love does have a lot going for it. For one, this has to be one of if not the most original takes on zombies in the last decade or so. Not only is the zombie virus transmitted through sex and not bites, but the virus itself is treated more like a werewolf gene, in which Jake, Amanda, and others only become zombies when triggered, either through hunger, lust, rage, whatever, otherwise appearing human, albeit with a few odd cravings. I can’t recall anything like the concept in the flesh-walking sub-genre. As Jake puts it, it’s the “herpes of the undead”, flaring up once in a while and otherwise going unnoticed. While this begs some logic questions on how the NCD (Necrotic Control Division) has kept this contained, it’s a highly original concept that allows Jake and Amanda to have a few cute moments and occasionally question right, wrong, and their own existence.
There’s a whole of wrong in this movie, and I mean that in the best way. Eat Brains Love cooks up the kind of crude, gory comedy you’ll want to devour. Flender does not hold back in the slightest when it comes to pouring on the red stuff, to the point where even seasoned horror vets are going to cringe, especially men, who won’t be able to help crossing their legs during one specific zombie feasting involving a naked rapist (oh yeah, Jake and Amanda decide to only eat bad people at a certain point). The bloodshed in Eat Brains Love is extreme, with enough flesh munching and intestine ripping to make George Romero proud. I don’t say this lightly, but those with weaker stomachs will want to bring a barf bag. Blood is shed by the gallon in this film, and thanks to Eat Brains Love, I now know what a premature blood-ejaculation looks like.
At its undead core, Eat Brains Love is the nasty version of Warm Bodies. Flender’s film is a twisted, undead romance that never fails to be as gross as possible. Amanda biting the head off of a rat and then using it like a mic to sing to Jake while blood dribbles from her mouth may be highly disturbing, but the two are so cute together, it works. What doesn’t work is the Cass side story with her preventing her bosses from finding the flesh-eating couple because she has a crush on Jake, which, as much as I love Yarkin, feels totally unnecessary. Mostly because there’s no good reason for why Cass finds herself having a crush on Jake in the first place other than he was “nice to her”, and all the storyline is ever really used for is to show Amanda and Cass being jealous of each other, instead of questioning why either of them is so attracted to Jake. The whole subplot comes off like more of a misguided male fantasy. I frequently wanted to be able to pull Cass and Amanda aside and say “girl, you can do better”. And if you’re hoping for an ending that resolves this or really any of the other issues these characters face, well, don’t hold your breath.
Despite all of its flaws, Eat Brains Love is a twisted romantic comedy that is wildly entertaining, and is going to satisfy anyone who loved the concept of Warm Bloodies, but wanted something a little more hardcore. If that was you, then this is a tasty treat you won’t want to miss out on.
By Matt Konopka