27th Aug2019

Frightfest 2019: ‘Eat Brains Love’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Jake Cannavale, Angelique Rivera, Sarah Yarkin, Jim Titus, Ty Headlee, Kristin Daniel, Patrick Fabian | Written by Mike Herro, David Strauss | Directed by Rodman Flender

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Back in 1999 I fell in love with the teen horror comedy Idle Hands, with its mix of gore, laughs and a teen cast that felt totally beliveable and altogether likeable. Now, some ten years later, that films director returns with Eat Brains Love, based on the young adult novel of the same name by Jeff Hart, which once again captures that exact blend of horror and comedy to perfection.

High schooler Jake Stephens (Jake Cannavale, son of actor Bobby Cannavale) longs for the unreachable Amanda Blake (Angelique Rivera), who’s dating Chazz (Ty Headlee) the head jock. So how can Jake woo Amanda away from Chazz who, in typical high-school movie fashion, is the schools resident meat-head bully. Well how about he and Amanda get infected by a sexually transmitted zombie virus, eat and kill all their school friends and go on the run together? Now both are on the run from the government’s top-secret Necrotic Control Division, in particular Cass, a teen psychic and her NCD partner Tom, whose mission it is to track the pair down and bring them in (un)dead or… alive?

Now before you cry out “Oh god not another zom-com!” it’s safe to say Eat Brains Love is easily THE best of the [small] bunch, managing to not only put a new spin on the over-used typical zombie-movie cliches but also make a teen movie that even John Hughes would be proud of. A teen movie that feels very much like a product of the 80s, but with the snark and humour of the modern internet age.

That new spin on the genre is the fact that these particular zombies can, once the hunger for flesh is satiated, return to normality – complete with fresh skin, complete control of the faculties and all their traits andn memories. For all intents and purposes, once these zombies feed they turn ‘human’ again. ONly with the ability to heal from almost any injury… It also means these zombies can make conscious decisions about who and what they eat – which leads to a brilliant sequence in which Jake and Amanda chew their way through the flesh of rapists, murderers and paedophiles as some kind of “zombie vigilante” duo.

Now yes, that sounds dark, and at times the film touches on some rather uneasy subjects (such a clown prepping for a kids party by putting lube in his bag) but this is completely offset by the bright and cheerful manner in which everything is shot. For a zombie movie this feels more like a teen road movie. It’s that dichotomy between content, style, and story the makes Eat Brains Love so refreshing; and director Rodman Flender, working from a script by Mike Herro and David Strauss, manages to find a fantastic, I’d say perfect, balance between every aspect of the story.

In terms of casting, this is where Eat Brains Love also finds perfection. So much so that is hard to find a clear line where the three actors: Jake Cannavale, Angelique Rivera, and Sarah Yarkin end and their characters start. And the script is so cleveryl written that it suits each individual to a tee.With the voice-overs from Cannavale and Yarkin a ridiculously good highlight.

Of the three Cannavale is the obvious star, with the film focusing more on his nerdy character Jake than the two female leads; and that undoubtedly because Cannavale is so captivating, so self-deprecating and so funny. Angelique Rivera plays Amanda somewhat against type, with the character feeling more like a spunky heroine of the self-referancial horror the came in the wake of Scream rather than your typical cheerleader cliche. Whilst Sarah Yarkin, as the psychic NCD agent chasing the duo, is something of a hidden gem – likeable from the get-go, and just as snarky and funny as Cannavale’s Jake.

A brilliant blend of gore, gags, laughs and scares, Eat Brains Love is easily one of the highlights of this years Frightfest and is perfect horror-comedy fare.

***** 5/5

Eat Brains Love screened at the 2019 Arrow Video Frightfest on Sunday August 25th.

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