Want to re-invent a sub-genre? TV seems to be where it’s at right now, especially as far as the zombie world is concerned. The Walking Dead might’ve played things safe in its early seasons but the latest are anything but, and the same can be said for iZombie, Santa Clarita Diet, and hell, even the loveably trashy Z Nation. And while Eat, Brains, Love isn’t technically TV on the surface – financed, shot and screened by director Rodman Flender as a fully-fledged feature – it feels in look, tone and overall scope like the beginning of something much larger, for better or worse.

Flender’s name might be familiar to some as the one behind late-90s cult teen fave Idle Hands – a seriously loveable growing-pains horror-comedy that far too often falls by the wayside when discussing the best high-school movies of the 90s. Eat, Brains, Love isn’t a million miles from it either. Despite coming several decades later, the initial vibes are still fairly 90s (including, sadly, some of the gender politics – and that now ancient jocks/cheerleaders hierarchy) and Flender’s inventive handling of the genre mechanics is still very much in tact.

It’s an undead movie for starters, but with a clever and surprisingly unforeseen twist on the formula, taking a few zom-com pointers from Zombieland and expanding from there. Stoner nobody Jake fantasises over prettiest-girl-in-school Amanda, before a sexually-transmitted(!) zombie virus happens to turn them both into flesh-hungry monsters. Luckily for the pair, they only go full-outbreak-mode when they’re hungry, and so their normal-brained selves decide to team-up to work out what to do next – and with a shady government agency filled out with real-world psychics (yes, mind-reading, X-Men style psychics) very much on their tail, they’re going to need all the help they can get.

And the deeper this fantasy world goes (it doesn’t just stop at zombies vs. psychics), the more Mike Herro and David Strauss’s script comes off as a live-action comic book, building out the mythos and the history of it all in truly impressive detail. It’s a constantly subversive mix of hardcore sci-fi and old school teen horror-comedy, and one that’s desperately hungry for a bigger run-time.

The chemistry of the cast is the main giveaway – the characters start as fairly meagre stereotypes, but the longer they’re given to develop and play off of the twisty drama, the more you start to see a future beyond a stiff 90-minutes. Flender’s well-stocked history working on shows like The Office and the MTV Scream series means the visuals aren’t particularly cinematic either (not that it ever proves to be a problem); it’s all fuel for the fire – this is a pilot that’s hungry for more.

A few dated nods and cheap knocks aside, Eat, Brains, Love is a refreshing bit of zombie fun for sure, and if it ever does find itself in the likely position of being able to expand into a series, it’s almost guaranteed a truly worthwhile run.

Eat, Brains, Love was screened as part of Arrow Video FrightFest 2019.