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Boy Eats Girl
Insert standard "leave zombies alone" rant here...
Okay, with that out of the way, we can deal with the issues at hand. Boy Eats Girl is a somewhat cleverly titled attempt at cashing in on the then red hot spark of a certain celebrated British horror comedy. Made one year after an electronic sales clerk struggled, along with his video game obsessed slacker pal, to save England from an invasion of foul flesh eaters, the strike while the iron's hot mentality pervading this movie must have seemed highly marketable at the time. Sadly, two years (and hundreds of middling horror releases later), it's no longer novel. In fact, it's just plain dull.
Nathan is your standard high school nebbish - except he's hot, and all the honeys are after him - that is, except the one he wants. Jessica has been our hero's best pal for years, but he wants more than companionship and the occasional cuddle of friendship. Sadly, the object of his desire is oblivious to his throbbing biological urges. The rest of his class is cognizant, though. Buddies Diggs and Henry want him to hurry up and break the ice. School bully Samson has his eye on Jessica as well - that is, when he's not knocking Doc Martins with certified slut Cheryl. She has her heaving bosom aimed on Nathan, among other male 'members' of the class. And Shane just wants oral sex, preferably in the front seat of his car. After an attempt to confess his feelings goes horrible wrong, Nathan is in need of some accidental afterlife relief. Luckily, his mom has stumbled across an ancient volume of voodoo rituals. One poorly conceived montage later, and our lead is a rather aware zombie. Sadly, his bite turns the rest of the student body into slobbering flesh fiends. A solution needs to be found quickly, before this small Irish suburb becomes overrun with the living dead.
Boy Eats Girl is so desperate to be Shaun of the Dead that it completely forgets the basic elements of effective copycatting. Instead of going for what made the Simon Pegg/Edward Wright/Nick Frost film so fantastic, it put zombies in the UK (in this case, a small Irish community) and hoped horror fans would see the similarities. Unfortunately, this is more afterschool special than scary movie, a lesson in peer pressure, underage sex, and bullying tactics more than a wacky genre spoof. Relative newcomer Stephen Bradley takes a script by the equally untried Derek Landy and decides to focus on the scholastic over the splatter. Almost 45 minutes go by before the first bit of zombie fu arrives, and even then, we have to wait to the last act set piece (ripped directly from another living dead epic - Peter Jackson's Dead Alive) for any significant arterial spray. Had gore been emphasized over pining, whining adolescents with raging hormones the size of Killarney, this movie may have been a nice Brit wit companion piece. As it stands, it's a back loaded mess that can't quite figure out if we should care about the lame love story, the regressive interscholastic rivalries, or the various voodoo shout outs.
One thing is for sure - we definitely don't connect with our lead. As the boy with a thorn in his ass, David Leon is just painful to watch. He's an un-weaned prep pup, yelping like a wounded hound when the fetching femme of his dreams (an underwritten and invisible Samantha Mumba) fails to recognize his unrequited love and throw herself at his feet. His midpoint act of desperation - which in turn leads to all the contrived cannibal corpsing - feels forced and out of character, and when we finally get to the blackened teeth bits, the attacks are random, meaningless, and rather routine. In a genre paradigm where speed has replaced suspense and survivor's hope has been undone by hype, the living dead have to be more than make-up and aggression. Yet, sadly, that's all Bradley has to offer - that and a pair of proto-nerds that spend the entire narrative cracking wise and looking lost. Granted, the lawn mower ending almost saves things. There are a couple of clever deaths, and more than a few flying limbs/body parts. But after 60 minutes of stasis, throwing several dozen buckets of blood at the screen just won't cut it. It smacks of desperation, not a real grasp on how to sell a horror spoof.
Still, there's a genial quality to what Bradley and Landy attempt here that makes outright hatred of Boy Eats Girl rather difficult. Aside from Leon, the acting is pretty good, and the shocking similarities between skanks ala the Emerald Isle vs. American whoredom is food for tawdry thought. But all BJs and silicone boobs aside, what this movie really lacks is excitement. Even with its source material swipes, it just can't generate a decent level of liveliness. This could be the first freeloader scarefest with an Irish brogue...ever. Perhaps the most profound lesson to be learned here is one regarding ambitions. Unless you can equal - or eviscerate - the project you're pilfering, do something original and inventive instead. And when picking possible targets, try to avoid films that are nearly flawless in their humor, execution, and talent. Shaun of the Dead is so much more than a standard bit of frightmare funny business. Sadly, that's all that Boy Eats Girl can see - and apparently, it needs its eyes checked.
Director Bradley can be proud of one fact - Boy Eats Girls looks really good in this 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. There is a lot of mood and atmosphere to the night sequences, and the various locations - a graveyard, a suburban street, a looming estate - add an additional level of ambiance. The colors are well controlled, and there are some inventive shots mixed in with the mediocrity. Overall, this is a professional and polished presentation.
There is not much to mention here. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is barely better than the 2.0 Stereo. The back channels are mostly silent, and there's a real lack of spatial immersion in the aural elements. In some ways, the multi-speaker label is meaningless. This is a front and center sonic situation, no matter the moniker.
Aside from a perfunctory EPK making-of (lots of well meaning pronouncements and back slapping Q&As) and a trailer, there is no other added content present. Lionsgate usually does a better job of fleshing out their genre DVDs, so the lack of better bonuses is rather disconcerting. Still, if you liked the movie, you'll adore hearing the cast and crew brag and boast. Others will simply take the glad-handing in stride.
Thanks to the fast, cheap, and efficient means of distribution delivered by the DVD format, horror fans have come to expect the standard cinematic caveats. There will be those who enjoy everything about this otherwise derivative spoof. For them, Recommended is the only rating possible. On the other hand, the refined macabre maven may look at this less than inspired take on a post-modern creepshow classic and dry heavy into their Argento collection. For them, even Skip It wouldn't stand as a satisfying score. Splitting the difference, we end up with a money saving mandate of Rent It. If you end up loving it, you've partially paid for the privilege. If you hate it, the drain on your dosh is minimal. In fact, such a middle of the road evaluation more or less sums up Boy Eats Girl's appeal rather well. It doesn't take the comic (or corpse-grinding) risks of the movies it wants to emulate, yet still plays slightly better than the rest of the plagiaristic zombie oeuvre. Either way, it's a terror toss up that few will want to wade through. Shaun of the Dead? Subpar Spawn of the Dead, more like it.
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