Connect with us

Film Festivals

Spotlight on Frightfest 2019: Director Rodman Flender on ‘Eat Brains Love’

Twenty years ago filmmaker Rodman Flender made one of my favourite teen movies Idle Hands. The film is one of my go to Halloween watches; it stars Devon Sawa, Jessica Alba, Seth Green and Vivica A. Fox. The story tells the cautionary tale of a stoner whose hand becomes possessed by an entity intent on killing all his nearest and dearest. Now Flender returns to the teen horror genre for his latest movie Eat Brains Love. The film, based on the book of the same name by Jeff Hart, joins stoner Jake as he unwittingly becomes a zombie after a one-night stand. On the run from some shadowy government types, he finds himself on the run with his girl crush Amanda, whom has also recently become a zombie. Eat Brains Love is a wonderfully quirky film, part Idle Hands, Warm Bodies, and Zombieland, and it just got its UK premiere at Arrow Video Frightfest.

Flender was in attendance at the festival to answer questions from attendees and we jumped at the chance to talk to him about this project, as well as the beloved Idle Hands.

Image Courtesy of Clout Communications

Eats Brains Love screened yesterday, what’s the reaction been so far?

Maybe you can tell me. I try to keep my head down because I take everything very personally. But so far everything that people have shown me, the reception has been good. The reception at the theatre was good, people laughed where I hoped they would, and groaned where I hoped they would groan, and everybody seemed to leave the theatre in a good mood. What I’ve seen on Twitter has been very upbeat.

With any genre film, there will always be, as the kids today say, haters. Especially because we don’t play by these zombie rules, not as if there are any real zombie rules. I don’t know if there are any zombie rule police who are writing tickets if you don’t become a zombie by getting a bite. Nevertheless, there are those that take that sort of thing very, very seriously. They may not be happy with what we’ve done, but for those who want to see something a little lighter and want to have fun, and want to poke a big finger in the eye of the teen romance genre, I think they’re having a good time.

I didn’t realise that it was based on a book, so how did it go from book to screen?

A company called Gunpowder and Sky purchased the rights. The book was very large in scope, it had these huge battle scenes, and almost Lord of the Rings like battles between the government agents and the zombie gangs that appear. When it came time to adapt it, Gunpowder and Sky, who are an independent company, don’t have the kind of budget that Warner Bros has. What appealed to me about the book was the core relationships between Jake and Amanda and Cass. That love triangle, two zombie teens on the run and the one psychic girl chasing them, and how they all get involved. That was all in the book. To me, that is what makes it interesting, and that core relationship is what we retained for the movie.

How much fun was it to subvert those expected teen movie tropes.

I loved doing that, that was a blast. I’ve seen a lot of teen rom coms and such, I love them all. I love the John Hughes classics and I always think, ‘what would it be like if there was some gut-munching in it’. Obviously we’re not the first ones out of the gate, Warm Bodies was really well done. People ask me about that and the analogy I make is that, if Warm Bodies were like The Beatles, we’re like The Sex Pistols. We’re a little more mean-spirited, a little edgier, a little more in your face than Warm Bodies. Warm Bodies was warm and fuzzy, we’re cold and hard. We’re a little more punk rock.

We’re here at Frightfest twenty, but that’s not the only thing turning twenty this year; Idle Hands has also reached the big 2-0. How is it looking back thinking wow, that was twenty years ago?

It’s pretty emotional for me because Idle Hands had a very difficult release at the time. It had a very, very, very unfortunate release date of about ten days after the tragedy at Columbine High School. That is a terrible tragedy and unfortunately, Idle Hands became used as a political tool for those who wanted to blame the media. I don’t even want to begin to get involved in that conversation. Whatever happens in a movie is nothing compared to the loss of life. That is a terrible tragedy. There are larger problems I think than what happens to a movie. So it was a painful time, the time of release was very painful because we’d all worked very hard on it. For me, it was my biggest movie at the time, a big break for me and to see it get caught up in a tragedy and being used as a political tool for politicians own ends was just left very difficult feelings for me.

But I moved on, kept going, worked in television and it was just a painful memory. But as the years went on, and as it became available on home video and became a perennial rental at Blockbuster Video, it started to be seen on its own terms. It began to separate from the baggage that was attached to it at the time of release. It just became the movie that it was. That has been great that now twenty years later I am meeting people who love it and embrace it. We’ve even had several film festivals in the United States and we’re having one September 7th; these twentieth-anniversary screenings where they’re inviting the cast. That’s just been fantastic.

I was introduced to the film via a friend whose teenage crush was Devon Sawa…

Yeah, Devon was a lot of teenage crushes, Jessica Alba, too.

That was quite early on in her career too.

Very early on in her career, I think it was like her second or third movie.

Did you have an inkling then that she had what it takes to make it?

Yes. The camera loved her, continues to love her. It is impossible to take a bad picture of Jessica Alba.

Image Courtesy of Clout Communications

In many ways when I was watching Eat Brains Love I couldn’t help but think that Jake was almost Anton 2.0. Was that an intentional thing?

Certainly not intentional for me. I guess that maybe we can say that that character is still an American male archetype. The same way that Sean Penn created this iconic character of Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, we still see Spicoli’s in TV now. There’s certain archetypal I guess, American teenage characters. The stoner Anton/Jake is one that someone will identify with, or someone knows certainly and we’ll always see.

Eat Brains Love ends on a cliffhanger, is there any hopes or expectations from either yourself or the studio that it may branch out into more films?

Well, that was my intention by ending it that way. That old showbiz adage, leave them wanting more. That was my intention, I hope so. If people enjoy the film and spread the word and tweet about it and share their enthusiasm on social media, and rent it and go see it. I’m sure if there’s an audience for it that yes, we’ll see more adventures from Jake, Amanda, and Cass. There is another book, also with a great title, ‘Undead with Benefits’. Jeff Hart who writes the books, he’s very good with titles.

What else are you working on?

Well, I bounce back and forth between film and TV. So I directed an episode of a new TV show that’s premiering in the States and I’m sure will come over here called Becoming a God in Central Florida; another unusual and unforgettable title. It stars Kirsten Dunst who is an actor I have loved forever. It was a joy to work with her. She plays a woman who’s taking down an Amway or Herbalife-like cult. It’s a pyramid scheme, it’s a cult. She plays a woman who is rising within the ranks of one of these pyramid schemes to take it down from within. It’s a really different and compelling story. That’ll be airing in the States in about three weeks, and will come to the UK wherever you show Showtime shows.

Kat Hughes is a UK born film critic and interviewer who has a passion for horror films. An editor for THN, Kat is also a Rotten Tomatoes Approved Critic. She has bylines with Ghouls Magazine, Arrow Video, Film Stories, Certified Forgotten and FILMHOUNDS and has had essays published in home entertainment releases by Vinegar Syndrome and Second Sight. When not writing about horror, Kat hosts micro podcast Movies with Mummy along with her five-year-old daughter.


Latest Posts


More in Film Festivals