netflix graveyard: boy eats girl

by leo hanna

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For a long time the Irish horror scene has seemed like the little genre that could. Staying mostly in the shadows and not attracting much critical attention, we have had a few decent entries over the last number of years. 2005’s Isolation supplied decent thrills but gave little else. 2012’s Stitches was a fun albeit slightly messy vehicle for comedian Ross Noble to wear clown makeup and crack one-liners. Even 2016’s eco-horror Without Name, which seemed primed to lead the genre in a new direction, has rather unfortunately flown under the radar.

But certainly one of the biggest missteps in Irish horror came in 2004. During the mid-noughties, director Stephen Bradley decided to throw his hat into the flourishing zombie genre with the  by-the-numbers ‘rom-zom-com’ Boy Eats Girl, or as I prefer to call it ‘Sean Ó the nDead’. Garnered with the odd distinction of being pop diva Samantha Mumba’s film debut, it was met with a mixed reception and quickly disappeared into the midst of an over-saturated genre that was only gathering steam at this point.

Combining the gore of a straight to video Romero zombie film and the off kilter Irish quirkiness of TG4’s Aifric, Boy Eats Girl has little to offer the viewer. The characters are under-developed stereotypes that could be seen in any bland horror comedy of the time. We have the dull dreamy lead played by David ‘Not Quite Cillian Murphy’ Leon. The wooden one-dimensional love interest is played by the aforementioned Mumba, whose performance is reminiscent of someone being videoed on Snapchat while dozing off in a lecture. Rounding out the cast of characters are dopey friends, played by Love Hate’s Laurence Kinlan and Tadhg Murphy.

The plot is standard zombie comedy fare. Boy loves girl, girl loves him but doesn’t show it, boy gets depressed and (I’ll admit this isn’t as commonplace) accidentally hangs himself. In a curious turn of events, his mother revives him using voodoo and he begins to unwillingly infect his classmates. Ultimately the film suffers from one of the biggest issues surrounding the genre: consistency. Scenes of extreme gore and attempted suspense are intercut with moments of pseudo-Three Stooges slapstick and lazy and puerile gags consisting mostly of sexual desire being thwarted when girls are turned into zombies.

In the flag bearers of horror comedy, films like An American Werewolf in London, or the much-imitated but never-bettered Shaun of the Dead, you are able to see an effortless shift from scenes of dread and horror to humour. In the case of Boy Eats Girl, we see a film that flails under such pressure. Lazy set ups are resolved with even lazier pay offs. One character enjoys receiving blowjobs in his car, so no prizes for guessing how he dies. It fights a losing battle throughout for tonal consistency, as a disemboweling moment is followed by viewers being dropped into a hodge-podge of substandard immature sketches.

The film is not helped by the constantly distracting fact that every second actor is a recognizable Irish star. Trying to recognize actors who have gone on to greener pastures became a game for me, one that was almost more entertaining than the film itself. There’s a smidge of Gary Lydon, a sprinkling of Deirdre O’ Kane and an amuse-bouche of Domhnall Gleeson who steals every scene he is in through his sheer charm and charisma.

But all that aside, the biggest sin of the movie is that it’s just plain boring. The actors struggle with the so-so script by Skulduggery Pleasant scribe Derek Landy and go through the motions like, for lack of a better term, zombies. In summary, unless you are a die hard Samantha Mumba fan, and I’m sure some of you are, Boy Eats Girl is one zombie film not worth resurrecting from the Netflix Graveyard.