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Saturday, March 21, 2020

Review: What's Eating Todd?

Director: Renata Green-Gaber
Screenplay: Brandi Centeno
Year: 2016

New ideas in the zombie horror genre seem to be something impossible. Since George Romero introduced these creatures in his masterpiece “Night of the Living Dead”, zombies have garnered impressive popularity, which has resulted in hundreds of movies about them, many of these offering different characteristics and origins. From biological weapons to magic, the origins are vast and, in some cases, crazy but most of them converge in a sort of infection.

Todd is a normal young man who celebrates his birthday along with his friend camping in a forest. Stories about a cannibal creature roaming around the forest and attacking people are known, but with little evidence to support them. While they are camping in the forest, Todd disappears and the happenings that take place thereafter lead them to think that the legend might be real.

“What’s Eating Todd?” starts with a frenetic scene where a group of men is trying to defend themselves from some aggressive and apparently cannibal creatures that attack them. This scene raises the expectation of this movie, making the viewer think that it is a zombie movie with plenty of action and violence. However, “What’s Eating Todd?” falls short of what it offers.

The screenplay from writer Brandi Centeno, directed by Renata Green-Gaber, both of them debuting in their respective roles in a full-length feature, prefer to take the more emotional route instead of the visual, focusing the plot on the relationship of Todd with his girlfriend Valerie and his friends. This puts extra weight in the acting that is mainly descent, only with some underwhelming moments, by a little known cast composed of Madison Lawlor (“Close Range”), Adam Michael Gold (“Vermijo”), Phil Biedron (“Heathers”), and Scott Alin (“Shameless”).

The preferential direction of the plot does not mean that they completely flee from the visual aspect, as there is enough gore and scares to remind you that this is a horror movie and both are well done, but it does make it feel slower than the average zombie movie. Something that makes it feel slow is that the creature doesn’t get much screen time and once Todd gets infected by a fly that enters his system (infection by bugs have been little explored in this genre), he disappears and we only see glimpses of the creature until almost the final stretch. At this moment the revelation has little impact and the outcome is predictable since so much effort has been put on the emotional side, which plays an important role here. 

“What’s Eating Todd?” presents some innovative characteristics in a genre where everything has been done. Its main issue is that it gives the impression of being a zombie movie with a lot of action, but takes a more emotional route that makes it feel slow and predictable and does not fill the expectations it creates in its first minutes of runtime. More than innovate in the zombie subgenre, it is a testament of its wear and of the breather it desperately needs.

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