01/04/2010. Contributed by Mark R. Leeper
The vines go after the people and the zombies go after the wine In Attack Of The Vegan Zombies! Writer/director/star Jim Townsend has a feel for older horror films and fresher ideas for a zombie movie. The action scenes do not work really well, but Townsend knows not to let this degenerate into too much of spoof too soon.
The film is available from amazon.com. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
The first nice surprise about Attack Of The Vegan Zombies! is that at least for a while it is not at all the sort of tongue-in-cheek spoof that the title suggests it is. Instead it is a low budget horror film with feet firmly planted in the 1960s low-budget horror film. In fact, if it were not for the obvious digital texture of the visuals, it might feel like a 1960s drive-in attraction. The story at least begins by taking itself seriously with a few lapses. This film could have taken advantage of its low budget to add more realism, but writer/director/actor Jim Townsend - a freshman at each of these jobs - was apparently not sure that was what he wanted to do.
Joe Bryant (played by Townsend) and his wife Dionne (Christine Egan) are having a hard time making their vineyard and winery work. The crops have a long history of not doing well at this location under the control of both Dionne's father and later of Joe. Dionne wants to make a go of it and asks for the help of her mother, whom only Dionne knows is a genuine, modern-day witch. The mother (H. Lynn Smith) agrees to use a fertility spell that includes using some of Joe's blood, blood that the witch does not know is a little polluted with alcohol.
The spell makes an extremely robust crop, so much so that a local professor brings four of his students to the vineyard to study the phenomenon. The students are two very exaggerated nerdy-Trekkies who add a little unwelcome comic relief and two gratuitous lesbians to do what they do best. Sadly, the vines are just a little too robust as well as being predators looking for - not blood for once - but wine. They go after people because the people have wine in their blood if they have been drinking. (I don't think it is still wine when it hits the bloodstream, maybe some sugars and some alcohol - but I can go with it.) The vine's victims return to life as green-skinned zombie winos. By this point a little too much of the film's earlier serious tone has been compromised and squandered.
This film could have used its low-budget more wisely. But the creation of green-skinned zombies does not work for the film. First, they look like an image out of the original Star Trek of the 1960s. Secondly, the green makeup does not cover the flesh-tone skin beneath. They never look like green people; they look like normal people in green greasepaint, which is what they are.
More care could have been taken with the makeup. Townsend and Egan turn in acceptable performances that get the idea across effectively in roles that are not greatly demanding. And cinematographer Max Fisher does a particularly good job of creatively framing the action.
The comic relief is not particularly funny, but the nostalgic 1960s feel to the film makes it all worthwhile. And it is nice to see a few fresh ideas in a horror film for a change.
I rate this a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.
Mark R. Leeper
Copyright 2010 Mark R. Leeper
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