ATTACK OF THE VEGAN ZOMBIES (2010)
(Written and Directed by Jim Townsend)
(Starring Christine Egan, Jim Townsend and H. Lynn Smith)
Plot: Plagued with consecutive bad years for their winery crop, Dionne (Christine Egan) goes to her Mother (H. Lynn Smith)- who is a witch- for help. She enchants their fields and the next year, they have an overwhelmingly successful harvest. Unfortunately, the plants gain minds of their own and they start turning the workers into zombies. But these zombies don’t eat flesh, they only drink wine- the problem being they will also drink the blood of those with the wine in their system.
Any reader of my reviews knows that I am very affectionate towards films with bizarre concepts- which are presumably dreamt up during a drug induced haze. Yet when I was plowing the shelves of an (awesome) old record store, which for some reason contains quite a few obscure flicks, I had no idea that I would come upon the treasure cove of absurd storylines. I have seen movies featuring zombie sushi, murderous refrigerators, killer gingerbread men, man-eating beds, giant bunny rabbits, psychic tires and vaginas with teeth- but Vegan Zombies? That’s…new, but what makes this idea surpass all the above examples on the weirdness scale is that it’s a contradictory concept. A sushi coming to life and breathing fire can be explained, but how could a zombie be a vegan? Vegans don’t eat any kind of meat, whereas eating human meat is a major freaking part of the zombie lore…Unless they just rip off “Troll 2“, which had vegetarian goblins eating people by turning them into vegetables…This stimulated my intellect as I began to solve the great mystery of “Attack of the Vegan Zombies” before I even put it into the DVD player- because yes, I own this, which I suppose contradicts the claim that I have an intellect. But my biggest fear was that outside of the absurd premise, it would be a relatively conventional (boring) zombie outing. Yet fear not, my brothers who serve crackpot cinema, “Attack of the Vegan Zombies” is as strange as it sounds. It never ceases in delivering daft ideas and is surprisingly well made, despite the low budget. It’s a shame that the flick sabotages itself by trying too hard to be funny, when it was only funny when it was trying to be serious.
To allow you to inhale the aroma of “Attack of the Vegan Zombies“, I have to explain the central idea in full. Our heroine belongs to a long line of witches, which is in itself an attention catcher because you don’t see witchcraft used to justify existence of zombies very often. One spell later, we have a full grapevine field which is ripe for becoming wine. However, blood is needed to perform the ritual, so the leading lady borrows her husbands. The problem is that her husband was inebriated and his intoxicated blood now drives the behavior of the plants. They are aggressive, attacking people without provocation and even knowing how to disable cars, telephone wires, etc…How in the hell a plant can learn this…don’t ask…just be grateful that they aren’t stopped by the power of love this time around. While watching ‘grapevine plant-cam’ attacks is pretty amusing, I couldn’t help but notice that zombies don’t start making appearances until the second half- possibly later. Apparently “Attack of the Drunk Plants” wasn’t as marketable of a title? Anyway, the plants turn people into zombies…somehow, who have developed a taste for the wine made from the grapes. Once they run out of that, they’ll start turning their attentions to the humans who have tasted the wine. Because the wine mixes in with their blood, the zombies will start sucking them dry. Of course, I have to presume the filmmakers didn’t know what a ‘vegan’ actually is, so the title still doesn’t make any sense. I’m not sure why they didn’t just call this “Attack of the Alcoholic Zombies“, although maybe that would’ve drawn too many comparisons with “Redneck Zombies“…and who wants that comparison? The point is, this is a plot summary that’s easy to make fun of and I’m pleased that “Attack of the Vegan Zombies” constantly threw me off guard with its weirdness. I never really knew what to expect, which is exactly what I want out of a movie like this.
When you look at “Attack of the Vegan Zombies” on a technical level, it’s easy to be too generous or critical. It’s a very low budgeted movie, but I have to give credit to the filmmakers for at least making a…reasonably presentable movie. They managed to acquire good equipment, meaning the audio and video are decent, although the production values are still pretty minimal. The cinematography and editing were pretty good when it came to establishing mood, although none of it stood out as exceptional. The acting is SHOCKINGLY solid by well…about half of the cast. Christine Egan easily delivered the best performance, coming across as natural even when she has to say some odd shit. Jim Townsend (who also wrote, directed and produced this) is very low key and kind of wooden, but he ends up looking better thanks to the aggravating supporting cast. I don’t really blame the actors or actresses though, as their characters are…well, I’ll get into that soon. But for a film that obviously did not cost very much, “Attack of the Vegan Zombies” doesn’t look like your usual Z-grade cheapie…at least in terms of specs. The special effects are pretty awful, but they usually made me smile instead of groan. The green facepaint acting as zombie makeup was pretty lazy, but the remainder of the special effects failures usually added to the flicks charm. With a movie like “Attack of the Vegan Zombies“, if it’s not going to be good, then at least I want a good laugh at its expense. I often did laugh, so good job! A MAJOR downside, however, is the attacks themselves. Whenever someone gets assaulted by a plant or a zombie, the struggle usually is concluded off-screen. But whenever an attack is shown, I have to question whether ‘shown’ is the right word because I couldn’t see anything. I’ve condemned flicks which have shaky camerawork and incomprehensible editing in the past, but “Attack of the Vegan Zombies” makes an artform out of that awful practice. You will see various random shots of faces, quick cut editing that is impossible to keep track of…and then the attack is over. For example, when the first zombie attacks the hero, I thought it was still approaching him because we only saw the zombies face. But suddenly the dude is on the ground, so apparently they were struggling all along.
The tone is a tricky thing to discuss because Townsend seems to have a confliction vision as to how we are supposed to feel about this movie. Is it intended to be taken seriously? At first glance, it does! There is a heavy attempt to build up an ominous atmosphere and a creepy mood thanks to footage of dead birds and scary music chords. I’m not saying they succeeded, but that was what they were attempting. When someone is in peril, the director at least tries to generate some suspense out of the situation. Furthermore, the primary actors deliver all of this absurd information with straight faces. Ironically, whenever “Attack of the Vegan Zombies” is trying to be serious, I laughed the hardest- but in a good way. Much like “Troll II“, I feel the best way to approach an abstract movie such as this is to be as sincere as possible. Actors explaining all of this nonsensical information in a solemn way is far funnier than if they are winking at the camera while expositing that same information. Ugh…Unfortunately, “Attack of the Vegan Zombies” can’t resist trying its hand at legit comedy. At first, it does resemble a real horror flick. But as time moves along, it starts to become a comedy and it’s just not very funny. In fact, it’s downright obnoxious. The cheerleaders are bad enough, as they seem to represent how stupid characters can be in this situation (movie, you’re not that clever!), but it’s the nerds…the nerds…the f@cking nerds…who ruined “Attack of the Vegan Zombies“. NEEEEEEEEEERDS! They are stereotypes of caricatures based on stereotypes of stereotypes! Their mannerisms are so aggravatingly over-the-top and their dialogue is so stupid. Every interaction they had gave me a headache, which is a problem because the director obviously seems to think these guys are hilarious. They dominate so much of the screen-time! I prayed for them to die, but when God stayed silent, I began to pray for a brain aneurism- because having a brain aneurism is apparently easier than ejecting the movie from my DVD player. Now remember that throughout the majority of this review, I’ve been fairly positive in my reactions. If my overall rating seems kind of negative, it’s simply because these two assholes ruined the experience.
But the ugliness did not stop there. I didn’t mind that characters would sometimes forget that they are being tormented by killer grapevines and drunk zombies in order to rant about their personal grudges, as that could also be argued as straight faced parody. What I did mind, however, was how repetitive the majority of these confrontations were. How many times do we need to hear the Mother-in-Law whine about how her daughter deserved a better husband, how she wasted her witch talent, etc.? Or how often do we need to hear someone blaming themselves or someone else for what happened? On a different front, I got sick and tired of characters wondering “Where is so and so?” or that obnoxious (but less annoying of the two) nerd demanding they go search for the professor. So many of the character driven scenes during the 2nd half feels like repackaged versions of the character driven scenes from the 1st half. When your 70 minute long movie has to rely on such gratuitous padding, even though there is enough content for a full length feature film, you have done something very, VERY wrong.
I was ready to give “Attack of the Vegan Zombies” a 2.5/4 stars, because it uses its badness to its advantage. I liked that it was (mostly) taking itself very seriously and trying to be a solid horror flick. It didn’t really succeed, but that was part of what made the experience so entertaining for me. I liked that it looked pretty good for a micro-budgeted direct-to-DVD venture. I liked how it’s filled with odd ideas, which are then mixed in a way that makes the overall project seem unique. Even if this is technically a bad movie, it was my kind of bad movie. Yet then the 2nd half started to really eat at its entertainment level. The filmmakers start trying to make this into a full fledged comedy, but the jokes are just lame. There seems to be an incredible amount of padding, probably because filming too many scenes with zombies would cost more money than the filmmakers actually had, but that’s no excuse for being so damn redundant. Yet it’s the nerds, a problem even during the first half, who turned my smile upside down. They might be in line for the worst comedic relief characters of all time. That’s how unfunny they were. So…rating this is not going to be easy. I’m going to be a little generous because for all of its problems, I didn’t regret watching the movie as I’m such a sucker for bizarre concepts and at the absolute least, “Attack of the Vegan Zombies” continuously delivered in that regard. Yet I doubt I will watch it again because its weaknesses make this such a frustrating experience. You almost had me, movie…almost…Oh well, at least it never tried to be artsy.
Violence: There is some…but it could’ve probably gotten away with a PG-13 rating.
Nudity: There is a lesbian scene, but I can’t recall if we ever saw anything explicit. The girls were just a bit too old looking to be playing students though…
Overall: “Attack of the Vegan Zombies” does have an audience it will be able to entertain, one that I am technically a part of. It’s just too bad the film also really wants to piss me off, so I’m getting mixed signals. It’s like getting hit on by an attractive woman, but when you decide to give into her advances, she turns around and slaps you. I guess it could’ve been worse…It could’ve been “ThanksKilling“…