Killer Tomatoes
Killer Tomatoes Strike Back!
Medium: film
Year: 1990
Director: John De Bello
Writer: John De Bello, Costa Dillon, Rick Rockwell
Keywords: comedy, parody, low-budget, rubbish
Country: USA
Actor: John Astin, Steve Lundquist, Rick Rockwell, J. Stephen Peace, John Witherspoon, Crystal Carson, John De Bello, Kevin West
Format: 87 minutes
Series: << Killer Tomatoes >>
Website category: Comedy
Review date: 3 July 2008
The least interesting Killer Tomato movie. I'd be tempted to blame its blandness on the spin-off TV series, a Saturday morning cartoon, except that apparently this film came out first. It feels like an afterthought. The third film in the series was going to be Killer Tomatoes Eat France, as promised back in Return, no less, but somehow the gang hiccoughed out this film en route.
It's cheap. Admittedly that's nothing new for the Killer Tomatoes, but for the first time they seem aware of their limitations. Whatever happened to all that rampant imagination? That had pretty much been the sole virtue of the series, which may have been utter nonsense but still gave the impression of being powered on bootlaces, illegal narcotics and blind comic mania. This film has a few inspired parody scenes and made me laugh from time to time, but for the most part it feels staid. Its ambition has been reined in. It's an undercooked runaround, never sinking to awfulness but certainly never managing to be good. That's "good" both by conventional standards and the Bizarro Universe definition that one's forced into by the Killer Tomato universe.
I might as well mention the good scenes. There are two horror movie scenes, the better of which comes at the beginning to fool you into thinking you might be watching a better movie than you are. It's a Friday the 13th parody, later referenced via place names like "Crystal Mountain" and "Camp Broadcasting School" which I'd have liked better had it seemed to be going somewhere. They'd already done Killer Tomatoes: The 1950s B-Movie, but you'd have thought there was a lot of potential in Killer Tomatoes: The Slasher Flick. It went untapped. Incidentally both of the horror movie parodies involve unclad ladies, although we never see tits.
There's also a romance between the lead characters, Rick Rockwell and Crystal Carson, which the film itself parodies with dramatic 1980s windswept soft-focus and the like. That was funny too. This series is at its best as parody, which may have become less prominent in this film but still pops up occasionally.
They still have a grudge against bad TV. Professor Gangreen has become a talk show host and thus has the power to sway minds and convince people like our hero that there was never a tomato menace at all. What's more, he achieves this despite bringing back characters from the last film as guests on his show, which seems like quite a trick. One of them is Finletter, now holding down a job as a police chief, and the other is the fuzzy toy tomato called FT. This film is at its most imaginative when looking for finding new ways of making television look bad, such as a chimpanzee reading the news and zombies in the studio. That's not metaphorical, by the way. They've got the grey-faced make-up and everything. Gangreen even calls them zombies. That was amusing too.
The cast are okay. There are a few returnees, but the only ones who matter are John Astin and Steve Lundquist as Gangreen and his lab assistant Igor. They're both charismatic and never fail to lift the rather weak material they're given, which is a pleasant surprise in Astin's case. He seems to have a better handle on things this time. In fact everyone seems to have a good idea of what they're doing, with the most common fault being too much energy. Rockwell goofs around and gets away with it, but Carson gives a startling performance. She's up for anything. I admire her, blazing with energy on screen and always giving 110%. If only all other actresses could be even half as vivid. However this means she's operating completely without filters, which means that her energy can go awry when she starts shouting at strange moments. She's also doing a terrible English accent in several early scenes, but then forgets about it. However she's extremely attractive, so that's okay.
Nevertheless all these are good points in a swamp of mediocrity. It's just bland. Not much happens. A few people get killed by tomatoes, which this time have faces. Rockwell refuses to believe that tomatoes exist, which doesn't really add anything to the film except by giving him lots of chances to look endearingly goofy. There aren't enough jokes, with too many attempts at comedy simply involving actors being silly... although having said that, Kevin West's bank teller manages to come across as genuinely unhinged. He was freaky. I liked him. West is one of the few people in this film who'd go on to have a proper acting career incidentally and this was one of his very first jobs. He also played the vampire Marcus whom Spike hires to torture Angel in that Angel season one episode, In the Dark.
This isn't a good film, but it has a few laughs and it's not horrible. I'd never recommend it, though.