Friday, May 1, 2009

Attack of the Vegan Zombies! (2009)

Most zombie movies feature flesh-eating zombies. I mean, it’s almost a given that zombies crave human flesh and their sole purpose is to hunt down and feast on humans. What if, though, zombies went vegan and instead of craving fresh meat they wanted to devour plants? Well, Attack of the Vegan Zombies tackles this whole different approach to zombies…and does a pretty entertaining job of it!

Struggling wine-makers Dionne (Christine Egan) and her husband Joe (writer/director/producer Jim Townsend) haven’t had a very successful year with their winery. Their grape crop is horrible, and if something isn’t done soon they will lose their winery. Dionne asks her mother (H. Lynn Smith), who is a powerful witch, to cast a spell so they have a burgeoning crop next year. Unknown to Joe, who is passed out from drinking wine, they use a bit of his blood in the ritual.

A year later, the vineyard is flourishing and they have a bumper crop. They hire some college students, who are accompanied by their professor, to help harvest the grapes. Unfortunately, because the blood used in the ritual was tainted with alcohol, the vines have become super-aggressive and start killing people and draining them of their blood. The victims, in turn, stagger back to life as zombies…who want nothing more than the grapes and wine that the vineyard has produced. Only problem is that everyone at the winery drank the wine…so the vegan zombies are coming after them, attracted by the wine pumping through their veins!

I really loved the unconventional idea of “vegan” zombies, an idea in horror films that hasn’t really been explored. Though I imagined Attack of the Vegan Zombies to be a comedy about hordes of zombies attacking fields of crops and leaving destruction in their wake, like locusts, it was much different than that. It didn’t just stick to slapstick veggie jokes, but had a well-developed story that didn’t just rely on one-liners. I was expecting an over-the-top horror-comedy, but instead Attack of the Vegan Zombies delivered a well put together and unique zombie film.

What first grabbed me when I popped the disc in was the superior quality of the film. Though the film was made on a small budget, the production values are impressive! Indie filmmakers take note – THIS is what your films should aspire to look like! Every shot was carefully composed, the lighting (even in night-time scenes) was amazing and overall the film just had a professional sheen to it. Major props to director Jim Townsend for making such a visually engaging and enjoyable film.

The story, written by Jim Townsend, was also well done. The dialogue was believable and the back story of the mutant vines and zombies was very well established. The first half of the film is a little slow, but it does a good job of leading up to the last half. In retrospect, I really enjoyed the slow build-up, especially since it gave me a chance to get to know the characters better. Oh, and what characters they were! Most of them were pretty normal – Dionne, Joe, Dionne’s mother, the professor, etc. – but a few were delightfully over the top!

I was also impressed by most of the acting. Jim Townsend (this guy does it all in this movie!) and Christine Egan were fantastic as married couple Joe and Dionne. They were very natural and believable in their delivery. My two favorites, though, were John Kelly and Walter Smith as the two nerdy college students. When I spoke earlier of over-the-top characters, these two are who I was speaking of! Their over-the-top portrayals were just hysterical and a laugh-a-second. I looked forward to every time they popped up on screen. I wish the same could be said about the two actresses that played the lesbian college co-eds, but their acting was at best sub-par and at worst grating.

The special effects makeup was pretty decent, and even the fact that the zombies were little more than actors slathered in green paint didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the film (and in the context, the zombies being green actually makes sense!). There wasn’t much gore to speak of, but nonetheless the film worked even without any major blood splatter.

Attack of the Vegan Zombies really impressed me. Super multi-tasker Jim Townsend, who wrote, directed, produced and acted in the film, has created a very enjoyable, very unique zombie film that will no doubt become a cult favorite. I had a blast watching this film and think you will too!

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