Tagline: "Zero trans fats has never been so deadly!".
Dionne (Christine Egan) and Joe (Jim Townsend) are living the dream, having inherited her father's farm in a rural area of America where they can concentrate on selling the produce from their very own vineyard.
But a second consecutive year of bad weather and poor crops means that they have barely any wine to sell. Worse still, when reformed alcoholic Joe gets depressed he decides to start drinking what little wine there is.
Unbeknownst to Joe, Dionne's mother Audra (H Lynn Smith) - who also lives on their farm - is a witch. And he thought all the secrecy surrounding her was because she was a dope fiend! One night while Joe sleeps, Audra and Dionne light a fire outside and cast a spell to improve the vineyard's crop.
A year later, the crop is indeed highly impressive, standing tall and colourful in the vineyard fields. Dionne and Joe are delighted, and have so many grapes to pick that they enlist some help.
Enter Professor Frank (Wyatt Gunter) who brings with him Ray (John D Kelly) and Louis (Watt Smith), two bespectacled nerds who speak with stereotypical squeaky voices and correct people on every pedantic point ("actually, it's just 'vulcan', not vulcanese"). Moments later, two girls arrive: Jenny (Kerry Kearns) and Lee (Natalia Jablokov) are two hot blondes hoping to meet hunky males at the vineyard. They're less than impressed when they meet Ray and Louis.
The youngsters set about working on the vineyard, and being boring in-between (the lads discuss rare plants; the girls sunbathe).
Meanwhile, when neighbour Fred winds up dead and Dionne notices a couple of strange occurrences in the vineyard, she sits Joe down and reveals Audra's true nature. Furthermore, they clue him in on the dodgy spell from a year earlier.
"There's a chance the plants could get aggressive" warns Audra.
Eventually persuaded, Joe gets the kids out of the winery and into the supposed safety of the farmhouse. But, all is not quite so safe - the plants are alive, and hungry ...
Shot on mini-DV for peanuts, ZOMBIES looks surprisingly good. It benefits from nice framing, Jay Lee's considered editing and sunny natural lighting for the most part. Artificial lighting lends style to night scenes, and imaginative camera angles work alongside an occasional smattering of agreeable rock sounds to give the film a semi-professional feel.
Performances are okay for the main, and Townsend's script - he also directs and produces the film - has some decent one-liners and enjoyably ludicrous techno-waffle from the two nerds.
But the film feels odd from the offset. It starts off disarmingly serious in tone, and then gets silly when the youngsters arrive at the vineyard. From there, the tone keeps shifting wildly between TV movie-type drama and daytime comedy.
Worse still, the pace suffers badly from a cast who seem curiously sedate throughout proceedings, seemingly yawning their dialogue out moments before their bedtime. More music on the mainly absent soundtrack may have helped, or perhaps a bit more going on in the action department (there is surprisingly little).
Tame, reserved, boring ... pick whichever word you prefer: ATTACK OF THE VEGAN ZOMBIES has a fun title but very little in the way of genuine mirth or gore when it comes down to it. The cast under-achieve and all seem to be wearing their worst clothes just in case it rains. Townsend looks like he'd be better suited to some anonymous kid's film on Channel 5 one afternoon.
The film however looks pretty good on this self-released DVD-R. Available on demand from Amazon.com, the disc presents ZOMBIES uncut in a non-anamorphic 1.85:1 rendering that is clean, clear and bright.
Thankfully free from digital artefacting and graced with unexpectedly strong colours and blacks, the transfer here was very good.
The same can be said for the English 2.0 audio which, considering the method of filming, is very reliable indeed.
Although there are no menus or extras on the film, the film has remote access via 16 chapters.
ATTACK OF THE VEGAN ZOMBIES is a disappointing film. It feels flat from beginning to end, like everyone involved just couldn't be bothered. This is all despite the aforementioned technical merits.
The title suggests a madcap comedy but this is an unexpectedly and perhaps inappropriately sombre effort for the most part. A stylish final five minutes don't rescue the rest of the film from being distressingly mediocre.
For more information, check out the official site here.
Review by Stu Willis
|Directed by Jim Townsend|