With so many comedy horrors either aping or poking fun at the schlocky classics of the 80s currently playing horror festivals or the depths of Netflix, it can be a lot of fun, and hugely refreshing, to revisit the movies that inspire them.
That definitely proves to be the case with this pristine re-release of 1988’s Return Of The Killer Tomatoes, a comedy that has buckets of charm and an early best friend role for one George Clooney.
It’s about 10 years since the events of the Tomato Wars, and the once-beloved red fruit has been banned. While Chad (Anthony Starke) and his buddy Matt (Clooney) work at the local pizzeria making candy-based meals, the evil Professor Gangreen (John Astin, going full ham) is hard at work turning tomatoes into people for his own nefarious means. When Tara (Karen M Waldron), his prize experiment success, escapes with an adorable fluffy mutant tomato, she hooks up with Chad, but can their love survive her secret? And what is Gangreen’s end-game?
Director John De Bello and his co-writers Stephen Andrich, Costa Dillon and J Stephen Peace have so much fun with fourth wall breaking and flagging up the sheer silliness of their premise that it’s very hard not to get on board. With cheesy songs explaining the plot, characters complaining about the reuse of footage from the first film and a cast of actors who are all playing up to the joke, it’s incredibly charming and often very funny.
There’s some fantastic meta business with complaints about the budgetary issues being resolved by endless product placement (mostly courtesy of a brilliantly deadpan Clooney). We were expecting the Troma-style schlock silliness, but the Airplane/Wayne’s World-esque comedy was a great surprise.
On the downside, it does start to overstay its welcome, especially as there’s basically no plot at all, and by the last twenty minutes you will be willing it to hurry up through some slow sequences, but for every joke that doesn’t land there are two that do.
It may not hold much appeal beyond its target audience, but that target audience should have a brilliant time rediscovering it. And Clooney’s great, too, by the way. The Arrow Blu-ray offers great picture quality, and includes a commentary with De Bello and a fun interview with Starke, who has nothing but nice things to say about everyone involved.
Go on, give it a go.