Ahh the zombie genre. From the classic, creepy crawlers of Night of the Living Dead (1968) to the brain-munching stoners in Bong of the Dead (2011), from out-right terror to over-the-top camp, nothing has gone untouched by this genre. Enter Jim Townsend’s 2010 indie zombie film Attack of the Vegan Zombies. Just when you thought that nothing new could be added to this well-probed genre, Townsend’s low-budget film brings in every genre-defying oddity – witches, nerds, alcoholic vines, cheerleaders, and of course, the vegan zombie. Just reading the title can strike any zombie-loving moviegoer with understandable hesitation – can a zombie movie where the zombies don’t eat human flesh work? Spoiler alert: it can.
Vineyard owners Joe (Jim Townsend) and Dionne (Christine Egan) have been experiencing a few rough years at their winery. Despite being talented and hardworking winemakers, their crops have underproduced season after season, plummeting the couple into financial and emotional despair. Finally, when selling their infertile land seems like the only possibility, Dionne seeks out the help of her estranged and disapproving mother, Audra (H. Lynn Smith) who turns out to be a wickedly talented witch. That may be a bad pun, but this momma has some seriously powerful spells under her sleeves. With much convincing, Audra casts a spell over the land using some of the blood from Joe, taken from him one night while he lay in bed, passed out drunk (we all have our different ways of coping with a failing vineyard!). Cut to one year later and the vineyard has become the most successful in all of the county, producing so many glorious grapes that Joe and Dionne are forced to hire extra hands to harvest the crop – two blonde and beautiful cheerleaders (Natalia Joblovov and Kerry Kearns) and a professor (Wyatt Gunter) who brings along two of his nerdy, Trekkie students (Watt Smith and Ames Arnold). However, soon after the comedic clan arrives at the vineyard, things start to go awry.
After a friendly neighbor goes missing in the vineyard, Audra reveals that the vines may have become vengeful due to the alcohol present in Jim’s blood that was used in her spell. Vengeful may be a bit of an understatement as the vines start snatching up anyone in their presence, sucking the alcohol from their blood and turning the unlikely grape-pickers into green zombies (no one is safe from alcoholism friends!). Fueled by their addiction to alcoholic blood, the vines knock out the phone-lines and disable all of the vehicles, trapping Jim, Dionne, Audra, the nerds, and the cheerleaders on the farm with blood-thirsty zombies and little chance of survival.
Attack of the Vegan Zombies looks like recipe for a disaster. It shouldn’t work. And yet, it does. Thanks to terrific acting from all of the characters, witty writing, terrifyingly realistic special effects, and professional editing, Townsend’s film is a cut above the rest of indie zombie films. It deftly walks the line between horror and comedy and provides enough scares and heart to make it thoroughly entertaining on every level from start to finish. In the vast collection of zombie films, Attack of the Vegan Zombies is hands-down one of the best and destined to become a cult classic.
Review by: Alex Schultz