Attack Of The Southern Fried Zombies


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Attack Of The Southern Fried Zombies
"This is art masquerading as trash, and doing so with sufficient flair to appeal to fans of both."

Since the dawn of the zombie movie, around 500 such films have been made. There are brilliant ones among them, but most revolve around the same basic premise: some people die, they start moving round again and they munch some other people. How many times can one watch that and maintain an interest? Committed genre filmmakers continually try to make it matter again with new and inventive tricks. Shorn of all such pretensions, Attack Of The Southern Fried Zombies succeeds - by going back to basics.

Since Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's Death Proof/Planet Terror grindhouse tribute, there have been many attempts to consciously recreate the atmosphere of those low budget, high energy B-movies still adored by fans, some of which have been more successful than others. This film does it so flawlessly that at first one might take it for the real thing, a product of naivety and luck. Closer attention reveals that's not the case. All the actors are using the same very specific style. Scenes that look slapdash are carefully lit. Music and motion are well coordinated. This is art masquerading as trash, and doing so with sufficient flair to appeal to fans of both.

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The plot hinges on a callous biotech company which has hapless hero Lonnie (Timothy Haug) spraying a new pesticide around Charleston, MS (introduced as Morgan Freeman's hometown) in an attempt to kill off the invasive kudzu vine. Instead, the chemical produces human-kudzu hybrid zombies (cue The Ruins-style plant-under-skin antics) who haid straight for the annual town fair. And that's about it. There are subplots involving a coveted meat pie recipe, Lonnie's romantic troubles and a lesbian couple's efforts to escape the attntions of sleazy men, all of which have their roots in genre tradition, and there are musical numbers performed onstage by the bands who supply the soundtrack.

What makes this film work is that despite all its references it never pauses for a wink or a sly nod but plays everything straight, letting humour derive naturally from the situations it presents. It's also made with evident love. The better you know the genre, the more fun you will have, but it's endearing regardless, and the small town dramas playing out in the background help to develop a likeable cast of characters despite the limited time we have with each one. Most of them are subsequently dispatched in suitably gory fashion. The special effects are above par for grindhouse but are utilised in an apparently careless way that perfectly suits the mood.

At its core, Attack Of The Southern Fried Zombies recalls the simple joy of games of chase, play fighting and messy destruction, the light-hearted anarchy that makes films like this fun. By not trying to be bigger or faster or louder or smarter, it breathes fresh life into the undead, and though it could under no circumstances be described as high quality, many genre fans will find it a delight from start to finish.

One last tip: stay for the end credits. All of them. There are several extra scenes and quite a few cute little notes hidden in the text as well.

Reviewed on: 10 Mar 2018
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Lonnie, a crop duster pilot, must lead a mismatched group of survivors to escape the deadly zombie horde after an experimental chemical, intended to control the invasive kudzu vine, transforms the citizens of Charleston, MS into zombies.

Director: Mark Newton

Writer: Christian Hokenson

Starring: Miles Doleac, Timothy Haug, Johnny McPhail, Wyntergrace Williams, Jeremy Sande, Michael Emery, Kaitlin Mesh, Megan Few, Escalante Lundy

Year: 2017

Runtime: 82 minutes

Country: US


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