REVIEW: Killer Tomatoes Strike Back (1990)

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Those crazy maniacal fruits are back in the third installment of the cult B-movie horror-comedy series that meshes spoofs of horror films combined with Naked Gun style humor.

When a young woman is running from a maniac in a hockey mask, the tables get turned on the maniac but also the victim as a group of killer tomatoes decked out in hockey masks strike at a small area in Crystal Mountain. Assigned to the murders are Detectives Boyle and Rood. Boyle doesn’t believe in the idea of killer tomatoes. When the police decide to bring in tomatologist Kennedi Johnson to help with the investigation, Boyle finds every method to blow her off due to his lack of beliefs.

Meanwhile, the latest TV star is Jeronahew, a talk show host who has won the hearts of millions. Unbeknownst to the public, the TV show host is actually Professor Gangreen, the mad scientist responsible for the creation of the killer tomatoes. With his dim-witted assistant Igor, Gangreen intends to use the media and brainwash them in order for Gangreen to rule the world. However, once Boyle finally realizes the truth about the killer tomatoes, he and Johnson decide they must stop the evil professor before it’s too late and find themselves an ally Boyle never expected.

John DeBello’s Attack of the Killer Tomatoes in 1978 was hailed as a cult classic of epic proportions. A decade later, its sequel Return of the Killer Tomatoes introduced the iconic villain Professor Gangreen, played by John Astin; and a pre-fame George Clooney in a co-lead role. In this third installment, DeBello and Astin return as well J. Stephen “Rock” Peace, who reprises his role of Wilbur Finletter, the former Army hero of the first two films who now is the police captain in the film. For those who know the film series, expect Finletter to sport his trademark open parachute.

This time around, the lead role goes to co-writer Rick Rockwell, who would go on to reality fame infamy with the 2000 program Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire. After a brief appearance in Return as a member of the Screen Actors Guild in a cameo, Rockwell, who also co-wrote this film, played a detective who seems to be influenced by the likes of Leslie Nielsen’s Frank Drebin. Rockwell knows the intention of the film series and goes along with it to a tee. It’s safe to say he helps make the film watchable along with Crystal Carson, who plays tomatologist Kennedi Johnson in such a way that Carson was trying to prove herself to be a “scream queen”. However, knowing this is a comedy, it was done to comical effect, including a hilarious shower scene with no nudity required that gave Carson a chance to work those vocal pipes in even the simplest of situations.

The one thing you have to enjoy in this film for sure is John Astin’s Gangreen, who tends to break the fourth wall on numerous occasions to inform the audience his plans for world domination. Since his last plan obviously failed, he turns himself into a media icon named Jeronahew, which is an obvious play on former talk show host Geraldo Rivera. Steve Lundquist also returns in the role of Igor, but if you have not seen Return yet, this is not the Igor you would expect. Instead of a traditional humpback assistant to a mad scientist, we have a beach bum decked out in a suit but still has a lot of dimwit in his actions.

A new thing in the film is the fact that these new “killer tomatoes” have faces on them. This is to show that these tomatoes mean business. The tomatoes not only “kill”, but rob banks to bankroll Gangreen’s plans of world domination as well as help the mad scientist kidnap all media personalities in order to Gangreen’s message across. There is one “good” tomato who does help out heroes and if you have seen Return, you know exactly who it is.

Killer Tomatoes Strike Back knows its intentions and runs full force. While it may not be up to the level of its predecessors, it’s still quite a fun “horror”-comedy to enjoy as a time-waster.

WFG RATING: C

A Four Square Pictures production. Director: John DeBello. Producers: John DeBello, J. Stephen Peace. Writers: John DeBello, Constantine Dillon, and Rick Rockwell. Cinematography: Stephen Andrich. Editing: Beth Accomando.

Cast: Rick Rockwell, Crystal Carson, John Witherspoon, John Astin, Steve Lundquist, J. Stephen Peace.

DVD

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