'Attack of the Southern Fried Zombies': Film Review

Exactly what you expect, but less funny.

Mark Newton offers Grade-Z monster madness to B-movie lovers.

There's only so much complaining a viewer can do about a movie titled Attack of the Southern Fried Zombies. Were you expecting The Exorcist when you bought that ticket? Director Mark Newton puts on no airs in this Grade-Z gorefest, harking back to the early VHS-only days when a lack of quality was almost viewed as its own kind of virtue. Though it lacks even a shred of the self-aware humor one might hope for in such an effort, it does at least offer respite from the glut of dumb fright flicks in theaters that actually expect you to take them seriously.

The pic's lack of wit is only really galling because this zombie-outbreak scenario takes place in tiny Charleston, Mississippi, against the backdrop of a (seemingly fictional) festival named for Mose Allison. Closing credits dedicate the film to the late white-boy bluesman, but what kinship that quick-witted, impossibly cool songwriter might have with this schlock is anyone's guess. Let's do everyone involved a favor and not compare them further.

Shortly before this festival started, a company called GloboBioTech began testing experimental pesticides in the area, crop-dusting in hopes of killing off invasive kudzu. Everybody knows you can't kill kudzu. Not everybody knows it might kill you if you try.

Before long, the ubiquitous weed has mutated into some icky gunk that can grow inside a human body, passing from one victim to another in the usual chompy-zombie fashion. First there's a dead pot dealer out in the woods, then a fisher in a nearby pond. The epidemic is slow to start, but as soon as two infected victims wind up in the same place at the same time, mayhem will ensue.

Meanwhile, our generic group of young protagonists is at the fair, where one, Timothy Haug's Lonnie, works for a buddy who has a meat pie stand. Given the extraordinary amount of time Christian Hokenson's screenplay devotes to meat pies — their secret recipes, plans to start a meat pie restaurant, rivalries with another local meat pie maker — you might expect them to somehow be relevant to the sudden cannibalism happening in the background. Try not to commit too much energy in such predictions: There will be no human or post-human flesh in baked goods today, and the zombies couldn't care less about savory pastry, no matter what's in it.

Hokenson and Newton bide their time with some young-adult subplots — Lonnie longs for ex-girlfriend Kayla (Wyntergrace Williams), who went away to college and started dating Trent (Clay Acker), and so on — but no viewer will accidentally become invested in this soap opera. The movie gives us just enough horny youngsters, references to pot and old coots with grudges to fill screen time until the special-effects guys go to work.

"Work" may be an overstatement. Attack's creature FX are as lazy as the screenplay, surely not meaning to convince anybody of anything. The kids scoot from dunking booth to City Hall to the local airstrip in an attempt to figure out what turned everybody dead and leafy; along the way, they lose loved ones, and God bless 'em, the filmmakers actually seem to care.

Scenes with the town's mayor and a crew of survivalists hint at directions a more socially conscious movie might have headed, but there's no attempt at any kind of commentary here, on the surface or below it. A single reference to Donald Trump sounds politically agnostic, and stumbled-over jokes about veganism and homosexuality are spat out so quickly it's clear nobody was expecting a laugh. In the end, things blow up real good, however pre-fab the CGI explosions are. It's no Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, but for a certain undemanding subset of zombie addicts, Attack of the Southern Fried Zombies will serve as filler in the streaming-vid queue, awaiting those sad months when there are no new Walking Dead episodes to watch.

Production companies: Movie Magic and Entertainment, FilmQuake
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures
Cast: Timothy Haug, Moses J. Moseley, Wyntergrace Williams, Megan Few, Escalante Lundy, Kaitlin Mesh, Clay Acker
Director: Mark Newton
Screenwriter: Christian Hokenson
Producers: Per Ericson, Juri Koll, Mark Newton, Laura Warner
Executive producers: Miller Greenlee, Jason Rochelle, Daniel Wood
Director of photography: Jonathan Hammond
Production designer: Joyce Paul
Editor: Jeremy Lerman
Composer: James Covell
Casting director: Laura Warner

82 minutes