There are a few ways to achieve cult status in film, and particularly in the horror genre. One is to be a very good film, such as Halloween. One is to be an extraordinarily bad film, such as Troll 2. And one is to be a truly absurd parody of the genre. I don’t think I have to spell out which category Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! falls into; the name pretty much says it all.
The title pretty much says all you need to know about the plot as well. Mutant tomatoes begin attacking America, America scrambles to defend itself. An elite government task force made up of useless idiots attempt to fight back against the vegetable menace and find out where they came from.
For someone with GERD, this is nightmarish indeed.
The film is the brainchild of director John De Bello, who is pretty much known only for this film and its sequels. Every bit as low-budget as the older horror movies it is spoofing, you won’t find big name actors or high production values here. The giant tomatoes are as impressive as it gets, visually, and even they are withheld for the early part of the film — to drive home the horror and surprise when they’re finally revealed, of course. The actors don’t do terrible jobs, but neither do they do great ones.
No… the joke is the thing, as with a lot of spoofs. So how well does the humor work? Well enough. Not perfectly — there are a few jokes that are definitely drawn out far too long, such as the parachutist who won’t disengage his ‘chute. And there are some others that just fall flat. But a bit like Airplane!, which came out two years later (Killer Tomatoes is from 1978), Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! keeps throwing out jokes until something sticks. If one joke doesn’t work, and a lot of them won’t, another will be along in a minute. Sooner or later you’re almost bound to find something to smile at, and occasionally even laugh at.
This is absolutely a film which would be best enjoyed in groups, though. The incredibly dumb sense of humor of this film is the sort of humor that works best when you’re able to laugh at yourself and your friends for laughing at so stupid a joke.
Is it a great film? No. Not by any measure. But as a palate cleanser between too many monster movies that takes themselves too seriously, it works quite well.