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.
Attack of the Southern Fried Zombies (Aka Kudzu Zombies) is a textbook example of how to do a fun, relatively low-budget horror comedy right, almost perfectly so. Lonnie (Timothy Haug) works as a crop duster, spraying the crawling mounds of kudzu that have carpeted the countryside in South Carolina. Meanwhile, back at the hanger/lab Dr. Fukushima (Kiyomi Fukazawa) and Dr. Klein (Miles Doleac) are devising a spray that could effectively kill off the invasive kudzu and allow the native vegetation to flourish again. Of course, something goes horribly wrong and the spray actually makes the devilish vine aggressive, almost sentient.
“… attacked by this vegetation-fueled zombie.”
Wandering potheads Robbie (Moses J. Moseley), Asher (Scotty Whitehurst), and Matt (Michael Emery) happen upon a dead man on their way to the annual carnival and are attacked by this vegetation-fueled zombie. Meanwhile, absolutely adorable couple Ed (Escalante Lundy), and Nancy (Susan McPhail) are preparing their award-winning barbecue for the festival in hopes of making a few bucks on the crowds while silly old coot Ben (Johnny McPhail) is attempting to figure out their recipe. Finally, the affectionate, pot-smoking pair of Trish (Kaitlin Mesh) and Jennifer (Megan Few) who are mainly just looking for a tent to make out by.
Everything culminates when our disparate protagonists converging on the carnival are suddenly surrounded by flesh-eating monsters. Their only hope is to get back to the hangar to see if there is a way to halt the onslaught once and for all. And that’s the story.
“That’s it?” you say? Then I pose a follow-up. “What else is needed?” This is a low-budget zombie movie, what do you want? Here writer Christian Hokenson keeps things light and breezy, with story notes from Mark Newton, Stephan Stromer, and Daniel Wood. There are no overwrought dramatic arcs, no nihilistic metaphor, no commentary on the human condition, just a bunch of likable characters wading through the progressing zombie outbreak in the south. I have to add that the key element here is that these people are likable.
“…Newton seems to know how to play to the limitations on hand for full effect.”
Director Mark Newton seems to know how to play to the limitations on hand for full effect. Absolutely no shade was thrown here, but these are not A-list actors. The performances run the gambit from amateur to community theatre’s best. Yet somehow, we get characters that are endearing as hell. Dry line readings and flat delivery mean little when you are actually meant to connect with these down-home folk. I was actually bummed when a few of them bit the dust.
The downsides are minimal but there are some. It seems like SOMEBODY discovered drone camera work and really wanted to explore the possibilities of extended shots of the band playing at the festival or sweeping views of the same landscape covered in kudzu again and again. There aren’t many, but the shots that are in there feel like deja vu.
In short, Attack of the Southern Fried Zombies is a hoot. It has exactly everything you need in a zombie movie. There is plenty of gore, a large cast of characters that the zombies can feast on, and a script, cast, and crew that knows its strengths. This isn’t Night of the Living Dead. Not by a long shot. But who wants that when you can run around in the kudzu with the zombies?
Attack of the Southern Fried Zombies (2017) Directed by Mark Newton. Written by Christian Hokenson, Mark Newton, Stephan Stromer, Daniel Wood. Starring Timothy Haug, Kiyomi Fukazawa, Susan McPhail, Escalante Lundy, Kaitlin Mesh, Megan Few,
Attack of the Southern Fried Zombies is worth Matinee (***).
Norm’s Rating System: Full Price (****), Matinee (***), VOD (**), Don’t Bother (*)