Return of the Killer Tomatoes (1988)


When I was a kid growing up, the Killer Tomatoes were a part of pop culture knowledge. Every now and then there would be a reference on a sitcom or a clip seen from the original film floating around T.V. land. The original film played on tv every now and then but sadly I never caught it. I vaguely remember a cartoon series that aired briefly on tv when I was a kid and there might have been toys too. For whatever reason I always avoided the whole lot. I’m very sad I did because after checking this film out, I now know I was really missing out.


Return of the Killer Tomatoes is a direct sequel to the first film. Since the killer tomatoes smashed everything in the first film, tomatoes have been banned. They cannot be grown or sold and the young folks of San Diego have never even seen one let alone eaten one. The mere sight of a tomatoes strikes fear in the hearts of men and women. John Astin returns as Professor Gangreen. His plan this time around is to turn tomatoes into people he can easily control. He can turn them into muscle bound Rambo knockoffs, beautiful women, and famous people in order to infiltrate positions of power so that he can rule the world with his tomato people army. One such tomato person escapes and ends up on the doorstep of Chad and Matt (played by George Clooney in this early role). She’s hot, loves sex, and wants to know more about humans. She and Chad fall in love while Matt makes jokes. She’s recaptured by the evil professor and so Chad and Matt must face the growing army of the tomatoes to defeat the professor and get back the girl.


Full disclosure, I watched this film having never seen any of the other ones (there are four total). As of this writing, I have yet to watch any of the others, though it is something I plan to remedy. The film references the first movie but sadly those references were lost on me. What wasn’t lost however was how much fun this movie is! When I was a young gore hound I avoided this movie because it has no gore and no nudity, and when you’re a teenager what’s the point of watching a flick like that? I’m sad my narrow minded pursuit of crazy movies left me ignoring this because I can tell you that had I seen this back in the VHS days it would have been on heavy rotation. In some ways it reminded me of the corny vibe that lives in Troma movies but without all the politically incorrect jokes and over the top gore. A closer relative would probably be Weird Al film UHF or the Naked Gun movies. Return of the Killer Tomatoes breaks the fourth wall repeatedly throughout the movie in fun and inventive ways. I loved it. We are constantly reminded that this is a movie and a silly one at that and the director wants us to know that he’s knows that it’s silly. If that makes any sense. The film never goes off the rails and maintains a very fun late 80’s comedy vibe that isn’t mean or dirty which may repel some readers of this review but let me make it clear: this movie is an 80’s cheese sandwich and should be seen by lovers of goofy flicks the like of which fill these pages.

Return of the Killer Tomatoes left me feeling energized and excited to dig into the rest of the films in the series. I might even try to track down the short lived cartoon. It’s a shame that the direct only made five films (4 of which were killer tomato movies) but I’m glad that we have at least these films to enjoy.