Jeff Strand – Attack of the Killer Tomatoes: The Novelization (2023)

Review by Justin Tate

A new novelization of an old film? Genius! There’s never been anything like this. The book is a genre all unto itself—part novelization, part expansion of the original premise, part close reading and part spoof of a spoof.

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes premiered in 1978 and wears its status as one of the worst films ever made like a badge of honor. The jokes are lame, the budget is next to nothing, and the premise is absurd beyond comprehension. Yet somehow it continues to satisfy as a parody of B-movies and societal failures.

Even at its best/worst moments, however, the film rarely lands a punchline and so much of the comedy is surprisingly advanced. Like, you have to pay close attention to “get” the gags, and by the time you do it’s too late to laugh.

Enter Jeff Strand, master of campy horror and humor. Even when he’s transcribing a scene from the film essentially frame-by-frame, it is with language that brilliantly illuminates the outlandishness of what unfolds on screen. The jokes are often the same as they are in the movie, but the timing is right and clarity is there. He obviously studied every cell of the movie to find something to laugh. I doubt even hardcore fans have noticed the layers and layers of ridiculousness he unearths from the film. Better yet, he invents several new scenes which enhances the storyline.

I’m not being ironic when I say this novelization is a must-read and deserving of instant-classic status. It’s one of those rare cases where artistic vision is so perfectly in sync with the author that the product comes out as harmonious as peanut butter and jelly or (more fittingly) a BLT.

If you’re a fan of the film, or even if you’ve never seen it, don’t miss out on Jeff Strand’s latest masterpiece. I’ve been a longtime fan of his and expect continually great things in his future. But when he’s dead and gone and the world looks back on his immense contribution of camp horror novels, I expect this Attack of the Killer Tomatoes novelization will be what’s etched on his tombstone. No shame in that. The book is an absolute delight.

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