Forty-five years after the release of the B movie spoof Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, we have a novelization by an author who is perfectly suited to bring the absurdity of the film’s premise to the written page. 

Thanks to an amusing tweet by horror writer Jeff Strand and a serious response by Encyclopocalypse Publications, the book Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is a reality in 2023. Based on the original screenplay by Costa Dillon, John Debello, and Steve Peace, Strand’s take on the movie ups the comedy factor by 10 and maintains the campy absurdity of it all in a proper homage to the film.

I laughed throughout the 194-page story, which is about tomatoes of all shapes and sizes attacking humanity all over the planet. You can tell Strand enjoyed a lot of leeway with the project. As I wrote in my 5-star Amazon review, the plot reminded me of a Zucker, Abrahams & Zucker film with the humorous asides of a Dave Barry column. Of course, Zucker, Abrahams & Zucker are the comedy filmmaking trio responsible for Airplane! and The Naked Gun. Barry was a humor columnist for The Miami Herald where he won a Pulitzer Prize. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes won’t win a Pulitzer, but it will make you laugh a lot more than a Pulitzer ever would. 

I suggest watching the 1978 movie first to really appreciate what Strand’s added to the mix. It’s available to watch free on ad-supported streaming service Tubi. The cult film spawned three sequels, an animated TV series, and a comic book adaptation.

The best parts of Strand’s novelization are when he adds his own twisted brand of humor to simple scenes from the movie. For example, the opening scene of the film is less than a minute long as we watch a housewife get attacked and killed by a normal-sized tomato in her kitchen. That’s it. Cut to the opening credits song.

Strand expands on the scene by exploring the housewife’s thoughts. She’s thinking of her childhood friend Herman Farbage while doing the dishes, which leads to us learning about Herman’s cruel, ironic (and hilarious) fate. You know Strand did his homework because Farbage is actually mentioned in the quirky Attack of the Killer Tomatoes song. 

Strand continues sharing the housewife’s thoughts after she spies a tomato in the sink. She wonders who would leave a tomato there. She thinks of her three children. 

“None of them would just leave a tomato in the sink; not even Daphne, her least favorite of the three.” 

See that? It’s those not-so-subtle drops of drollness that keep you smiling throughout the book. 

Strand uses all the tools in the parody toolbox, most notably inserting himself into the story and breaking the fourth wall between him and his readers. There’s even a chapter where Strand is interviewed by Abner Gleeker, a fake interviewer Strand made up and often uses in his author newsletter. Gleeker criticizes Strand’s use of too much dialogue during epic scenes of worldwide carnage and convinces the author to rewrite the previous chapter to feature more action. And he does! 

Yes, this book is crazier than Crazy Ralph at “Crazy Ralph’s Used Car Emporium” (did I mention the giant squid battle?) but there are laughs aplenty. On Amazon, the Killer Tomatoes novelization boasts an excellent 4.5 stars (out of 5), which is the exact number of stars as the original movie. What are the odds? (By the way, Strand wrote a 2020 novel titled The Odds, which has 4.4 stars on Amazon. Take that for what it’s worth.) 

Strand’s novelization features the lyrics of the Killer Tomatoes song (“I know I’m going to miss her/A tomato ate my sister”) plus 13 pages of behind-the-scenes photographs and stills from the movie, which should please collectors and completists of B movie cult films.

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes isn’t for everyone, but if Otto in Airplane! or Leslie Nielsen in a sperm bank makes you giggle; it could very well be the funniest book you read this year.


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