It’s mathematically impossible for me to hate anything with John Astin in it, which is probably why I have fond memories of watching Return of the Killer Tomatoes a handful of times as a kid. Revisiting it now as an adult with Arrow Video’s recent Blu-ray/DVD release, Return doesn’t really hold up as the hilarious farce I remembered it as, but despite some uneven jokes, for the most part it is still pretty entertaining and feels like the best Troma movie the Zucker brothers never made.

Released nearly ten years after its notorious predecessor, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, the sequel introduces a world in which the titular vegetables have now been outlawed after the “Great War” that pitted humans against their oversized tomato foes, forcing new generations to adapt to a tomato-free lifestyle. That doesn’t sit well with Professor Gangreen (John Astin, who would reprise the role in future iterations of Killer Tomatoes projects), who has built an army (and a love slave by the name of Tara, played by Karen Mistal) of human/tomato hybrids. It’s up to Chad Finletter (Anthony Starke) and his girl-crazy buddy Matt Stevens (George Clooney) to put a stop to Gangreen’s plans before it’s too late for all of humanity.

While it’s not nearly as hilarious as many of its cinematic spoof-fueled peers, Return of the Killer Tomatoes is still a fun effort from co-writer/director John De Bello that’s overall pretty harmless. It has a bit of a kitchen sink approach, where the gags fly fast and furious with De Bello hoping to land as many punch lines as possible in the sequel’s 98-minute runtime, and for the most part, they work. There aren’t a ton of “gut-busters,” per say, but the gags that do land in Return succeed really well (the nod to the “Ted Baxter School of Broadcasting” always has me chuckling, and I’m a big sucker for the sex shop sequence and “Killer Carrots” gag in the credits, too). For the most part, De Bello’s somewhat meta approach to the humor in Return of the Killer Tomatoes works more often than it doesn’t.

Starke, as the hero of Return of the Killer Tomatoes, does a solid job in the film, but as an adult, I can’t help but still see him as either “The Jimmy” from Seinfeld, or the guy who tried to sexually assault Kelly Taylor in the Halloween episode of Beverly Hills, 90210, so I definitely have a different perspective of him now than I did back as a kid. That being said, he’s energetic, lovably bumbling, and does a fine job playing it straight throughout many of Return’s comedic gags.

Clooney, who obviously has gone on to bigger things, oozes his trademark charisma and boyish sarcasm throughout Return of the Killer Tomatoes, and the legendary Astin is at his most unhinged here, making for a wacky mad scientist and foil for the film’s heroic duo.

Arrow’s Blu-ray presentation of Return of the Killer Tomatoes is lovely, despite a few grain issues here and there with some of the scenes. It still looks better than the VHS copy I watched as a kid, so I don’t have a ton of complaints on the quality, as I never could have imagined a low-budget flick like this being resurrected in high definition in the first place. The release includes an entertaining interview with Starke, who talks about his experiences working on Return. Beyond the usual stills and trailers, Arrow also includes a commentary track featuring De Bello’s anecdotes and fun stories from the set.

While I don’t know how the uninitiated might feel about spending money on this release of Return of the Killer Tomatoes, for those of you who have some affection for this late ’80s cult horror comedy, Arrow does a fine, albeit imperfect, job instilling new life into this sequel on Blu-ray. You’ll absolutely be happy adding it to your home entertainment collections.

Movie Score: 3/5, Disc Score: 3.5/5

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.