‘Attack of the Killer Donuts’: Cannes Review

Visual effects artist Scott Wheeler premiered his horror-comedy in the Cannes Market.

If John Waters and George Romero dropped acid together and then spent the night at their local Krispy Kreme, they might have concocted something like Attack of the Killer Donuts. But the fact that such a film actually exists, and is exactly what it claims to be about, is something that even the best drugs can’t help explain.

As ludicrous as it sounds, this low-concept, low-budget schlock horror-comedy from vfx artist Scott Wheeler (Xena: Warrior Princess) is far from unwatchable and even manages to entertain for most of its first hour, before succumbing to creative burnout — and a bizarre kind of sentimentality — in its final stretch. Premiering at the Cannes Market on opening day, it’s the type of movie that reminds you how the cinema is not only about bold artistic statements and red carpets, it’s also about getting your face ripped apart by a box of glazed, flesh-eating pastries.

The Bottom Line

Destined to become a cruller classic.

There’s sure to be a few decent drinking games (or maybe dunking games) invented around the scenario by Nathan Dalton, Chris De Christopher and Rafael Diaz-Wagner, with players betting on which of the script’s characters will first meet their fate at the hands of the fang-bearing fried critters, who are spawned from a botched lab experiment by a cartoonish mad scientist (played by soap star Michael Swan).

Will it be best friends Johnny (Justin Ray) and Michelle (Kayla Compton), the sole employees of the most unsanitary donut joint in all of greater Los Angeles? Or will it be Johnny’s mom (Kassandra Voyagis), the brunt of at least a dozen MILF-related gags? Or how about the pair of beignet-munching cops (one of them played by C. Thomas Howell, slumming it with gusto) who allow their handcuffed perp to transform into a gastric zombie spewing killer burps, farts and bowel movements?

In true camp fashion, Wheeler keeps the body count going for much of the running time as Johnny and Michelle flirt with one another while fighting off the homicidal Danishes with pots, pans and other kitchen utensils until bringing out the big guns for the final act. It’s then that the film’s charms begin to wear off and all the visual effects — consisting of digital donuts that do things donuts should never do — can’t really compensate for so much kitsch, although there’s no shortage of irony in what feels like a movie that’s been made to be made fun of rather than simply consumed.

Production values are on the lower end of the spectrum compared to, say, a cornerstone of the genre like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, although the mutant donut prosthetics and snappy lines of dialogue help differentiate this effort from a pure parody like The Attack of the Giant Moussaka. All in all, it’s the kind of film that will work its way into genre fests, midnight shows and VOD outlets — cheaper by the dozen but nonetheless enjoyable.

Venue: Cannes Film Festival (Market)
Production companies: Restless Nomad Films
Cast: Justin Ray, Kayla Compton, C. Thomas Howell, Michael Swann, Allison England
Director: Scott Wheeler
Screenwriters: Nathan Dalton, Chris De Christopher, Rafael Diaz-Wagner
Producers: Rafael Diaz-Wagner, Nicole M. Saad
Director of photography: Howard Wexler
Production designer: Robert Hummel
Costume designer: Tina Zepeda
Editor: Christian McIntire
Composer: Joel Someillan
Casting director: Judy Belshe-Toernblom
Sales agent: Cardinal XD

Not rated, 97 minutes