Author: Stephen Graham Jones
What happens when a group of Pro-Wresters arrives early to their venue, only to crash a soccer-mom style baking event? You send them to the back room . . . where they unfortunately eat infected donuts and turn into the living dead. From here, all you need to do is accidentally lock everyone in the building, block the loading dock, and scream and run around a lot.
Honestly, it’s a concept that could have been cute on the big screen. Think of my all-time favorites: Zombie Strippers and Sharknado. Sometimes stupid, campy horror is just fun. And sometimes . . . sometimes it’s just stupid. Enter Zombie Bake-Off.
You don’t expect deep characterization from B-horror. And that’s a good thing because you do not get characterization here. What you do get, however, is a lot of characters to try and keep up with. It becomes a mind-boggling amount of people, running around crazily, nearly getting eaten, fighting and loving, confessing and throwing out the weirdest theories that everyone just accepts. All our characters are stereotypes too. The whiny bitch (i.e. Terry the coordinator) who is secretly a good person. The doddering brother (Chapman) who really will save the day (sort of). The dumb-pro wrestler (confusingly named Xombie) who provides the brawn vs. another dumb-pro wrestler, Tiny Giant, who also provides the brawn, but for the side of evil (muhhhhhhaaa). The dumb promoter (Johhny T) who just wants to raise some hell and make some money. The funny gay dude, Kent, who likes cooking, and the little old lady (Beatrice) who remains dignified throughout the zombie apocalypse. There are lots and lots of others, but their main purpose is to 1) have funny pro-wrestler names or 2) be eaten. It’s just . . . so tedious and so dumb. It’s too dumb to be funny even. It’s so campy that it’s just that . . . campy.
And yeah, yeah I know this is deliberately B horror . . . but couldn’t there be a better reason for everyone to be stuck in the building than the non-reason given? Why would Johnny T lock out his own fans to get even with Terry? It made zero sense. And really . . .the cell phones all being out . . . and then that last segment with the cell phone on the roof. Lame. So, lame it’s not even fun.
The gore really cranks here, and it’s just a gross splatter fest that is so illogical it becomes mind-numbing and samey. For example, we have a woman legitimately commit suicide by shoving a blender in her mouth. This handheld blender, after having gone through several zombies, conveniently goes through skull and brain while she is holding it. Has the author ever used a KitchenAid? They’re not that strong. Come on. Just no.
The infected donuts . . . and that entire side-story was actually kind of neat though. It was good campy. It was the only bit that was good campy.
And then . . . my major, major qualm . . .
Toward the end, Terry agrees to help Xombie cut open the scull of her injured brother, whom she supposedly loves, so that another character can eat his brains while he is alive and make a recipe that will fool the zombies into thinking they have real brains. It’s so gruesome and sad. It made me hate the characters. How could Terry agree to doing that to her own brother and be so cool about it? And the description of the dying brother kicking and jerking as they sawed off his skull and dipped into his brains is just so sad and disgusting. It STILL bothers me. In the end, it doesn’t even make sense, because this entire make-a-brain-substitute thing is almost immediately dropped. All that trauma was for nothing. Just stupid. Vile. Cruel. Evil. No.
*End of Spoiler Warning*
The Zombie Bake-Off is just bad. It’s not fun. It’s not campy in a good way. It’s over-the-top, sure. It’s a gore factory as well. But the soul here is dead, rotting, carrying on for no purpose, shuffling listlessly and pretending to be something it’s not – an entertaining book. I was relieved to finish this. I oscillated between being bored, to scoffing, to hating. I never enjoyed this book. Not recommended.
– Frances Carden
Follow my reviews on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/xombie_mistress
Follow my reviews on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/FrancesReviews