Microwave Massacre (1983) – By Roger Carpenter

 

I well remember seeing the lurid and, frankly, cheap-looking cover for this video back in the heyday of VHS video. I haunted all the little mom & pop stores in my small town, always on the lookout for something cool and unique. I must have passed over Microwave Massacre hundreds of time, always giving it a glance but never bothering to pick it up. I instinctively knew it was a cheap affair and, while I enjoyed those kinds of flicks as well, my gut told me it simply wasn’t worth the time. Boy, was I ever wrong!

I may not have made time for Microwave Massacre but Arrow Video made time for the film, and I’m certainly glad the good folks at Arrow showed better judgement than I. For Microwave Massacre is actually a hidden gem of a film, an immensely entertaining low budget comedy horror film with a ton of heart (and lots of other body parts, too!).

The story is nothing special: Donald (stand-up comedian and voice of the television classic, “Frosty the Snowman,” Jackie Vernon) is tired of his wife’s high-falutin’ cooking. Ever since she bought a microwave, she is attempting to create wonderful works of “cooz-ine,” as she says. But Donald is a baloney sandwich and beans kind of guy and is starving because he doesn’t like her attempts at “real food.” Soon enough Donald is pushed too far and he accidentally kills his wife. Not knowing what to do with her body, he dismembers it, wraps it in aluminum foil, and stuffs it in the deep freeze with the rest of the frozen meat the couple has stored. Problem is, all the packages look the same so it isn’t long before Donald is accidentally eating his wife instead of a butt roast. He discovers he likes the taste of human flesh and even kindly supplies his construction worker buddies with the prime cuts of meat, which they also enjoy immensely. But as Donald begins to run low he begins to go on the prowl for other women. Each potential victim assumes she is returning to Donald’s house for a little of the old in-out, in-out, but in reality he is sizing them up for more than just sex.

Microwave Massacre isn’t groundbreaking in any form or fashion. There are tons of plot holes in the story. Why does Donald not notice he’s chewing on his wife’s frozen hand when he first unwraps it? Why do all these pretty women want to pork a pudgy, middle-aged dufus like Donald in the first place? And can you really cook a fancy meal—much less a plate of arms and legs—in a microwave oven? The answer to all these important questions is, simply, who cares? We aren’t watching this for high-brow entertainment and to ponder the meaning of life.

The jokes are, for the most part, really lame. For instance, Donald runs into a woman dressed as a chicken. The ensuing conversation is simply a series of chicken puns, none of which are funny. But somehow, the totally lame exchange is simply hilarious. There are tons of sight gags, puns, and one-liners that were already old and tired when radio was invented. They are all used here. I kept waiting for the drum to beat out “da-Dah-da” after each one of them to emphasize the jokes because that’s how lame they are. For example, the neighbor lady is holding a cat in the yard when Donald exits the house. Upon seeing the cat, Donald says, “Pussy, pussy, pussy…” followed by other naively crass comments. In another scene, Donald again exits the house while the pretty neighbor lady is watering the garden. She is squatting down and holding the hose between her legs. The shot is from behind so it looks like she is urinating. Not really funny, but again, you can’t help laughing because it’s all played so seriously.

There’s a little blood but not much. This is no gore fest. In fact, the special effects are very unrealistic and cartoonish, with obviously fake body parts and blood that is way too bright red. However, there are ample naked women on display and, for a film that cost south of $100K, they sure scored some beautiful women ready to shed their clothes for stardom. Even by early eighties standards, these babes are very easy on the eyes.

Perhaps the saving grace for the movie is its production value. Producer and co-writer Craig Muckler had already made the drive-in hit Malibu High in 1979 while director Wayne Berwick had grown up around the movie business thanks to his father, Irvin Berwick, who was a dialogue director for several dozen films throughout the 50’s and 60’s and directed the cult classic The Monster of Piedras Blancas along with several other exploitation titles such as Hitchhike to Hell and Muckler’s Malibu High. So these filmmakers had some chops and new how to milk every single cent from each dollar.

When released on video in 1983, Microwave Massacre was billed as “the worst horror movie ever made” as a marketing ploy. I must disagree with this wholeheartedly. I’ve seen some real crap over the years and Microwave Massacre doesn’t come close. In fact, it’s all terribly entertaining, including the horrible ending which occurs abruptly and with no good reason. And to wrap it all up, there’s a running gag with Donald’s wife’s severed head that goes on throughout the film, which makes no real sense until the end, when the final shot shows the head and the eyes begin to glow, evoking a crazily surreal supernatural tinge to an otherwise non-supernatural film. Okay….

But that’s why people love Microwave Massacre. Sure, it’s hokey and cheaply done. But the actors all clearly have bought into it and the production value is, outside of the special effects, actually very good. This may be one of my new favorite movies. I can’t believe I passed this by in all those video stores so many decades ago, but I’m glad it finally caught up to me!

Along with the standard and Blu-Ray presentations of the fully uncut version of Microwave Massacre, Arrow Video has provided some excellent special features including a new making-of featurette with Berwick, Muckler, and actor Loren Schein reminiscing about the film and the original trailer, along with a brand new audio commentary with producer Muckler who really enjoys telling stories about the film throughout the length of the commentary. Included in this special edition is a very nice 20-page booklet which includes an essay by film historian and author Steven Thrower.

Arrow Video USA has once again blessed us with a genuine cult classic which has been given extra special treatment. This one is an absolute must-own. The film can be purchased at Amazon or directly from Arrow at: http://www.arrowfilms.co.uk/category/usa