Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Microwave Massacre

Way back when, I used to see this VHS box in the Movie Time store. It used to scare me. It had a gruesome looking head, eyes still intact, clearly nuked for the sole purpose of the hungry man with the knife and fork licking his lips to consume. Consume! As in cannibalism! Via the microwave! And 'massacre' was in the title - clearly a harsh word intended only for the hardest of the hardcore horror films. Never mind the tagline screamed 'comedy' - to me, this was one fucked up little movie - and I wouldn't see it until, oh, twenty-five years later.

Of course, time changes our views and I'm no longer the wide-eyed ten year old salivating over lurid VHS box art any more. But I still have those memories and those memories shape the movie watching persona I have today, so when I finally tracked down a copy of Midnight Video's version of MICROWAVE MASSACRE, I still had certain expectations in mind. I was expecting an outright horror film, what I got instead a deliciously trashy, misogynistic, pun-laden 'comedy about cadavers and cannibalism.' Allow me to give you the highlights.

Donald's life sucks. He works a crappy job as the foreman at a construction site supervising two horny dudes. (If you've never seen a glory hole for boobs before, the opening scene of MM is your chance!) He can't get a decent meal to save his life (think a giant crab on a huge roll - it's cartoonishly over the top, really), because his annoying wife, May, has taken up French cooking, in her gloriously gigantic new microwave. This thing is bigger than my refrigerator. I know appliances were huge in the seventies, but this thing is retardedly huge. Never mind the fact that May is cooking high-falutin' cuisine in it. Seems the oxymoron, but oh well.

After slaving over the microwave all day (she actually says this), Donald refuses to eat May's cooking. They get into an argument, ala the henpecked husband routine, and in a crime passionale, Donald kills May with a salt shaker, and he doesn't even forget to sprinkle some salt over his shoulder for luck. Relieved to be rid of the annoying bitch (Edie Massey is less irritating and a better actress and I kind of wanted to kill May myself), Donald goes about dismembering her body and storing it in the freezer. He wakes up the next day and doesn't remember killing May, until he opens the microwave and sees her lifeless corpse. 'Oh well, just the way she would have wanted to go - except she hasn't gone yet, oh brother!'

Later that night, Donald is watching a newscast about the perfect crime. Seems some guy stole a bunch of caviar and hid the evidence by eating it all. Ding, ding, ding! What do you think Donald decides to do next?

If you guessed making giant sandwiches out of live prostitutes and seducing a woman in a chicken suit who is dancing an Irish jig to come over for sex, only to cook her body to serve to his construction worker friends, you would be correct. 'I'm so hungry, I could eat a whore,' Donald quips, in one of his many, many groan-inducing, but oh-so-hilarious puns.

It's all in good fun and I love this movie. It's so morbidly over-the-top from the whole Jackie Gleason thing to the cannibalism to the call girls in their trashy outfits. However, it's a bit of a stretch for me to buy Donald's character switch. Yeah, he's been abused by his wife for thirty years, but he ain't no prized pig himself, coming home wreaking of booze and insulting May. It's no wonder she yells like she does, really. They hadn't even had sex since 1962. 'You're a walking contraceptive,' she yells during a heated argument. Donald is completely joyless in the beginning and his murdering of May seems to free him from this joylessness. Heck, he even gets to have sex after all these years. But it doesn't make him a better person. It makes him worse, as it turns him into a serial killer.

Donald just doesn't have it in him to pull off the whole serial killer/cannibal thing. He's just too much of an ignorant goomba. And he falls into the cannibal thing most unwittingly, as he gets up in the middle of the night for a snack, only to groggily discover he's eating a raw hand. 'I may have underestimated May's taste,' he says, and continues chewing. The leap is made too quickly and all of a sudden he's a cannibalistic maniac, while still maintaining his persona of beaten down working class man who can't get anything good to eat from his nagging wife. But it's not calculated, either. Donald is one of the other and a flesh eating Jeffrey Dahmer type he ain't.

But this movie is successful in that it blends the whole horror and comedy thing quite well, something that is very difficult because the writer and director must be skilled at both. It's no massacre of the Texan variety, but it doesn't aim to be either. It's a silly, trashy romp that you just don't come by that often, especially nowadays. Mother-in-law jokes, objectifying women, microwaves - it's all very pre-Married with Children. And the fashion! Oh the fashion. It's the worst of the seventies worst, but it's also refreshing to see real women in a movie, a little cellulite, curves, and all. And where else are you going to see a live hooker slathered in mayo, put between two giant slices of bread, and sawed in half? Or a sexy blond doing yard work with a vibrator? Or a glory hole for boobs? Or death by microwave, for that matter? That's what I thought.

Now, if only I could get an uncut box copy of the Midnight Video version. All my damn Midnight Video boxes are cut to fit clamshells and it's annoying. To the time machine, before all the big boxes on VHS were cut!


  1. I've been meaning to check this one out after my partner in crime reviewed it. Oh where ever did you find a copy of this trashtastic masterpiece?

  2. It's good times. Completely unhinged, but also very restrained, in a formulaic way, if that makes sense.

    I got it on eBay for about 17 bucks, despite the box being cut. My copy of THE RATS ARE COMING, THE WEREWOLVES ARE HERE, another Midnight release is also cut. I would one day like to have all the Midnight Video releases in their uncut big box glory.

  3. Donald's character arc (or rather, right-angle drop) sounds right out of EC and pre-code horror comics to me. Read a bunch of those, and again and again you see henpecked husbands with horrible harpies for wives suddenly going mental and doing the most horrible things to them. Makes me wonder what the home lives of the comic book artists/writers were like. :)

    Great review, Jenn! I may have to seek this one out as well.

  4. You know, I didn't think about that whole EC Comics vibe, but it's definitely there. I think Donald's actions in the beginning are almost justified because May really is the Queen of the Harpies. It's just a hard thing to take when he starts fucking hookers and then cooking them (or sometimes eating them live, slathered with mayo). The crimes just don't match. He could easily just go to the grocery store and buy some bologna and cheese, you know? He got away with killing May, so why not just go back to semi-normalcy?

    I just kept thinking Fatty Arbuckle or Jackie Gleason as prostitute-killing cannibals, which made me laugh a little.

  5. Looks good and I will get it on DVD once my finances improve. We dont have to worry about cut down VHS boxes in the UK it's the movies being slashed to avoid upsetting anyone that bothers us. Thank SATAN we can now import DVD titles from the States thanks to Amazon! Nice blog by the way, I found it after reading your refreshing comment about Nekromantik on another blog!

  6. PS. Fatso Arbuckle as a Lady of the Night Killer would make a great film, certainly one I would buy, you should produce and direct it forthwith!

  7. Thanks for the comments, Death-Face! Is this on DVD? It's just one of those I have to have on VHS so I never sought it out on another format, if that makes sense.

  8. Yes its on dvd but just one of many I have to get round to purchasing! I can see the appeal of VHS but I no longer have a player so not much use for me, plus the censorship over here is criminal. They even cut a stupid bit out of Braindead, the bit with the mad doctor wearing a Nazi armband. Quite pathetic really.

  9. Great review! My buddy Jimmy and I used to see this on the video store shelves all the time, until we finally broke down and rented it (back-to-back with "Lunch Meat", I believe, which made one interesting Double-Feature!). It was truly an odd little piece of junk.

    I included a link to this post in the second "issue" of Spatter Analysis.

    Check it out!


  10. I remember the cover to LUNCH MEAT but I don't think I ever had the pleasure of seeing it. I'm sure just by title alone, it would pair nicely with MICROWAVE MASSACRE. I will definitely check out Spatter Analysis.

    Thanks for stopping by! It's good to hear from you!