Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Microwave Massacre (1983) [filmed in 1979]

Directed by:
Wayne Berwick

The late Jackie Vernon (a former Vegas lounge comedian probably best known as the voice of Frosty the Snowman in that kid's holiday special they run every single year) comes off like a poor man's Rodney Dangerfield in the lead role, in part because of the awful and seldom-amusing dialogue. He's Donald, a dullard construction worker who hasn't been laid in fifteen years by his overbearing wanna-be gourmet chef wife May (Claire Ginsberg). One evening Donald stumbles in drunk after a night at the bar, gets in a confrontation with May and ends up strangling her. He chops up her body, wraps her remains in aluminum foil, stores the parts in the freezer and accidentally mixes a piece of her in with the 'regular' meat. After chowing down on a raw hunk that turns out to be his former wife's hand, Donald decides he can't get enough of the taste of human flesh. Even his hardhat buddies Philip (Al Troupe) and Roosevelt (Loren Schein) love the taste. Well, when they aren't being distracted by random buxom women who stick their breasts through convenient breast-sized cutouts on the safety partition. The only problem is that May tasted "old and tough," so now he's in the mood for something a little more "young and tender" if you get my drift. Thus begins a long and seemingly never-ending succession of bosomy bar whores, streetwalkers and even a woman in a chicken suit being lured back to his home for sex and slaughter. They are promptly killed, chopped up and cooked in a silly-looking refrigerator-sized microwave oven in effects scenes utilizing dime-store rubber limbs and mannequin parts that wouldn't even pass muster in an Andy Milligan or Herschell Gordon Lewis film. Quite a bit of bare breastage in this one, too, including a nude woman on a giant slice of foam bread being smeared with globs of mayonnaise. Robert A. Burns (the art director for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Howling, Re-Animator and other noteworthy genre films) has an uncredited cameo as a bum. It was filmed in 1979 but not released until 1983.

Any film that boasts right on the box that it's the "worst horror movie of all time" has a mighty big barrel to scrape. However, it needs to be said that there's a huge difference between accidentally making a film so awful that it's hilarious and intentionally going out of your way to try to do so. Movies like this, with their intentional bad acting, stupid dialogue, awful one-liners and pea brained visual gags, usually lack the charm and humor of films made by people who went in with good intentions but didn't quite have the talent to pull it off. And that's basically what I found to be this film's undoing. The cast obviously know this is moronic and proceed to overact, mug, look at or talk to the camera, do ridiculous double-takes and / or flub lines. As far as the director (who is the son of Irvin Berwick) is concerned, what exactly are you supposed to say? "Wow! That truly was stupid and awful! Congratulations on making your movie so stupid and awful!"

Don't get me wrong, there are many good examples of films that have been able to successfully incorporate some of that wink-wink, nudge-nudge style of self-parody. This just isn't one of them. The supposedly amusing one-liners aren't usually very clever, nor are they funny in a stupid way. The film is also badly paced, sorely lacking in the kind of energy needed for this type of film and grows extremely repetitive and tiresome about midway through. As far as being "the worst horror movie of all time" is concerned... I think this wishes it were the worst. But it's not. It's simply below average wannabe camp. A few moments here and there did actually make me laugh, but films that don't actually try to be juvenile and stupid are more deserving of the title of "worst," not something that wears the fact its awful like a badge of honor from the first frame to the last.

Quite a disappointment I must day, especially since I have fond memories of being just a wee tyke and spotting that cool over-sized VHS box with a decapitated-head-in-a-microwave on it that I was never able to rent. Maybe I would have liked it more back then. You know, when I was six.


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