Arrow Heads Vol. 26: MICROWAVE MASSACRE – Return of a Big-Box Classic

 

Arrow Heads
Arrow Video, a subsidiary of Arrow Films, humbly describe themselves as merely a “Distributor of classic, world, cult and horror cinema on DVD & Blu-ray.” But we film geeks know them as the Britain-based bastion of the brutal and bizarre, boasting gorgeous Blu-ray releases with high quality artwork and packaging and bursting with extras (often their own productions). Their collector-friendly releases had traditionally not been available in the U.S, but now Arrow has come across the pond and this column is devoted to discussing their weird and wonderful output.

No doubt if you grew up in the 80s, even if you didn’t see the film, you probably remember Microwave Massacre. While I was much too young to rent it at the time, I would gaze endlessly at the grisly hand painted Midnight Video box art wondering just what wonders that slab of plastic inside could possibly contain. Well thanks to Arrow Video’s latest release I was finally able to check out this hilariously bad slice of VHS madness in a pristine new 2K transfer right from the camera negative.

As the title implies, Microwave Massacre is a black comedy capitalizing on the slasher boom of the 80s. The film follows Donald (Jackie Vernon) a simple construction worker whose wife May is obsessed with cooking fancy meals in her brand new microwave oven. There’s been a bit of tension building in the relationship, given its been years since the couple has been intimate and Donald just wants a simple meal he can eat with his two hands. One night Donald comes home drunk and after an argument sparked by his wife’s latest delicacy gone awry, Donald kills her, chops up the body, and stows her away in the fridge downstairs.

Looking for a late night snack Donald accidentally grabs a piece of May from the fridge and starts cooking up his ex only to find she isn’t half bad after a few minutes in the microwave. After all those horrible meals Donald turns to cannibalism for both a tasty meal and to dispose of the evidence. After May, Donald by happenstance stumbles upon another victim and finds his impotence is only cured when he sleeps with someone with the intention of cooking them up later. It’s a weird element that enables the producers to also dole out a heaping portion of 80’s T&A to round out the film into something that was probably a decent renter back in the day.

Microwave Massacre at times feels less like a horror film and more like an ill conceived showcase for Jackie Vernon, or as he is better known to most, the voice of Frosty the Snowman. There is a brief discussion on the extras that Rodney Dangerfield was originally up for the role, which would have given us something MUCH darker given the comedians turn in Natural Born Killers. At times it almost feels like a comedic spoof of Maniac as Donald hunts down prostitutes to eat while everyone around him continually sets him up for a series of one-liners that land about 50% of the time.

Its no surprise, when the film was originally completed it sat on the shelf for about 5 years until it received distribution and that was only achieved thanks to the T&A and gore inserts that were shot and later added. It’s something director Wayne Berwick laments about during the special features while also trying to hand off some of the film’s uneven tone and limitations to a number of reasons trying to go the “we meant it to be a bad movie” route. We also get a glimpse of the deep Hollywood connections of the cast and crew that birthed this film from as Berwick name-drops everyone from Fred Astaire to Micky Dolenz of The Monkees. While not as candid as most the folks involved the film, Wayne gives us an all to brief rundown on the history of the film.

One big name mentioned in this same discussion is Irvin Berwick, Wayne’s father who primarily worked as a dialogue coach for Universal in the 40s, 50s and 60s. He is probably best known for helming the excellent Monster of Piedras Blancas, which just hit Blu-ray. That film, one of the few directorial efforts from Irvin Berwick, was a darker take Universal’s patented Monster formula produced with a great deal of support from the studio. The film featured a monster that was an amalgam of the Gillman suit terrorizing a small community with amped up sex and violence to make up for the film’s lack of budget. While originally panned by critics the film is finally getting a much-deserved reappraisal thanks to its new release.

Given Microwave Massacre’s previous DVD and VHS releases, you’ve probably never seen it look better. The new 2K scan, while having a few instances of damage, still looks great with a bright contrast and good grain presence throughout. The film more than lives up to it name with a fun and sometimes even silly take on the slasher genre that’s way more fun than it should be. Microwave Massacre is very uneven at times, but thanks to Jackie Vernon the shifts almost add to the bizarre humor of the piece. While most will pick this up simply for nostalgia’s sake, for fans just digging into the genre Microwave Massacre is a title definitely worth checking out for the premise and execution alone.

 

Get it at Amazon:
Microwave Massacre – [Blu-ray + DVD]

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the author

When Dan is not watching movies, planning screenings of movies, writing about movies, he is often busy trying to write and direct his own. Dan is an award winning filmmaker hailing from Rocky’s hometown of Philadelphia, PA where he also writes for Geekadelphia and functions as their Arts and Entertainment editor. His film obsessions range from regional exploitation films of the 70s and 80s, to oddities from Italy or Japan and anything by Lars Von Trier. Dan is a lover of the lowbrow and obsessed with seeking out the films most folks have the good sense to not watch on repeat and is always on the hunt for the next “unwatchable” film.