It has long been common for new technologies and the fears associated with their use and misuse to become sustenance for horror films, and while the microwave oven was developed in the middle of the nineteen-forties it did not enter common household and commercial usage until the seventies, leading to Wayne Berwick’s 1979 horror comedy Microwave Massacre.
More intent on creating fine cuisine than attending to her marriage to resolutely blue-collar construction worker Donald, an array of dishes whose names she cannot even pronounce, aspirational chef May remains defiant in the face of his pleas for simple fare such as his friends Roosevelt and Phillip enjoy during their shared lunches at the building site.
An argument resulting in Donald bludgeoning May to death with a pepper mill and stowing her body first intact in the enormous X1-74A industrial microwave then dismembered in the freezer, he accidentally gnaws on her arm while hungry; finding it a more agreeable meal than what he has been enduring, he proceeds to share it with his established friends as well as making new acquaintances to continue the supply.
A film of determined bad taste which is sophisticated neither in premise, performance or presentation, Microwave Massacre somehow manages to create something oddly entertaining and occasionally spicy out of its mismatched and less than promising ingredients, more akin to the social satires of early John Waters than the slasher horror which came to dominate the following decade.
Starring Jackie Vernon in one of his final roles as Donald, many of the performers such as Claire Ginsberg (May) have few or no other credits, perhaps best known among them the occasional adult entertainer Alex Mann as the gay construction worker credited as “Le Fruit;” while easy to dismiss as offensive historical stereotyping, in fact he is accepted by his co-workers and plays a part in their jokes rather than becoming the butt of them.
A cannibal comedy predating Paul Bartel’s classic Eating Raoul which mocks the lead trio of men who in modern parlance would be termed incels and plays with gender roles, Donald enviously eyeing the cross-dressing parties of his neighbours, Microwave Massacre is far from cordon bleu but while it runs out of power before fully cooked it has morsels which remain digestible, including the end credits which continue the culinary theme.
Microwave Massacre will be streaming on Arrow from Friday 12th May