Meat the wife: “MICROWAVE MASSACRE” (Berwick, 1979)

“Anthem Pictures reluctantly presents what is considered to be the worst horror film of all time…”

That’s the start of the trailer (above) and like many trailers, it has some exaggeration and outright untruths to offer. This is not the worst horror film of all time, it may not even be a horror film, being perhaps better categorised as a comedy with blood and boobs (both presented somewhat gratuitously).

The story ‘follows’ a construction worker named Donald (Jackie Vernon, who was an American stand-up comedian and actor best known for his role as the voice of Frosty the Snowman; this was his last feature film). Donald’s wife May has bought an absurdly huge microwave, and after a quarrel about the fact that he doesn’t like the gourmet dishes she prepares in it (he only likes “food he can pronounce”), he kills her and puts her in it.

Has he never heard of preparing his own meals? Well, that’s what he ends up doing, with a sudden abundance of meat – perfectly cooked, as soon as he turns on the microwave.

He finds that his friends on the construction site love his cooking, turning them into what cannibal studies calls “innocent cannibals”, those who eat human flesh unknowingly, as did the customers of Sweeney Todd.

To keep the food flowing, he takes home a prostitute and kills her during sex, then lights a cigarette, only to wonder if the smoke is for “after sex or before dinner.” Getting the picture? Other victims follow, including a woman dressed as Big Bird which allows the film some levity with chicken jokes such as “I thought you were a leg man, not a breast man”. We witness Donald’s M.O. – screw them, kill them and cook them. He tells his psychiatrist, who sleeps through his confession, that

The psychiatrist, newly awakened, assumes he is talking about a more symbolic cannibalism, cunnilingus, and encourages him to “do it do it do it! She’ll lose her head over you!” Ah, the witty double entendres! Donald goes to Chinatown, and promises his friends he’ll be making “Peking Chick”.

It’s full of those sorts of puns, and they are closer to horrendous than humorous. Each joke is based on racism, sexism or speciesism, and usually all three woven together, into a dish less palatable than the unfortunate May. Except for May and her sister, women are presented as promiscuous and available temptresses: a mixture of Eve and the Serpent who enticed her to taste the forbidden fruit in the original sin. There is in this film virtually no character development required before the victims are fucked and eaten.

The movie is barely longer than a modern TV episode at just under 1¼ hours. That seemed at times to be about seventy minutes too long. However, the film somehow managed to get 35% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Allmovie stating:

“Despite utterly failing as comedy, horror and pornography, Microwave Massacre is grotesque enough in design and attitude to be fascinating, much like a car accident.”

This is actually a better result than the director’s later movie The Naked Monster which managed a massive 12% rating of rottenness.

On the other hand, The Independent Critic thought it was “incredibly funny”, but warned:

“Vegetarians beware, this is a meateaters (sic) delight and the faint of heart should probably steer clear.”

Now, I’m just not sure why ‘meateaters’ would find images of women being murdered and cut up a ‘delight’. It seems to me after some careful study that meateaters prefer to maintain a judicious nescience about the source of their protein, which is why we see high walls around slaughterhouses and the careful dismemberment and presentation of the ‘products’ as not the parts of an animal but ‘just meat.’ Donald’s friends are horrified to find that the food they have been eating is a different kind of mammal to the one they expected. But they never asked about the species inside the lunchbox.

The combination of sex and slaughter is entirely aimed at and inflicted upon young women (Donald is nauseated at the prospect of having to eat May’s middle-aged sister, and leaves her tied up in a closet). This reflects the practices of animal agriculture which predominantly exploits the juvenile female body (eggs, milk, babies) before slaughtering them for meat. As a cannibal studies text (as opposed to a bad movie), this might appeal less to ‘meateaters’ and more to Carol J. Adams, who describes this process in detail in her book The Sexual Politics of Meat, which she describes as:

“an attitude and action that animalises women and sexualises and feminises animals.”

If I haven’t put you off yet, the film is available at Amazon for sale as a 2-disc special edition or for download or rent.


While we’re here, I would like to thank you for reading this blog – the readership has been going up steadily each month, and set a new record in March.

THANK YOU!

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