India has been an avid fan of all things spooky and scary ever since she can remember.
“You better be here when the microwave rings.”
— "Microwave Massacre," 1983
The late '70 through mid-80’s was a simpler time when big hair, arcade games, and spandex were all the rage. It was also a pivotal time for the horror genre.
Golden Age of the Slasher
This was the Golden Age of the Slasher, with classics like Halloween (1978), Friday the 13th (1979), and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) going mainstream. Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Krueger became household names, and their origin stories turned into multimillion dollar franchises.
Of course, for every blockbuster there were hundreds of horror flicks that were just plain awful. There was New Year’s Evil (1980), Final Exam (1981), The Toxic Avenger (1984), Chopping Mall (1986), and many, many more.
A Horror-Comedy Minus the Comedy
However, of all the bizarre and/or lackluster cinematic efforts I have witnessed, Microwave Massacre (1979) might be the worst. While it’s billed as a horror-comedy, I never once felt the urge to laugh—though I did battle the impulse to bang my head against the nearest wall.
After construction worker Donald (Jackie Vernon) decides he can’t stomach another bite of his wife’s terrible cooking, he murders her and resorts to cannibalism to conceal the crime. There’s just one problem: Donald has developed a taste for human flesh—and his spouse isn’t enough to satisfy him.
We Get It, You're Horny
One of the most uncomfortable aspects of Microwave Massacre is that it feels like the film was written and directed by a (very) sexually frustrated teenage boy. There are too many sex jokes to count and two of the more memorable lines are, “I have to go to the breast room” and “Wanna feel my hard hat?”
When the very first shot is a closeup of a woman’s chest, you know there’s a problem.
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"Frosty the Snowman" Will Never Be the Same
Speaking of problems, I’d like to have a nice, long chat with whoever decided to cast Jackie Vernon (the voice of "Frosty the Snowman") as the cannibalistic protagonist. After watching him awkwardly proposition various women—not to mention the scene where he slobbers all over one girl’s breasts—it’s impossible to view the iconic Christmas special without cringing.
To make matters worse, this was Vernon’s final feature film role before his death in 1987. I’m going to go out on a metaphorical limb and say that he probably didn’t want to be remembered as the guy who said, “I’m so hungry, I could eat a whore.”
Sorry, But Women Have Standards
While it’s unreasonable to expect a film about a man who murders women before cooking their corpses in his giant-ass microwave—which he candidly refers to as a deranged toaster—to be overly concerned with verisimilitude, Microwave Massacre doesn’t even attempt to be realistic.
For one thing, woman after woman agrees to go home with Donald even though he:
- Looks like he hasn’t bathed since 1962, and
- Seems to be trying as hard as he can to creep them out by making bizarre remarks and generally giving the impression that he has no idea how to interact with other people.
And this unlikely Casanova isn't hooking up with age-appropriate women, but rather young, beautiful girls who normally wouldn’t give someone like him the time of day—unless they were very, very drunk, which is problematic in its own right.
I’ve got nothing against middle-aged men, but even in the 80’s I doubt women would be clamoring to go home with an unwashed construction worker old enough to be their father. Again, this feels more like a sad sack’s sexual fantasy than a scenario with any basis in reality.
The Pathetic Cannibal
Despite his talents as an actor, Vernon’s performance in Microwave Massacre is unforgettable for all the wrong reasons. He’s out of his element, and it shows.
Rather than coming across as suave and sinister, a precursor to the infamous Hannibal Lecter, Donald is bumbling, unkempt, and mentally unstable to the point where you can’t help feeling sorry for him—an effect only enhanced by the hangdog, whiny tone Vernon adopts throughout the film. It's certainly horrific, just not in the way the writers intended.
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