The Hunger (Microwave Massacre, 1983)
I vaguely remember seeing the cover in video stores before VHS died out…I never got around to renting it…and part of that is because the Cannibal Genre was never my thing. Monster movies and some slashers? Sure.
So when I sat down to watch the film, I was unaware of it’s status as “The Worst Horror Movie of All Time”. As the film began, I cringed…for awhile, I could not understand why it was considered a horror film. And I thought…wow, this is terrible.
A lot of whether you are entertained by a film can be based on your understanding of what you are walking into. And Microwave Massacre is not a horror film. It is a very dark comedy. One of two movies directed by Wayne Berwick and based on a story by Minnesota Native Craig Muckler, the film stars Jackie Vernon as construction worker Donald. Donald has two buddies who work with him and are both…well, kind of burnouts. Meanwhile, Donald struggles with his overbearing wife who has decided they should only eat gourmet meals. One night he gets so frustrated with her he kills her…and to hide the body? Well, this is where the cannibal part comes in.
This entire film is on a tight budget with only one big name (which is not a criticism, just an observation). Jackie Vernon is very well known to almost everyone old enough to see TV in 1969 and on. He was the voice of Frosty the Snowman in three seasonal cartoons that still air around the Christmas Holiday. A stand up comic, Vernon brings a certain goofy quality to Donald. He is not scary, in spite of being a cannibal. I would not proclaim every moment comedic gold. His buddies do add some comedic touches as well.
The effects are very low budget and unconvincing, which actually works in the film’s favor. Everything looks so fake, it is hard to be grossed out by it. This is a film that most will like be turned off by, but for those who appreciate the dark side of comedy, it may be worth checking out.
Last month, Arrow Films released the film on Blu-ray. The picture (from a 2K restoration) gives the film a cleaner look than it ever could have gotten in all the years on VHS. There is a documentary My Microwave Massacre that gives a lot of background in interviews with Berwick, Muckler and actor Loren Schein who I thought I recognized from multiple roles only to find this was his only acting role. I realized later that he kind of reminded me of Special Effects King Rick Baker. It would have been nice if they could have included more cast and crew, but I also realize that it can be hard to reach people who disappeared from the business quickly (a majority of the cast have this one movie as their only credit). The audio commentary with Muckler is fun and informative. He and the moderator have a solid rapport (oddly, the disc menu says the commentary is with Berwick).