Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Halloween Havoc: LUNCH MEAT (1987)

Quick nostalgia story detour – in the late 80s, the thriving video store in our area wasn’t Blockbuster, but a place named Erol’s Video that used to get everything. Among the chain’s many quirks were that they would cut boxes down so they all uniformly fit inside these bulky Styrofoam laced cases and they would just dump the returned releases in a feeding trough in the center of the store.

One day in the late 80s, my sister and I were hovering around the return standee when the employee unwittingly drops the Holy Grail in front of us – LUNCH MEAT! What?  That tiny flick that had a single page write up in Fangoria that we never thought we would see?  This can’t be.  Sure enough, the colossal red case was quickly ours and we forced our mother to endure yet another humiliation at the checkout counter. Naturally, we were disappointed.  With visions of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE dancing in our heads, we instead got lesson in horror film hucksterism as the movie barely lived up to the promises the (still) amazing cover offers.  This film barely had a pulse.  Of course, that doesn’t stop me from revisiting it some 20 years later to confirm that, indeed, it still sucks.

LUNCH MEAT opens as all films should – with an obese mongoloid redneck carrying a chicken running from his scrawny brothers.  Meet the sons of Paw (yes, they spell it Paw in the end credits): Benny (obese), Elwood (scrawny sans beard), and Harley (scrawny with beard).  These backwoods bumpkins apparently hunt humans and sell the meat to the local restaurants (AAA ones, no doubt).  Cut to the Hollywood sign and a Jeep Cherokee full of six teens heading to Mt. Edgar for the weekend.  Hold on a minute…this is set in California?  Do they have rednecks there?  And why do they have Southern accents? Anyway, back to the car.  Inside we have Eddie (driver), Sue (Eddie’s girl), Debbie (obligatory punkette), Cary (asshole), Frank (love interest for Roxy), and Roxy (final girl, played by one Kim McKamy; more on her in a bit). You can tell they are a wild bunch because they sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”

A Rob Zombie Wet Dream:

Following a bunch of annoying arguing, the kids run out of gas and push the car to Wilbur’s Bar & Grill – World Famous Juicy Burgers.  I kid you not, the sign for this place is one of those old school big letter dot matrix print outs that flaps when wind hits it.  And guess who just showed up with a delivery?  Elwood and Harley!  They proceed to ogle the girls while the guys continue to quarrel (“You’re not allowed to stay at my cabin!”). Our yokels figure out where the kids are heading and decide to set up a false detour in order to “ketchemenkillem.”  So the kids take the bait and soon find Benny lying in the middle of the road. They stop to check on him and he proceeds to kill Eddie and rip his throat out. The hick hunters then jump out and attack, with Debbie losing her head.  Frank and Roxy head off in one direction, while Cary and Sue head off in the other.  All this goes down at the thirty minute mark, which means director Kirk Alex then spends the next 58 minutes draaaaaaagging out the chase through the woods.

I often wonder how films like this get made. I mean, you have a group of people who have enough brainpower to raise money for a film, yet can’t be bothered with the seemingly small detail of making it interesting.  Starting off by ripping off THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is probably the first wrong move. You won’t top it, so you can at least try to outweird it (see BLOOD SALVAGE).  But hulking Benny is no match for Leatherface. Hell, he isn’t even on Buddy (SLAUGHTERHOUSE) Bacon’s level. Debuting director Alex seems to have no interest in imagination and instead opts for the same old stuff. Then again, this guy barely has the capacity to put together a cohesive film. I’m not demanding Hitchcock levels of talent, but perhaps the occasional interesting camera angle or an attempt at suspense would be nice?  His idea of a chase is a single shot where the prey runs across the screen and then we get the predator sluggishly moving along after that.  His idea of dialog is the following exchange mid-chase.

Paw: “Harley!"
Harley: “Paw!”
Paw: “Harley!”
Harley: “Paw!”

Even more surprising is the complete lack of exploitation elements.  If you can’t compete on a technical level, at least wow me with some gooey over-the-top gore effects (see REDNECK ZOMBIES). Again, that damn cover promises me Benny chewing on a severed arm like he thinks he is The Deadly Spawn.  We do get him chewing on some raw meat, but it is a leg, which you only know is a leg because Paw screams, “Stop chewing on that damn leg.”  How dare you! Instead the audience is treated to lame stuff like Paw slashing someone with the fakest machete ever and a severed head that I’m pretty sure was re-used twice.  Most of the time we don’t even see a knife/hook/pickaxe even enter a victim.  That is criminal, especially when you go out of your way to show someone pull the offending weapon from a fake foot.

Most surprising is the complete lack of nudity.  It is doubly surprising because lead Kim McKamy took the porn world by storm a few years – and a stop at a plastic surgeon – later when she debuted as one Ashlyn Gere (a fact that kept the IMDb listing LUNCH MEAT as an adult title for the longest time, ha!).  If you want the audience to remember your flick and you haven’t done it with any other exploitable element, at least throw in some T&A.  If you can’t figure that out, you’re helpless and deserve to be slapped in the back of the head by Roger Corman.  In the end, this LUNCH MEAT is totally rancid (and not in a good way).

2 Reactions:

  1. Just watched this recently myself (for the first time here). There's that moment in bad slashers where the chase begins and you look at your watch and notice there's 40-60 minutes left and you would do anything at that point to have more charcter building, even if it is along the lines of singing "row, row row your boat." For me the only thing of note during the last two thirds is the fact that twice someone swings a pickaxe, misses the body but hits the foot because it's so much easier to pretend there is a foot inside a shoe than to bother with gore effects. Although when it happened a second time I was doubting my own eyes so who knows.

    Also wondered if the scene at the "restaurant" was filmed at some tables outside because they weren't allowed inside.

    And there's this synth score that plods along and I want to say after a few minutes of it I thought, "Well the synth score is kind of okay," but an hour later I absolutely hated it.

  2. RE: the restaurant bit. I bet they got there and were like, "D'oh, we forgot our lights!"


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