Lunch Meat is one of those grade-Z horror flicks that neither tantalizes with gore nor entices with nudity. Rather, it's a distressingly dire concoction shot on Super 8 with an ultra-low budget that should have never been made because the special effects are pitiful, the cast fully clothed throughout, and the writer/director, Kirk Alex, without an iota of a valid film sense in his head. The story has to do with six high-school seniors traveling from Los Angeles to the hills of San Bernardino, where one of them has a cabin they're planning a short vacation in. On the way, they run out of gas, pull over in the parking lot of a sleazy, all-but-deserted hamburger joint, where they're seen by a couple of backwoods men, who are taking in their family's collection of meat to the joint to be sold. You see, these men and their father and obese older brother back in the hills are cannibals who slay people and sell them for money; and when they see six plump youngsters in their
vicinity, they travel ahead and detour them to a sparsely-traveled neck of the woods, where they ambush and terrorize them for the duration of the running time.
None of the teens are even remotely interesting, and the viewer may feel they've already earned their deaths merely by singing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" in the car earlier on. And the non-musical words that come out of their mouths arguably earn a death sentence as well ("She should have a picture in the dictionary under the word 'fungus'."). In what's clearly a miasma of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes, Alex can't direct an action sequence to save his life; the chase scenes boast little to no spatial logistics between hunter and prey, and they're paced with the rhythm of a drunken turtle. The teens split up into twos, and it's an eternity until they're located by the villians and even longer until they're murdered, and even then the most in the way of actual violence we get is a pick-ax plunged into their feet. In between, the action cuts to endless shots of the obese brother chomping on body parts, and their mean father whipping his son for doing so --
the buyer likes the meat fresh and untainted, you know. Naturally, any semblances of suspense are dissipated when we're taken away from the victims' plights; and the lousy acting doesn't help the scenes where just dialogue is in play -- it's like staring at a busted-for-good radiator in your apartment in the winter while you're freezing, compounding the misery factor tenfold.
Lunch Meat isn't all-out terrible because of its low budget, but its low imagination. Rather than having an identity of its own, it borrows so many parts from so many other films and is executed with so little panache that it's more of a checklist for Better Movies Past than an actual film all its own. Oh, there's an occasional attempt at humor now and again, with one a possible homage to John Boorman's Deliverance -- when the bad-toothed, unwashed brothers are carrying their meat inside the hamburger joint, there are two separate cuts to a sign outside that reads, "All deliveries in rear." Har, har. And the ending has to be seen to be believed, where Tobe Hooper's Chainsaw film is blatantly aped: the lone survivor, a woman, runs out onto the road, is chased by the most obscene-looking of the family who just happens to resemble Leatherface, and a motorist stops his car right before the man runs back into the woods. Sadly, this is indicative of a filmmaker who hasn't any shame
on top of his lack of skill, and it's the audience who feels assaulted after eighty-eight minutes of this irredeemable mess that's to cinema what the Edsel was to the automotive industry. All in all, Lunch Meat could have been a kicky gore-fest perfectly satiable to the undemanding, but its terrible technical efforts invalidate the passable story premise, and like a hoary hamburger without ketchup, it leaves us hungry for the red stuff.