For generations, the Sloppy Joe has been a staple of cheap, greasy, quintessentially American cuisine. What it hasn’t been, however, is the subject of a schlocky monster movie – at least, not until now.
Why writer/director David Cornelius thought that situation needed to change is a mystery for the ages, but considering that his film Inhumanwich! was successfully Kickstarted to the tune of more than two grand by eager supporters, it would appear that a surprisingly large number of film fans were ready to shell out their hard-earned cash to see a low-budget flick about a Sloppy Joe sandwich that bites back.
The resulting movie is a rather delightful send-up of the cheaply crafted drive-in horror/sci-fi cheese-fests that once charmed audiences with their preposterous plots, thrift store special effects, and dinner theater-quality acting. Cornelius and company have clearly seen their share of lovably awful atomic-age dreck like Robot Monster and The Creeping Terror, and they’ve crafted Inhumanwich! as a loving homage shot through with an undercurrent of MST3K-style mockery.
“…Inhumanwich! is first and foremost a spoof, and the jokes come at a frenetic, almost Zucker-like pace at times.”
The plot is exactly what one might expect from this sort of thing; it involves a square-jawed all-American astronaut named Joe Neumann (Jacque Ransom) whose solo mission meets with catastrophe on the return trip to earth. Pelted by radiation while he just so happens to be enjoying a Sloppy Joe sandwich he’s packed for lunch, Joe’s body fuses with the sandwich stuffing to become a gloppy, pulsating mutant man/meat monster (or, say, “inhumanwich”) bent on consuming everything it encounters. When the ships crashes in the woods outside of Cincinnati and the creature starts wreaking havoc on earth, it’s up to a team of NASA scientists – including mission commander Farley (Matt Laumann) and Dr. Chang (Michael Peake) – as well as Joe’s wife (Kayla Clark) to defeat it before it can consume and slop-ify all of humanity.
Shot in black-and-white and featuring a nice selection of charmingly shoddy digital and practical creature effects, Inhumanwich! often does a fine job of emulating the no-budget creature features that inspired it. Set dressing is sparse (NASA mission control, for example, is a barely disguised corporate meeting room), reaction shots – which are, of course, a hell of a lot cheaper than effects shots – are plentiful, and the occasional flubbed line of dialogue lends things an (intentional?) Ed Wood vibe. There’s even a wholly unnecessary rockabilly musical number to pad out the running time a bit.
As faithful to its vintage inspirations as Inhumanwich! is, however, the film is first and foremost a spoof, and the jokes come at a frenetic, almost Zucker-like pace at times. Said jokes range from deliberately corny to borderline clever – especially when the film gets meta and cracks wise about things like obvious foreshadowing – but, clearly, nobody involved here is shooting for the austere wit of, say, The New Yorker (the editors of which have probably never tasted a Sloppy Joe in the first place). Good-natured giggles, if not guffaws, abound throughout; the creature’s rather matter-of-fact way of devouring its victims is a riot to behold, and the deus ex machina that sets up the film’s climax is both hilarious and thematically perfect.
One can’t help but wonder, though, whether Inhumanwich! might have been even funnier had it been played completely straight. The ethos of Z-grade monster movies is so effectively and affectionately resurrected that the rapid-fire gags almost seem superfluous; the original films were funny because they had basically no sense of humor at all, and it could have been a lot of fun to see something that captured that aspect of them alongside all the other elements that Inhumanwich! so cannily pays tribute to.
Still, Cornelius and his Ohio-based Argo One Productions crew clearly had a fantastic time chronicling the reign of terror of one of the most ridiculous monsters in movie history. That sense of fun should pretty easily carry over to any viewer who’s ever enjoyed (ironically or otherwise) the kind of stuff that once populated the bottom half of drive-in double features and late-night schlock horror showcases. And even the most hardcore vegetarian – actually, maybe them more than anyone else – is likely to get a good chuckle or two from seeing a giant blob of ground beef and tomato sauce sloppily ingest an unsuspecting human; here’s a film that makes “meat is murder” a very literal thing, indeed.
Inhumanwich! (2016). Written and directed by David Cornelius. Starring Matt Laumann, Michael Peake, Kayla Clark, Jake Adam Robinson, Jack Burrows
3 ½ stars out of 5
More information can be found on the official Inhumanwhich! website.