The Mutilator

1985 – USA

Director: Buddy Cooper

Starring: Matt Mitler, Ruth Martinez, Bill Hitchcock

Words: O. Innocent

Originally titled Fall Break, the title by which Buddy Cooper’s low-budget slasher effort has come to be known is much more fitting; lurid, attention-grabbing and totally unoriginal, The Mutilator perfectly encapsulates the essence of this cult curio in a mere five easy-to-remember syllables. Largely forgotten in the midst of the Freddy and Jason-dominated slasher boom of the ‘80s, now, after years of obscurity, cuts and cheap bootlegs, The Mutilator has finally been given the resurrection it deserves courtesy of cult home entertainment mavericks Arrow Video. Delivering the full uncut, unrated version with a plethora of new bonus features, Arrow Video’s new Blu-ray is the real deal. However, the question on all horror fans’ lips is; was it really worth the wait and the hype? Well, if we’re talking in terms of sheer entertainment value, most definitely. Of course, this being a low budget slasher film, it certainly won’t win any awards for creativity or originality, but if cheesy ‘80s fun and brutal bloodletting is what you’re after, The Mutilator delivers.

It begins, as most of theses films do, with a flashback showing the origins of the killer. Here, a father comes home from hunting to find that his son has accidentally shot his wife while cleaning one of daddy’s precious rifles – a clever comment on America’s controversial right to keep firearms in the house, or a contrived attempt to grab the viewer’s attention and thirst for blood from the get go? I’ll let you decide that one. Any mystery as to whether the son or the father is going to be the killer is quickly dispelled as the old man drags the body into the living room, pours a drink and shares it with his dead wife. Fast forward a few years and the kid – now a young adult, naturally – receives a phone call from old dad asking him to look after the family holiday home on the beach during Fall Break. Ed Jr. angrily refuses and tells his dad where to stick it, but quickly changes his mind when his bored student friends – the usual archetypes; the jock, joker, final girl et al – convince him it will make a good Fall Break holiday. Set to the sound of the film’s annoyingly catchy theme song, Fall Break (going on a Fall Break/gonna have a good time!) the holiday kicks off as the gang stock up on beer and drive to the beach with the top down.

On arrival the gang discover that the beach house has been recently occupied with a ton of booze lying around and the front door left wide open, while the viewer discovers that deadly daddy is still here, lurking in the garage. After stumbling across a collection of mounted animals and hunting equipment, we are treated to a nice bit of exposition explaining that Ed’s dad was a pro hunter (“only thing he’s not hunted is humans!”) and the scene is set for the hunt to begin. The John Rambo of slashers, Ed’s dad utilises his honed hunting skills to pick off the teens as he would any other prey. The real highlight of the movie, these kills are commendable for their brutal bravura and brazen bloodletting. Courtesy of a young Mark (From Beyond, Evil Dead II) Shostrom, the gore effects transcend the meagre budget with crowd-pleasing sawing, stabbing and beheading which easily rival those of the studio-backed Friday the 13th series. The violence never quite veers into sleazy video nasty extremes, though; always managing to maintain a sense of ‘wow, look at that’ wonder as opposed to making you run to the nearest bathroom. Goofy, nostalgic, funny – both intentionally and unintentionally – and uninhibitedly entertaining in all the right places; the film, although cheap, is nevertheless extremely enjoyable, and there’s a palpable sense of fun about the proceedings which ensures you’ll always have a good time with The Mutilator.