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The Mutilator

THE MUTILATOR is a pretty good one about a guy mutilating other guys and their girlfriends. That is why he is called the mutilator, I believe. Well, nobody calls him the mutilator in the movie but out here in the real world we call him the mutilator on account of that is the name of the movie. It’s hard to explain but I think some of you get it. The Mutilator.

I think what makes this one stand out from other slashers is how little it stands out from other slashers. It sticks to the very basics of the formula without much imagination or surprises. The tweaks that it does have are noticeable but so simple that I’m not sure if it’s lazy or brilliantly subtle. But I am a positive individual so I lean toward the second one.

A good example: it forgoes the slasher tradition of having a mystery around who the killer is. Usually you don’t know who it is at least for part of the movie, or there’s a mystery about their motive that’s revealed near the end. In this one we know it from scene 1: this dumb fucking kid Ed tried to clean his father’s guns as a birthday present, accidentally shot and killed his mom. Big Ed immediately blamed the son, and now he’s gonna kill him. It’s years later and he got Ed Jr. to come out to his “condo” on the beach (seems more like a cabin to me) to close it down for the winter. Junior brought along a bunch of his drunk, horny college friends, who are gonna get it too.

We know that Big Ed still blames his son – he still fantasizes about shooting him as a child, or slitting his throat. It’s also established that he “went crazy” after the accident, that he was and still is a raging alcoholic known for his epic benders, that he loves to hunt all kinds of animals, is interested in primitive cultures that practice human sacrifice, owns a battle axe (whereabouts unknown), is talented at throwing things into walls, uses dangerously sharp rail road spikes as wall hangers.

I guess you could say this is going back to the HALLOWEEN formula, since that one showed Michael killing his sister and then skips forward and there’s no question that it’s Michael who escaped the asylum and is coming back to town and committing a string of murders and thefts (rope, mask, gas station jumpsuit). Big Ed seems different because he’s just a dude, no uniform or mask. He even owns a tribal mask that the kids look at on the wall and discuss, but he never wears it. So we don’t have to wonder if maybe we’re being tricked and somebody else is doing it. Also it’s a good thing because it’s a really stupid looking mask.

In one scene Big Ed is on top of a car, chopping through the roof, trying to kill the occupants. The girl rams his hand with the car’s cigarette lighter and burns a hole into it. He holds up his hand in agony, and… wow, what other slasher wears a wedding ring? I don’t think any of them do. Even Chucky. If I remember right the rings they had were for humans and wouldn’t really stay on their little doll hands. I’ll have to check.

I mean, wouldn’t that be smart for Michael to wear a wedding ring? Then they’d see it and they’d think this can’t be Michael Myers, this guy is married. Come on Loomis you old crank, this has got to be some other guy. And then Loomis would start trying to figure out if Michael was secretly married in the asylum. Who is the Bride of the Shape? It would totally throw them off.

And Freddy could do it, even though he doesn’t hide his identity. He would enjoy it just as a way of fucking with people.

Anyway there are a few little touches like that, the filmatists probly weren’t even really putting much thought into it, but they give it a little distinctness for those of us paying attention. I think the most memorable part of the movie though is the unintentionally goofy opening. There’s not much in the world more horrible than fatal kid gun accidents, but on the other hand there’s something hilarious about a fake movie kid cleaning his dad’s guns as a birthday present. I guess that’s what we get for trying to make the next generation more manly. He could’ve just drawn up some “I will do chores” coupons but no, he’s gotta shoot a fuckin hole through mom. And the wall.

At least the cake was spared. If they ever do a remake that cake’s gettin it. It’s easier to do now ’cause of digital.

I gotta admit, THE MUTILATOR does make a big deal about the girlfriend putting her foot down and refusing to have sex with Ed. Jr. – “I want to, but not here. Not now.” And she’s the frumpily dressed one. So I’ll give you this one, SCREAM and BEHIND THE MASK: THE WHATEVER OF WHATSISDICK. I thought you made up that “the survivor has to be a virgin” thing just because HALLOWEEN coincidentally had that. I’m still not convinced it’s a major component of the slasher formula, but THE MUTILATOR does support your argument. You win this round.

At the beginning they decide on this trip because they have nothing to do on “Fall Break,” which I don’t remember being a thing, so I was surprised when the cheesy pop rock song on the credits started mentioning Fall Break alot. Turns out that was the original title of the movie. Here’s evidence in the form of a super rare poster:

(click on it for larger version and more info on the excellent websight of the guy who owns it)

Maybe after it came out in ’85 they decided that the “horror movie named after a specific day or time of year” thing was passe. And then for years everybody else has been jealous that these motherfuckers already used up “The Mutilator.”

There are less “kills” than in some of the other slasher movies, but it fulfills the requirement of some pretty good effects. There’s one really realistic looking severed head prop, anyway. The best part is after Big Ed has been chopped in (SPOILER) half, Bishop style, he still manages to ax an innocent police officer and then laugh about it. But the movie ends on a positive note – no CARRIE type jump scare, ridiculously upbeat (but sincere, I think) closing credits music, outtake showing the actors playing father and son laugh and hug after one strangles the other. I can’t remember another slasher movie with end credits even remotely like that, so I give it points for originality there.

Linda, whichever one that is, is played by Frances Raines, the niece of Claude Raines. The director is named Buddy Cooper, but IMDb gives him no other credits except boom operator on a 1994 comedy short called NO TIME. Directed by Darren Aranofsky! What the fuck? Well, it turns out he was a lawyer who decided to make a movie – horror because that was what was profitable for independent filmatists at that time – and dictated the script to his secretary.

Unfortunately the movie is not very easy to come by. I rented it on a PAL Code 2 import, but the intro to this interview with Cooper (hey guys, I’m getting interviewed by badmovies.org! That’s good, right?) says that none of the releases are authorized.

Anyway, I enjoyed THE MUTILATOR as a pretty solid example of the form with a couple weird touches, so Mr. Cooper has done better than many one-timers, in my opinion.

thanks to Mr. Majestyk for convincing me to rent this one


VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 17th, 2012 at 1:02 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

31 Responses to “The Mutilator”

  1. Yeah this one reminded me of Boardinghouse in its production values and unintentional tonal oddities. And comparing any film to Boardinghouse is saying something.

    Sucks to hear Mr Cooper isnt getting any royalties from his modest cult following. Maybe he could try putting a legit digital copy on a site like eztakes.com?

    Intestestingest part of the interview – “it came to me that a horror picture in which the killer used implements and devices commonly found in or near the water would be something different.” Didnt notice that angle at all. Maybe calling it something nautical instead of The Mutilator/Fall Break would have helped get the theme across better?

    The Nautilator? Sea You On The Other Side? The Fisherman? Hooked!? Oh oh how about THE TRAWLER? Or maybe just TRAWL…

  2. Glad you liked it, Vern. It’s clearly no masterpiece but it has some quirkiness to the build-up and some surprisingly disgusting kills. Did you watch an edited version or something, because I’m surprised you didn’t bring up the fishhook/vagina scene. Which is not a combination of words I enjoy typing but you had to be there, I guess.

    I also liked that this appears to be the only slasher movie ever where the killer’s main motivation seems to be that he’s hungover. I mean, the son, sure, that negligent little prick had it coming for years. How else is he gonna learn proper gun safety? But the friends? That’s just gotta be because they woke the old man up before he could sleep off his bender. He sure was motivated, though. I have a hard time fixing breakfast when I’m hungover, this guy’s out there battleaxing motherfuckers in the pool.

    I had always suspected that the original title was FALL BREAK but had never been able to confirm it. I always thought some old marketing guru in a plaid blazer looked up from the original poster, put down his stogie, and said, “You know, fellas, I don’t know if you noticed but you got a lot of mutilations in this picture…”

    I also have an mp3 of the theme song, “Fall Break,” if anyone’s interested. It comes direct from the guy who recorded it so it’s pretty good quality. Which is important when a song contains such lyrical gems as “You’ll FALL into my arms and I’ll BREAK into your heart.” Wordplay!

    Next up on SLASHER SEARCH 2012 I’ll recommend CURTAINS (1983), which has some surprisingly artistic direction, literate writing, excellent acting, AND a slasher in a rubber crone mask who performs the first kill on hockey skates.

  3. Right on, this was a really fun one. Just saw it reviewed on The Cinema Snob a couple weeks ago.

  4. “The best part is after Big Ed has been chopped in (SPOILER) half, Bishop style, he still manages to ax an innocent police officer and then laugh about it.”

    As usual, kudos for the excellent review and for the excellent spoiler alert, which never ever fails to amuse me.

  5. Oh damn, I just noticed Anaru’s comment. Come on, now, THE MUTILATOR is hardly an exemplar of filmatistical craftsmanship but comparing it to BOARDINGHOUSE (Why one word? Is it Dutch? BORDINKHAUS?) is just mean. At least THE MUTILATOR was shot on film and had some small degree of professionalism in the special effects, score, editing, acting, etc. Still a homegrown production, but put together well enough to pass for a real movie if you don’t look too close. BOARDINGHOUSE, on the other hand, was the world’s first shot-on-VHS movie, and boy, does it look it. It just makes no goddamn sense at all. It seems to have been cobbled together from 25 unrelated scenes, all made up on the day using whoever and whatever happened to be there at the time. I know there’s a director’s credit on that thing but it really should start with A FILM BY COCAINE.

    Hey, I just remembered that I reviewed BOARDINGHOUSE a few years ago. Anybody curious at taking a glimpse into the corroded septum of madness should check it out: http://mistermajestyk.blogspot.com/2010/02/boardinghouse.html

  6. He holds up his hand in agony, and… wow, what other slasher wears a wedding ring?

    LOL.

    OK, I want to see:

    slasher movie with slasher who wears a fanny pack
    slasher movie with slasher who checks his smartphone every 2 minutes
    slasher movie with slasher who wears Breathe Right ™ Nasal Strips
    slasher movie with slasher who carries and uses hand sanitizer/ hand moisturizer
    etc.

    it’s the humanizing touches that matter

  7. I always remembered this because of the tagline, ‘By Axe, By Pick… Bye Bye!

    Isn’t this the one where some dude gets killed in a doorway and it’s the longest (and most unconvincing) death cry known to mankind? Anyway, I remember liking it mainly for the cool gore effects.

  8. [Courtesy text to prevent spoiler from appearing in sidebar] For some reason when you said “chopped in half” I missed the part about Bishop and imagined he still managed to ax a cop after being vertically bisected. That would have been cool.

  9. Majestyk – it has admittedly been over 10 years since I saw Boardinghouse/Boarding House (I’m sure I’ve seen it spelled both ways on the innernet and I think the weirder version suits). And indeed, The Mutilator didn’t prompt me to say to anyone “I felt like my personality was disintegrating” as I did after my BH experience.

    I wasnt trying to be mean, I was just referring to the jarring effect of mistmatched tones that I think the two films have in common, and that I think is simply the result of filmatistic inexperience in both cases – not being able to visualise how the thing will “play” when you cut it together.

    I mean, that Ferris Bueller credit sequence with the knockoff Billy Joel song, in the same film as a [SPOILER] jammed up the [SPOILER] – even Tarantino wouldn’t do something that contrasting to deliberately piss off a Cannes audience

    Aside from that, the film gives a real Ed Wood first impression, with the “I _think_ I get what just happened” prologue, and then combo of terrible dialogue and worse acting where they try to establish the characters the ole ’80s jokey banter. I’m sure I dont watch as many cheap ’80s horrors as some of you guys, but I’ve seen a lot of the ones Vern writes about and I dont remember seeing acting that bad in any of them. I was kind of suprised he didnt say anything in the review really.

  10. I was just bustin’ your chops. I didn’t really think you were being mean. Maybe I watch too much shitty horror, because I thought the acting in THE MUTILATOR was pretty good, in its own terrible way. You get so many bland and/or obnoxious characters in most of these things that when they show a little spark of life, as I feel they did in THE MUTILATOR, you tend to overrate them a little. I was particularly entertained by the Texan guy. Sure, his Texas accent was about as real as mine (Full disclosure: I’ve never even been within a thousand miles of Texas) but I found him endearing all the same. It’s not quote unquote “good” acting, but it’ll do.

  11. I though they were all sposed to have North Carolina accents :/

  12. Did Vern ever review PIECES (1982)? I can’t find a review on this site, but I know he’s mentioned it a few times.

  13. I’ve enjoyed all of Eli Roth’s movies, but bringing PIECES to my attention is still the greatest thing he’s ever done.

  14. Sorry Majestyk: Say what you will about Eli Roth, but the guy knows his shit when it comes to horror movies. His recommendations for a 24-hour horror marathon on avclub.com is damned impressive.

    I’m not sure I can say that PIECES is my favourite slasher movie, but it’s definitely the one I’ve watched most frequently. So many crazy and ridiculous touches. Plus a great poster/tagline: “It’s exactly what you think it is.” Makes a Halloween great double feature with JP Simon’s other masterpiece, SLUGS.

  15. Sorry, I didn’t mean to start that post with a “Sorry”. Need an edit function up in here.

  16. funny, The Cinema Snob reviewed this recently

  17. off topic, but Vern, I’ve been browsing through that movie poster website you linked too and I stumbled upon something amazing

    this is one of the greatest movie posters I’ve ever seen in my life http://www.filmonpaper.com/posters/withnail-i-quad-uk/

    for one thing I had no idea British posters were shaped like that, but everything about that poster is genius, I mean WOW, hard to believe it’s from 1986

    I have not seen that movie yet (though I’ve heard of it) but now I have to check it out for sure

  18. found some more awesome posters

    first is the original poster for Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer http://www.filmonpaper.com/posters/henry-portrait-of-a-serial-killer-one-sheet-withdrawn-usa/

    fucking creepy, I love it!

    there’s this Japanese poster for An American Werewolf in London http://www.filmonpaper.com/posters/an-american-werewolf-in-london-b2-artwork-style-japan/

    it’s weird how it makes it look like it’s a straight up comedy, I wonder if anyone in Japan saw that movie expecting it to be just a comedy and instead got the shit scared put of them?

    and finally here’s the Japanese poster for Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive http://www.filmonpaper.com/posters/braindead-b2-japan/

    another fucking AWESOME poster, I wish I had that shit hanging on my wall

  19. Watching “The Mutilator” for the first time a while back (the whole thing is on youtube, I later acquired a copy of the VHS), I was struck with a sense of recognition by the North Carolina accents! Being a native Carolinian, and having lived here my whole life, the accent is hard to define, but seeing it in the film helped me put my finger on it – weirdly comforting familiar sounds. So, pretty sure it’s not Texan? I am into this flick, definitely a cut above the average slasher flick from this time. I really don’t see the Boarding House comparison – that one has more in common with something like THINGS or Splatter Farm … and I definitely enjoy all of those, in particular the beyond fucked how-is-this-even-possible filmatic nightmare that is THINGS.
    A waiter at the restaurant I worked at as a teen told me about a guy he knew who went out and actually made a REAL horror film called “Fall Break”. It was crazy to actually see it after all these years as “The Mutilator”. There’s actually a nice feature on the film also in FANGORIA #38, as “Fall Break” before the marketing folks decided to sex up the title.

  20. Wasn’t that one character supposed to be Texan? The comic relief? Or am I just making that up?

  21. Ah, I don’t remember that – might need to throw The Mutilator on again …

  22. I could totally be confusing it with another fake Texan from another cheesy slasher movie. I’ve seen so many of them that it can be hard to keep them all straight.

  23. I’m a little sad no one has anything to say about the cool movie posters I found

  24. They’re pretty cool, Griff, but come on. We’re talking about THE MUTILATOR here. How can you expect us to focus on anything else?

  25. sorry, I didn’t realize THE MUTILATOR was so popular

  26. Yeah, Griff… watch yourself. Mr. M don’t like it when ya disrespect his love for da Mutilator, seeeeee? Here’s a look at what he did to the last punk that got outta line:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37BMplDzJPE

  27. “Did you watch an edited version or something, because I’m surprised you didn’t bring up the fishhook/vagina scene.”

    I was wondering this too. Back in college I took a horror movie class taught by a professor who hated large classes. He tried every trick in the book to get people to drop in the first few weeks, and one of them was to mention this scene from The Mutilator. I could never find a copy, a truthfully I’m not so sure it’s something I actually want to see. Then again, it’s sorta like Everest; once you know it’s there you’re almost compelled to climb it.

  28. Bad Seed,

    It’s gross, I guess, but I wouldn’t say the big money shot is particularly disturbing or anything. It’s more along the lines of “AHAHAHA EWWWW I can’t believe it!” than “this is the most horrifying thing I’ve ever scene.” I mean, I’m pretty sure my wife’s reaction was “nice.” The movie is just too goofy and affable, as graphic as the film gets the tone never struck me as mean or misogynist.

  29. Yeah, it’s not one of those rub-your-face-in-it-to-teach-you-not-to-watch-the-kind-of-movies-I-make movies. It’s a goofy fun slasher flick with no sexual overtones. Which just makes the sudden hooha puncturing all the more unexpected. But like Dan said, it’s not a squeamish, cover-your-eyes kind of moment. More of a laugh-out-loud-because-you-can’t-believe-they-went-there moment.

  30. Yeah, that was in there, I saw the PAL Code 2 one that’s the “extreme version” or something. It’s one of those things, seemed notable at the time but I forgot about it by the time I typed up the review. I don’t know if this says something about my memory or my desensitization.

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