The Mutilator (1985)

JULY 3, 2013


Ah, youth! My brother in law gave me a copy of The Mutilator that he had bought (or was given? I forget) at a convention, which means it's just an unofficial dupe taken from an unrated VHS source. Since the self-justifying thieving scum will come out of the woodwork to call me a hypocrite for watching it while slamming them for stealing new movies that are playing in theaters, let's just remind everyone that this has never been officially released on DVD (Amazon sells an all-region PAL copy that's just as shady as this one) and the VHS is, obviously, long out of print, leaving no other way to see the movie without buying a very expensive used copy of the latter (which, hate to tell you, isn't much different - you're still sending 100% of your money to a 3rd party and 0% to the filmmakers). If you honestly see no difference between this and downloading White House Down to watch on your iPad, you're an idiot.

Anyway, it's a pretty glorious late-to-the-party slasher, on par with Honeymoon Horror (one of the last HMADs from the daily era), in that it's a bad movie that is endlessly entertaining all the same, made by folks who were clearly jumping into the slasher game to make a quick buck before the well completely ran dry. And like the Honeymoon creative team, writer/director/producer Buddy Cooper has never been heard from again - we can assume that the same-named boom operator on one of Darren Aronofsky's short films (the only other thing on Cooper's IMDb page) was NOT the same guy who ten years prior made one of the goofiest slasher movies ever seen. Code Red was apparently working on a DVD version only to abandon it when they could not locate a 35mm version of the film to master it from, so it's possible we will never get a complete backstory on this one (though someone on Youtube did track Cooper down for a brief Q&A, if you're so inclined).

If I were to interview Cooper, at the top of my list would be to ask what possessed him to write (and perform!) such a ridiculously upbeat, ill-fitting theme song for the film, titled "Fall Break" (which was the film's original name). It does indeed discuss the INTENDED plot of the film - grabbing friends, going to the beach for some fun, etc - but it's really jarring even at the top of the film when nothing much bad has happened yet (just the obligatory tragic prologue set ten years prior), making it borderline insane when played at the end, once everyone is dead and we're being treated to outtakes - some of them gory - over the cast credits. I mean, listen to this thing:

As for the slasher plot itself, eh. It's pretty standard for the most part - six pals go off to an isolated house, two of them go off to bang fairly early on and get killed for their trouble, the others wonder what happened to them and thus keep going off by themselves to find them. The death scenes are a decent mix, some are off-screen but the on-screen ones make up for it, including a pretty fun decapitation of a would-be red herring and the infamous gaff hook scene (which includes another decapitation). I also loved the insane final kill, where the killer, bisected but still alive, slices off the leg of a cop who was trying to help, while laughing as if he had won despite the fact that his legs were a few feet away.

It's also bizarrely a whodunit to the characters but not to us. In the aforementioned tragic prologue, we see a kid accidentally kill his mom with his dad's rifle, and now that it's ten years later the dad decides to get revenge by killing off everyone his son cares about (except for his girlfriend, making it the rare slasher where the killer has a motive to kill the friends instead of the target, and yet still manages to blow it). But the son doesn't realize who the killer is until they've pretty much dispatched him, leading to a ridiculous "reveal" ("Oh my god, it's my DAD!") which will hopefully make you laugh hard enough to overlook the fact that they had wrestled a few minutes earlier - why didn't he recognize him then? To his credit, Cooper occasionally tries to make it seem more complicated; in addition to that random cop (he shows up all overly friendly, like many a surprise killer), there's a story about someone who got run over by a ski boat a few years back - there's even a framed picture of the victim for some goddamn reason - but it's never mentioned again.

Another thing I loved was the character of Ralph, as the standard "goofy" guy of the group. He's not pathetic or nerdy, but he's endlessly cracking jokes and making goofy faces, even when he's by himself. Early on he "cons" the guy at the convenience store into letting him use the senior citizen discount (a mere 10%) if he buys a 2nd six pack of beer (we then learn that the clerk seemingly anticipated this!), and it's one of the weirder diversions I can recall, establishing him as a budding lawyer which will of course have no bearing on anything. And why do characters going off for a weekend always only buy one or two 6-packs? How is that possibly going to be enough?

Really, the only thing that disappointed me (I wasn't exactly expecting a masterpiece) was that Frances Raines' character was the first of the group to be dispatched. As the only one I recognized thanks to Disconnected (and the only one besides the hero* to appear in anything else before or since), I figured she was going to be the Final Girl, so I guess it kind of works as a surprise that she's the first to go, but it still bummed me out as she was a pretty awkward character and thus every line she said made me laugh (like when she says she wants to "get high score on the video machine"). That said, it's kind of hard to tell who will be the final girl out of the other two until one says she won't have sex right before a scene where the other says she can't wait to do it when her fella gets back from his door-locking mission. Dead giveaway!

But it's got that je ne sais quoi that's missing from pretty much every post 1980s slasher, making it worth hunting down if you're like me and worship at the altar of these things, or if your mom ALSO refused to rent it for you as a kid due to the lurid box cover (which has two versions, neither of which feature the characters that are actually in the movie). Given the fish hook kill, I guess she made the right call (I was only like 7 or 8 when I asked; along with Bloody Birthday I think it's the only one she ever vetoed). That's good parenting! Plus if I saw it before I had the internet I wouldn't have been able to enjoy the half-assed attention to detail when the cop says he is investigating a "10-38" when referring to a possible break in - a quick search revealed that a 10-38 refers to a traffic stop.

What say you?

*He voices one of the Pokemon. Seriously.


  1. Ha, my dad took me to this. He didn't care, he took me to R-rated and, in this case, unrated stuff all the time. All I remember about it is being awesome the following Monday at junior high school for having seen it.

  2. The entire movie is posted on Youtube. I haven't watched it yet even though it has been there a long time now. Hopefully, the film is uncensored. I suppose I'll find out one day.

  3. Actually I think the UK disc from Vipco is an official release (although it is cut). The German uncut disc from Dragon may also be officially licensed.

  4. I have been trying to find this movie for almost thirty years. Saw it as a kid and have always half remembered it.


Movie & TV Show Preview Widget