Friday, October 2, 2015
Shocktober Revisited: The Mutilator
editor's note: this review originally appeared as part of Horror Fest 7 coverage, but as the film is scheduled for release later this year, it seemed appropriate to include it.
So... The Mutilator. What the hell was that?
I don't know if you remember Sleepaway Camp, or have even seen Sleepaway Camp (which you clearly should, if you haven't), but it has a prologue and some really bizarre flashbacks during the movie that slowly hint that Angela is in fact a dude (SPOILER), something revealed at the very end of the film.
Nothing that outlandish happens in The Mutilator, but it does have an opening every bit as inexplicably odd and an ending that's up there with Pieces in the "Wait! That can't happen! What the hell?" category. Also, I guess it might help to have seen Pieces so that the last sentence was in any way relevant to what I was talking about. Oh well, if you'd been at Horror Fest V, you would have seen Pieces, and if you wanted to watch Sleepaway Camp I can only assume you would have already. If not, I guess you could watch them and then read the rest of this review, even though I'm not really going to mention either film again.
Anyway, so Jack Sr. comes home, tries to kill Ed Jr., then drags his dead wife into the study where his guns are, pours himself a drink, and then pours a drink for his dead wife. He also tapes the "For Your Birthday, All Cleaned By Me" sign that Ed Jr. put on his gun case to her body. Just because, I guess. And then we hear police sirens while the kid stares on (did he call the cops?).
From this promising beginning, we leap forward ten years or so, when college-aged Ed Jr (Matt Mitler) is sitting in the local hangout arcade / pizza joint with his friends, deciding what to do for Fall Break. When his father inexplicably calls him AT THE arcade / pizza joint, to tell him that he has to come to Jack Sr.'s beach condo to "close it up for the winter," Ralph (Bill Hitchcock), Sue (Connie Rogers), Mike (Morey Lampley), and Linda (Frances "related to Claude" Raines) talk him into letting them come along to party for Fall Break. They also bring along Ralph's girlfriend Pam (Ruth Martinez), so everybody can pair up and have sex. Well, almost everybody, anyway.
When they arrive at the beach condo (in Atlantic City, NC, which means the college is probably ECU since they complain about not being close to the beach and they have southern accents that come and go) it's already unlocked. Little do they know that Jack Sr., aka "The Mutilator" is planning on killing all of them, and pretty much anybody else.
This begs the question: was he just planning on killing his son and it's just a bonus that Ed Jr. brought five friends, or was Jack Sr. just insanely over-prepared for his murder rampage. Considering that he never says a word to his son, or really anyone else ever (including at the beginning of the film), it's hard to know what his motives are.
The condo is filled with his trophies of previous kills and Ed Jr. mentions he's hunted everything except for humans (foreshadowing) so we can kind of guess what Jack Sr. is planning, especially since it's not long before we see him hiding in the garage downstairs, cradling his battle axe and dreaming about murdering his son (as a child). He is, however, not much of a mutilator, although there's a reason for that I'll get to in a moment. See, Jack Sr. does drown somebody, and he uses a motor boat to rip someone's guts out, and he also decapitates a police officer ("special appearance by" Ben Moore), but it isn't until much later in the film that he does anything that would qualify as "mutilating." That said, when he does it's a real doozy. I mean, I've seen some creative kills with a hook before, but this one takes the cake by a long shot.
So I mentioned the whole "mutilator" thing, in part because the title of the movie wasn't The Mutilator until it came out on VHS. Prior to that, it was called Fall Break, which explains the lengthy title song that plays over the credits while the gang is driving from unnamed college (ECU) to unnamed beach (Atlantic City, NC) which is also the least slasher movie theme song you're ever going to hear.
So I guess by 1985 maybe Buddy Cooper and company decided that Fall Break wasn't a sufficient holiday to make the title of a slasher flick, so the film was renamed The Mutilator. I can't say for certain whether one is better than the other, but it's a weird movie indeed. In addition to all of the strange dialogue ("you're more likely to get struck by lightning on the beach" while the moon is visible in the background) or the fact that these wild college kids spend most of their time playing Monopoly and a version of Blind Man's Bluff that looks suspiciously like Hide and Seek mashed together with Sardines, interspersed with some gratudity and a killer that unlocks the door to the kitchen so he can sneak back into the condo he has the keys to later that night... look, a lot of The Mutilator doesn't make any sense. And that's part of the charm, even if it isn't very good. I found it strangely entertaining in the same way that Splatter University is. Now that doesn't make it good, but it makes it watchable, and I'll take watchable over Moontrap any day.
Also, the killer is cut in half at the end but still manages to stay alive long enough to chop off a cop's leg before dying, just for kicks. Spoiler.