FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Oct 3, 2019

SHOCKtober Day 3: THE MUTILATOR (1985)


I tells ya, o reader mine, it is not often these days that I'm in the mood for a slasher movie. I know! They used to be my bread and butter, the very reason I started this here blog in the first place. But what can I say? That was nearly 15 years ago. I was only 13, of course I was into slasher movies! The slasher kingdom is ruled by teenagers. Since those long-lost days, sure, I'll put on a classic once in a great while. Many slashers–Black Christmas, My Bloody Valentine, Hell Night, and so on–have a special place in the hole where my heart should be. But new slasher films? No thank you, I say.

But last night, I don't know, a mood came over me. Maybe it's SHOCKtober, maybe it's the Spooky Scary Season in general, who can say. But I had a hankerin' for a hunk o' slasher, and there was The Mutilator, trying desperately to get my attention with its "I'm from the mid-80s, when the slasher was past its prime! Look at my poster, it's so 80s video store lurid! Me! Pick me!" So finally I was like "Okay, The Mutilator, fine! Let's get to know one another." I mean, the poster does exemplify 80s video store luridness, does it not? That tagline! The bikini! The dead bodies! The bloody logo! It's great.


The film begins, as all good slashers must, with the inciting incident, that which gives motivation to the killer. As a birthday gift to his father, young Ed decides to clean his dad's numerous guns. A super great idea! Until Ed accidentally kills his mother. Dad celebrates The Worst Birthday in the History of Ever by getting angry at his son (understandable, but maybe do not keep the cabinet with your 465 loaded guns unlocked? Also why all the guns, DAD) and drinking with his wife's freshly-dead body.


I want to start storing all of my liquor in one of those old timey trick globes!

Anyway. We jump into the future (don't get excited, we only go, like, 15 years into the future) and Ed is a college student...or a law school student? it's not entirely clear...and he and his friends are about to embark on their fall break. This fall break is so important that the movie's original title was Fall Break. It's also the name of the movie's theme song, which sounds like a sitcom theme song. It will play approximately 12 times over the course of the film. It's been stuck in my head for about 15 hours now. The Mutilator has changed me.


The "kids" can't decide what they're going to do for this fall break, but then a call comes from Deus Ex Dad–although he's largely ignored Ed since The Worst Birthday in the History of Ever, he desperately needs his son to come close up his beach condo before winter sets in. And so, just like that, Ed and the Gang have something to do.

They arrive at the pigged out condo and marvel at all that awaits within, from the empty booze bottles to a framed photo of a dead body on the wall. Apparently dad ran the dude over with a ski boat and killed him. What better way to show regret than taking a picture of the bloody body and hanging it up, I guess? No one seems to think this is too weird. Also not too weird: the shitton of taxidermied animals, the giant gaff hanging on the wall, the empty spot where dad's "battle axe" should hang.

We've got the gang where all slasher gangs go: an isolated location! That can only mean one thing...yes, it's time for sex and partying and murder. We kind of get all of those things. Look, this gang is the absolute squarest fucking gang you will ever encounter in a horror movie. From time to time they drink from a can of Natty Light, sure. One of them even burps one time! But oh my lawd are they square. I love them.

NERDS

Now then, about that murder I mentioned. It eventually arrives. There is no mystery whatsoever about who the killer is. Ed's dad has lured his son and his son's friends here to kill them. Dad does not wear a mask. We see him front and center all the time. We even watch him set up the requisite corpse party! It takes forever for the killings to start, and while they're not nearly as lurid as the poster might lead you to believe, they are pretty clever for the $0.50 budget this film had. Decapitations, bifurcations, guts and blood...it's got some fun gore. Yes, the battle axe comes into play, and so does the gaff, right through one poor nerd's vagina.

Is The Mutilator scary? Absolutely not. Is it "good"? Not particularly. I's about 84 minutes long, but it feels at least five times that. There are long stretches with no action that will likely turn off impatient horror fans. And when the "action" kicks into gear, it's about as scintillating as when the waitress refills your coffee at the diner.

All that said, it 100% has that certain charm that can be found only in some vintage off-brand slashers. I'm talking Don't Go in the Woods...Alone! or The Nail Gun Massacre, you know? They don't always succeed, but they often try to have some inventive kills. For the majority of the cast and crew, the movie in question comprises the entirety of their resume. Some "actors" simply came along with the shooting location; just like Nail Gun MassacreThe Mutilator has a pair of shopkeepers who awkwardly deliver some lines and then look at the camera. (I love them.) The dialogue is a delight, such as this exchange between two nerds about to get hot-n-heavy at the pool:

"What's wrong with the water?"
"Looks like it's been loaded down with chlorine."
"Will that hurt you?"
"No. In fact, it probably prevents herpes."

It's always just this side of completely nonsensical and/or inept, like this sequence, where the room is supposedly so dark the character can't see two inches in front of her:


Either you will succumb to this weirdo slasher charms and you will love The Mutilator, or...well, I guess you won't. As for me, I'm going on a fall break!

2 comments:

Matt said...

I saw this for the first time last year at a theater showing with some of the filmmakers in attendance. It's a fun slasher film to watch with an audience.

Eightieshair said...

I never saw the movie but I clearly remember the poster. I was walking around NYC back in the mid 80s - when NYC was still supposed to dangerous and scary and Times Square was full of porno theaters - and there was a whole wall plastered with dozens of copies of posers for The Mutilator.

To my teen aged self it seemed like the most New York thing ever.

Also, hooray for Shocktober! I checked in on this blog at the beginning of the month hoping that maybe Shocktober would be back this year, and here it is!