Cult Movie Retrospective: The Mutilator

A few days ago we released our list of the 30 Greatest Slasher Movies Of The ’80s. It was generally well received but one film that our social media followers quickly let us know should have been included was 1985’s The Mutilator.

Written, directed, and produced by Buddy Cooper, and co-directed by John S. Douglass, The Mutilator may have lacked the style of Halloween, the personality Of Friday The 13th and the attractive cast of countless other slashers, but it had a cruel streak a mile long and enough blood and guts to satisfy nearly any gore hound.

Like many slashers, The Mutilator begins with a fever-dreamy prologue that finds an idyllic family scene: Ed Jr. has just polished off his father’s gun collection while his mother prepares a cake for the patriarch’s birthday. When Junior gets curious with one of the shotguns, he ends up accidentally shooting his mother dead. The father comes home and immediately sees the dead body of his wife. After chasing his son out of the room the husband proceeds to sit down with the corpse and share a few shots of whiskey while sirens are heard in the background. This entire scene of the husband mourning the loss of his wife is pretty creepy and perfectly sets up the rest of the movie.

The Mutilator Opening Scene

The Mutilator Father

A cut to the present day reveals that Ed (Matt Mitler) is now a well-adjusted, beer-nursing college student with nothing to do on Fall Break. Luckily, his estranged old man calls him up and insists that he needs to come out to the family condo and close it up for the winter. With that, Ed’s buddies decide to take an impromptu beach trip to help him out with the chore. Upon arrival, it’s pretty clear they should have stayed home since this Fall Break will be their last if the homicidal maniac prowling the grounds has his way.

First things first, let’s talk about the main characters. The group of friends is your standard fare set up for a slasher film. You aren’t going to see anything new and really Ed and his virginal girlfriend Pam (Ruth Martinez) are the only two names you need to know. There is the wise cracking jokester whose jokes really aren’t that funny and of course the couple that can’t seem to keep their hands off of each other. Again, you’ve definitely seen this all before – the only thing missing is the token minority character.

The Mutilator certainly doesn’t rank as one of the better slashers. It is poorly lit, the direction is uninspired and the script, whilst trying a few new ideas, fails to provide anything unique. As already mentioned, the characters sadly lack any kind of individuality or sympathy – each exist simply for the purpose of being killed off later. The acting is laughable, with the cast rivaling The Dorm That Dripped Blood for the most generic actors to ever grace the genre.

But where The Mutilator does score major points is the kills. The filmmakers managed to conjure up an impressive array of original and tasteless deaths. Among these kills there is a drowning, a vicious attack with a boat motor, and a throat impaled by a pitchfork. There is also a rather sexual death in which one of the female characters is killed by a giant fishing hook used in a most uncomfortable way. Limbs are hacked off and throats are slit, one character is even split in two after an unfortunate run in with an automobile. The Mutilator plays out like a gore hounds wet dream and the red stuff poured out in abundance. Yet another impressive death involves a character getting a large blade of metal shoved into their face just before their head is hacked off with a battle axe.

The Mutilator Fishing Hook

The Mutilator Decapitation

The final climax of the film also sets up and doesn’t let down at all. There is a wonderful “last scare” moment that simply has to be seen by gore fans everywhere. Even though The Mutilator breaks a lot of the rules of the slasher genre, the ultra violent deaths definitely make up for it.

Overall, The Mutilator may be profoundly lacking on the surface (and truth be told unwatchable for many) but somewhere in its murky crevices strongly beats the heart of genuine horror. Hollywood can throw as much money as it wants at a project, but nothing beats the power of one possibly insane but obviously sincere creative mind. This movie may be as dumb as a lamp post but it’s a surprisingly vicious lamp post. The Mutilator is a sick and twisted little gem and one that every slasher fan should enjoy.

What are your thoughts on The Mutilator? Let us know in the comment section below.

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