Originally titled Fall Break, 1984’s The Mutilator is an American slasher directed by Buddy Cooper and John Douglass. Previously only available in the United Kingdom in an unauthorised (censored) release from VIPCO (Video Instant Picture Company), Arrow Video have released The Mutilator on dual format Blu-ray and DVD in an uncut transfer taken from a previously unknown, virtually untouched 35mm print.
In the 1980’s the slasher sub-genre, bastard child of the horror genre, was saturating cinema screens in crimson red; each film trying to outperform their predecessors by creating more outlandish and inventive death sequences. It was John Carpenter’s 1978 independent masterpiece Halloween that sparked the trend (although one could argue that 1974’s Black Christmas, or indeed 1960’s Psycho, were the first influences); a trend that created long-running franchises that still churn out sequels warrant modest budgeted remakes to this day.
Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street became extremely successful upon release due to their impressive special effects and clever direction. This success prompted others to follow suit, and soon releases such as The Slumber Party Massacre, Don’t Go in the House and My Bloody Valentine were satisfying our increased desire for ‘by-the-numbers’ bloodshed. The Mutilator is one such movie.
Young Ed, Jr (Trace Cooper) wants to surprise his father on his birthday, taking it upon himself to clean the rifles situated in an unlocked cabinet. His mother (Pamela Weddle Cooper) bakes a cake in the next room, presumably unaware of Ed, Jr’s planned birthday surprise. Setting the rifle down on his lap, he takes an old cloth and begins cleaning the side of the barrel. Lifting the rifle up to examine his work, Ed, Jr accidently shoots his mother, killing her instantly.
His father Ed (Jack Chatham) never forgave his son for the accident, and the two become estranged as a result. Fifteen years later Ed, Jr (Matt Mitler) is drinking with his friends as they discuss what to do during the college fall break. During this discussion Ed, Jr receives a phone call from his father (a rare occurrence) whom demands he drive to the beachfront cabin he owns, and close it for the winter. Reluctantly Ed, Jr agrees after his friends convince him, offering their help in exchange for being able to spend the remainder of their break at the beach. When they arrive ‘Big Ed’ is nowhere to be found, along with his conspicuously absent prized battle axe.
The Mutilator is one of my ‘guilty pleasures’. I hate using that phrase. It is as though I’m expressing that I am somewhat ashamed that I find The Mutilator entertaining. I guess what I want to express is that I feel The Mutilator is underrated. Buddy Cooper and John Douglass’ first, and only feature length directional effort frequents in any conversation I have concerning the slasher sub-genre. It is admittedly rougher than your average teen horror movie. The script is indifferent, the cinematography undecidedly wonky and the acting only just bearable. Yet the exploitative nature of this film has it’s charm, including unusual set design, and one of the most disgusting, exploitative death sequences ever committed to celluloid. The ‘fish-hook’ scene was considered to be sexualised in its violence and thus was subsequently cut from previous VIPCO releases by the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) under terms of 1984 Video Recording Act.
Speaking of VIPCO, you will be pleased to know that Arrow Video’s release is a far-cry from the previously ‘digitally remastered’ UK release, and is presented fully uncut for the first time on our shores. The visual quality of the transfer provides a level of detail not available on any previous home video release, UK or otherwise; yet still retains that 80’s film grain quality. In regards to audio, The Mutilator has never sounded better, period. It’s mono 1.0 audio, but doesn’t include the various defects present on previous releases. It won’t be long before the theme song ‘Fall Break’ is buried deep within your psyche.
In terms of additional content Arrow Video have done admirable work with this particular release. If you are familiar with Arrow Video ‘s output then you can expect The Mutilator to be presented on both standard definition DVD and high definition Blu-ray (1080p). The cover itself is also reversible; one side featuring the original poster artwork. There is an optional introduction to the film from Buddy Cooper and assitant special make-up effects artist and editor Edmund Ferrell worth your time, along with two insightful commentaries; one with Buddy Cooper, Edmund Ferrell, John Douglass and Matt Mitler, and the another with Buddy Cooper and Ruth Martinez Tutterow.
Arrow Video also present Fall Breakers: The Story of The Mutilator, a feature length documentary on the making of this cult classic, featuring extensive interviews with the cast and crew as they reflect back positively on their time spent during production. If you didn’t appreciate The Mutilator before, you will after viewing Fall Breakers. It is a genuinely honest account of low budget filmmaking during this time period. Additional featurettes; Mutilator Memories with special make-up effects artist Mark Shostrom, and Tunes for the Dunes with composer Michael Minard are also highlights of a package that includes screen tests, behind the scenes footage, trailers and TV spots, storyboards, the theme song and the original Fall Break screenplay. Excited yet?
As a slasher fan, you need to have The Mutilator in your collection. The special make-up effects are grotesque in their savagery, showcasing tremendous realism; despite the unintentionally hilarious reaction from one particular victim. But, you know what? Quirks, such as this, are why The Mutilator is worthy of a place on your shelf. Where else can you find outtakes played during the end credits of a horror movie? “We’re goin’ on a fall break!”
The Mutilator is available to buy from Amazon.co.uk; plus if you decide to make a purchase after following the link provided you will have supported Attack From Planet B, so thank you.