The Mutilator (1985) Review

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Sometimes slasher films fail to live up to their titles – The Toolbox Murders, The Driller Killer, Nail Gun Massacre and countless others were nothing more than yawn-inducing drivel.  Buddy Cooper’s 1985 no budget schlock The Mutilator may be devoid of character, plausibility and tension, but one thing it does boast are a variety of truly inventive gruesome kills. Released at a time when interest in the genre had begun to dry up, Cooper’s one and only directorial effort lacked the style of Halloween, the personality of Friday the 13th and the attractive cast of countless other slashers, but had a cruel streak a mile wide and enough blood and guts to satisfy most gore hounds. For one reason or another, The Mutilator remains one of the more obscure offerings of the early eighties.

mutilator3As a sweet gesture for his father’s birthday, Ed Jr. (Trace Cooper) decides to polish his rifle collection before he returns home. Leaving a sign by the cabinet that reads ‘Happy Birthday Daddy, All Cleaned By ME!’, he takes the first one out and starts to clean it with a cloth, whilst his mother (Pamela Weddle Cooper) prepares a cake in the kitchen next door. Unfortunately, the father has left the rifle loaded and when Ed aims the gun and jokingly pulls the trigger, the bullets fires through the wall and bursts through his mother’s stomach, killing her instantly. Rushing into the kitchen, he sees his father (Jack Chatham) arriving home, and moments later he enters the house to find his wife dead and his guilty son standing over the body. Outraged, his father beats him and the grabs his gun but Ed quickly runs away. Dragging his wife into the lounge, he rests her down next to his chair and then shares a birthday toast with her, whilst Ed secretly watches from the hallway as police sirens grow louder.

Years later and Ed (Matt Mitler) has grown up into a levelheaded and respectable adult. Starting the fall break with no idea of how to entertain himself, he spends his day drinking at his local bar with his best friends – Pam (Ruth Martinez), Ralph (Bill Hitchcock), Sue (Connie Rogers), Linda (Frances Raines) and Mike (Morey Lampley). Complaining how they have nothing to do, Pam reminds him that she had been suggesting different ideas how they could spend their vacation since September. The phone rings at the bar and Ed is informed that the call is for him. He is given a message to call his father at a phone booth, whilst Pam tells their friends about the accident that happened when he was a child. He returns to the table and complains to everyone that his father is having another drunk spell and has asked if he will close up his condo for the winter for him. Sensing a possible adventure and a chance to visit the beach, his friends suggest that they all go for the break.

mutilator1They eventually arrive at the isolated house to discover countless empty liquor bottles have been left lying around and one of his hunting weapons, a battle axe, has disappeared. Pam suggests that they call the police, believing that someone has ransacked the house, but Ed says that he will find a phone in the morning to call his father. As the kids explore the property, dad lies drunk with his weapon as he fantasizes about killing his son. Mike and Linda wander into the tool shed to find a selection of bizarre fishing and hunting equipment, whilst father watches on from the shadows. Later, they go for a swim in an indoor pool, when Linda is attacked and dragged from pool. Realizing that his clothes are missing, Mike heads outside, where he is gutted by a boat motor. The friends soon become concerned by their disappearance and are eventually hunted down and dispatched by a variety of weapons.

The Mutilator certainly does not 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. The characters sadly lack any kind of individuality or sympathy, each providing to simply exist for the purpose of being killed off later. The acting is laughable and Mike’s death in particular is comical due to Lampley’s ridiculous performance as he is being disemboweled. Ed proves to be the most realized character, with his childhood trauma providing an interesting back-story. Predictably, saving the day eventually falls to the final girl, and Martinez lacks any kind of charisma. The cast is also rather dull and ordinary looking for a slasher, rivaling The Dorm That Dripped Blood for the most generic actors to ever grace the genre.

mutilator_laughBut where The Mutilator does score major points is the kills. Cooper managed to conjure up an array of original and tasteless deaths, from one girl being impaled in the groin by a fishing gaff to a boy being stabbed through the throat by a pitchfork and then lifted off his feet. The villain receives a suitably grizzly end when he is chopped in half, his guts spilling out onto the floor whilst he is still alive. Despite this gruesome fate, he still manages to hack off the leg of a cop (John Bode) with his axe. All in all, whilst it may not be the most satisfying of slashers, Cooper deserves praise for adding such sadistic kills into his movie, whilst the special effects (courtesy of Mark Shostrom, who would work on A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge’s impressive transformation scene the same year) steal the show. The Mutilator is a sick and twisted little gem and one that every slasher fan should enjoy.

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28 Responses to “ The Mutilator (1985) Review ”

  1. Christian, YOU ROCK!! I see you got my myspace message on myspace. THANK YOU!!!

    I’m still patiently waiting for Code Red to release the DVD. In the meantime, this is where I plug the poster and 45 of Fall Break that someone got for me after visiting Buddy Cooper. You all might remember when I posted this on the sadly defunct SC forum.

    Not sure if I’m posting these right, so I apologize if it didn’t come out correctly.

  2. Cool, feel free to send it to me at the above email address, wouldn’t mind checking that out. And thanks for the kind words!

  3. The Mutilator is one of the best slasher films of all time!!

  4. I couldn’t agree more, lord-infernus! One of my fondest horror movie memories as a child was renting the unrated version at the video store when it first came out. Almost 25 years later and I’m an even bigger fan. I can’t help but hear the Fall Break theme song in my head when this movie is mentioned.

  5. I have to agree, that song is annoyingly catchy. I was humming it for ages afterwards!

  6. I gotta say I agree with the review. It annoyed me how NOTHING happened for the first 50 minutes, sans the absolutely awesome intro. I do love that.

    The kills are so awesome. And the shot of the killer’s upper body ramming that axe to the ground and laughing maniacally is still fantastic.

  7. The one scene that always gets me going is when Pam and Ed jr. are in the car and they turn the lights on to see that the dad has gotten up. The music swells as they’re trying to start the car, and then the dad is on top of the car with the axe. LOVE that scene!

  8. I Totally Agree With lord-infernus I Have The Vipco Dvd Of THE MUTILATOR Its The UNCUT ED.

  9. MY FREIND ANTHONY SHOWE DID THE F/X FOR THIS FILM ITS TO BAD HE RUINED HIS CAREER ON DRUGS ANYWAYS , i thought code red was supposed to release this on dvd its way overdue i cant keep my vhs working forever

  10. Both Mark Shostrom and Anthony Showe worked on the special effects, although the latter did little else worth mentioning (Chopping Mall being a career highlight).

  11. Morey Lampley’s stiff performance in this movie is a total riot. His line readings are so bad that he makes the other actors seem much better in comparison (not an easy feat). The generally bad acting combined with the unforgettable kills turn this into a fun and unique slasher.

  12. Yep, The Mutilator works for me. True the first half is on the dullside, the Fall Break song is nauseating to my Metal ears and 12 beers for 6 people???

    But Machete + Boatmotor + Axe + Pitchfork + Big Ass Hook = a number of cool graphic gore scenes.

  13. So true Cheeseburger, I always chuckle at Morey Lampley’s performance, it’s one of the worst in slasher movie history. I actually was lucky enough to see this one in the theatre, and the crowd at the Triple, where I saw it, were eating it up!!

  14. I love the Mutilator, I found one rated R VHS (blue cover) and two unrated ones (black cover) all on Vestron Video. I would recommend people to skip the R Rated one, all the death scenes are cut.

    Not sure about the Code Red DVD but from what I’ve read there is some issue with the negatives that Buddy Cooper has (or doesn’t have). Obviously for one reason or another he doesn’t have the negatives in his possession.

    I remember reading somewhere last year there was a Mutilator “reunion” somewhere in the US which feature Matt, Ruth and the director with some Q&A after a screening. it might be on youtube, I havent even looked

  15. This much ignored, underrated slasher also really benefits from an awesome poster and unforgettable tag line.

  16. But not the poster above, I’m talking about the “By sword. By pick. By axe. Bye bye.” version.

    I almost wish the title had remained Fall Break.

  17. i heard code red was givin a 3/4 inch master by buddy cooper which is what you would use in the old days to duplicate vhs copies, apparantly code red didnt see that as good enough and are holding out for a 35mm print which may never come along, its my opinion that they should use the 3/4 inch master and release it, im sure it would be fine, i dont know about code red sometimes i buy there titles but they piss me off, they wont release nightmare because they cant seem to find an interprater for the interveiw with the director as a special feature, i mean an interview would be cool but rgardless people who want the film will buy it whether or not the interviews there or not, so are They gonna not release it cause of that reason? and what about silent scream what happend to that? OR THE VISITOR, they seem to jump the gun when it comes to announcing what there gonna release, so now we get night of the dribbler phsssssh id much rather have the mutilator and the other classics not some 90,s cheese.

  18. If I can be a little cynical for a second, I think the “interview” excuse for Nightmare is a smoke-screen.

    They “can’t find” an interpreter for the interview? Is he speaking some ancient dead language? How does a 90 minute interview take 1-2 years to translate?

    I think this is another case like “The Redeemer”. Code Red, not learning from past mistakes, announced a film WAY before it was actually ready and have found themselves without a usable print.

  19. I agree that it can be a bit frustrating when they say they’re going to release something and never follow through. The Mutilator is one of those rare movies that us fans hope and pray will be released like The Burning, Don’t Go In The Woods and My Bloody Valentine (with the scenes intact). Sooner or later it’ll come out. I can understand them wanting a better print, but if it doesn’t happen, then why not use the 3/4 print, add the special features and then make a decent fortune? With the economy the way it is, you’d think they’d want to get it out there to make some money.

  20. OMG! I love this movie. I remember the box when I was a kid and thinking that the tagline “By sword, by pick, by axe, bye bye!” was the BEST thing I’d ever heard! I finally got to see this is 2002 on VHS (in it’s uncut form) and have been in love with it ever since. I converted my VHS into DVD-R so I wouldn’t wear it out and I watch it every chance I get. Totally LOVE IT.

  21. I love that first pic at the very top. Never saw it before until here.

  22. I agree! THe Mutilator is a great slasher sleeper, despite all its quirkyness. I enjoy the father’s sketchy and strange behavior. For instance, sleeping in the shadows of the garage. And how he hangs the bodies and body-parts on galvanized metal spikes in the pantry is notably odd and unsettling, collecting them like a hunter collects his trophies.

    Code Red, I was surprised when they actually released Bloody Moon. Their release of The Mutilator may be a pipedream fellas.

  23. Then I shall keep dreaming the pipe dream. I have hope and faith that this will come out some day. If not by Code Red, then through someone else. I can remember a while back a bunch of us were saying that we’d never see My Bloody Valentine with the lost footage.

  24. It’s truly amazing to see this film talked about 25 years later. I always thought it would be like the Rocky Horror Picture Show where the audience would show up and “participate” with the movie.
    It was fun to make. Buddy Cooper is a very nice fellow!
    Bill

  25. OMG!! Ralph! Is that really you?!?!?!?!?

  26. normally, I watch this movie when I’m feeling upbeat, happy and very very light headed. This is one of those slasher movies that should be loved for the cheese, something that we all could just sit back, pop some bag of chips and watch it for the kills and the laughable dialouge (including that chainsaw victim going “aaaaaaaaaahhhhh”. seriously, I was kinda waiting for him to follow it up with one more “aaaah” or “ouch” XD)
    nice review, hope this will get through some of the more serious minded fans out there. Lighten up and enjoy the aroma of pure cheddar~!

  27. I have and always will- LOVE this flick. Saw it for the first time in high school while dating a girl from class. I love the kills, and the horrible acting is everything I look for in a slasher, seems to me that is what the charming thing about these movies was:) I sure would love to get some of that rare Fall Break stuff, I have a reprint poster for The Mutilator. If anyone can share any rare stuff with me let me know, you can find me on FB

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