Directors: Buddy Cooper & John Douglass
Starring: Matt Mitler, Ruth Martinez & Bill Hitchcock
Synopsis: A teenager who accidentally committed matricide finds himself being hunted together with his girlfriend and friends by his now crazed father.
Rating: 18 Duration: 86 minutes Release date: 15 February (UK)
To paraphrase a popular Calvin Harris song, some things were acceptable in the 80’s, and surely The Mutilator was one of them. The Mutilator, or Fall Break, is a typical 80’s slasher film, made on a shoestring budget with a cast of unknown actors. It also has a high level of bloodshed and its own theme song, which I suppose is quite unique for horror film like this. It’s cult following has ensured it’s longevity, but how does it stand up 31 years on?
While cleaning his father’s collection of guns in a rather odd birthday gesture, Ed Jr. (Matt Mitler) sets one of the rifles off, with the bullet inadvertently shooting his mother in the back and killing her. When Big Ed (Jack Chatham) arrives back home, he assaults his son and so begins a truly alienated relationship between the pair. Things get even more weird when Big Ed, yes that really is his name, calls his son and asks him to visit their beach condo and close it for winter. What happens next is really rather self explanatory.
In a decade when the horror genre was at its best and its worst, The Mutilator is one of those films that will likely remain unknown to the larger cinema going audience. With the likes of A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Evil Dead and Friday the 13th all being released there was also a steady slew of films that copied the format made popular by the aforementioned staples of the decade. Films such as The Mutilator would instead gain a cult following or risk being forgotten in a time when horror films were made on a far too regular basis.
It’s surprising in one sense how films like this would ever be so popular; poor acting, low budgets and elaborate special effects were the norm and can be as charming as they are ridiculous. But put yourself in the shoes of a teenager in the 1980’s watching The Mutilator at the cinema or on VHS and imagine again what it is was like. What may look bad now, carries a charm to viewers of a certain age and what others may see as something that reduces the films quality, others will see it as endearing.
It’s therefore a little confusing on how to approach a review on a film such as this. The acting is decidedly poor, yet it’s surely expected from horror films of the particular decade. On the other hand, the practical effects are actually very good and the special effects team of Edmund Ferrell, Mark Shostrom & Anthony Showe were peerless in their craft here. It’s therefore entirely understandable why The Mutilator is popular with its fans, but it’s difficult for newcomers to enjoy it as much as those who grew up with it.
Taken on face value, there’s not a whole lot to enjoy and it does rather tick the boxes of what a slasher film should be. Even its charm and faux moments of quality can’t hide the fact that apart from the wonderful effects and a horrendously catchy theme song, The Mutilator has not aged well and ultimately feels like a product firmly of its time that may struggle to find a new audience.
Fans of The Mutilator will be pleased with the amount of detailed extras that Arrow Films have set up on this Blu-ray release. As well as restoring the audio and visual quality of the film, Arrow have stacked the high-definition release with vat of extras. As well as two audio commentaries with various cast and crew members, there is also an introduction to the film with director Buddy Cooper and make-up artist Edmund Ferrell.
There are also three behind the scenes documentaries available here which individually focus on the making of The Mutilator, the superb special effects of the film and the inspiration behind the score. As well as the more in depth features, there is also a behind the scenes reel, screen tests, alternate opening titles, several TV spots & trailers and even an instrumental version of the theme song; Fall Break. Arrow have really gone all out with this disc, making it the definitive edition of The Mutilator and a must for fans.