When it comes to infamous VHS boxes from the 1980’s, The Mutilator is ever so memorable. I can’t tell you how badly I wanted to get that movie into my VCR. Every trip to the video store was met with a firm and resounding rejection of this movie with the gorgeous cover art. After years of keenly fingering the box my prayers remained unanswered and gradually my parents wore me out. I no longer asked if could rent The Mutilator. I settled for Violent Shit and The Traces of Death (you’d think they would have read the description or even the titles on those). Years would pass and I would eventually get my hands on this gem and currently own a hand crafted VHSPS copy complete with green bikini babe and gaff hook wielded by a very unhappy hand. It’s not a perfect movie. It’s not even a good movie, but it’s a damn funny slasher film; unintentionally for the most part. It’s got good camp, a great tag line, some sweet kills and was put out by our beloved Vestron. IT CAME FROM 1980 X tackles 1984’s Fall Break… as it was almost called. It might also have been titled Buddy Cooper’s folly. Let’s get dirty with this sexy beast.
By sword, By pick, By axe, Bye Bye.
From the back of the box:
Their horrifying vacation was no day at the beach!
This spine-tingling chiller is the harrowing tale of five high-school students whose dream vacation of a fun-filled holiday at the beach becomes a nightmare when they are stalked by THE MUTILATOR.
Ed, a likeable high school student, busily discusses vacation plans with his friends when he receives a message from his father asking that he close up the summer house at the beach. While his friends feel that it’s the perfect opportunity for a vacation, Ed is uneasy about the request, as hi father has never quite forgiven him from the accidental shooting of his mother.
When the group arrives at the summer house they discover Ed’s father’s collection of bizarre weapons. To add to their anxieties there is the ever-present feeling that they are being watched. Suddenly, Ed’s house guests begin to meet bizarre deaths, each one more grisly than the next, but THE MUTILATOR is saving best for least.. the best for Ed.
I always like it when the entire plot of a movie, practically the entire narrative, is divulged on the back. It makes it near impossible for the viewer to complain about what he’s seen afterward. It’s not like the good folks at OK Productions (does that name say something about the production) didn’t give it to you straight. The only thing this description doesn’t iterate is that none of Ed’s friends can speak without using catch phrases from previous horror films that we would now deem ultra-cliche and just what the grisly murders might be. It doesn’t tell you that no one’s hanging from hooks on walls as the cover alludes. I’ve been disappointed by that and just might be a bit miffed to this day.
This release from VHSPS comes complete with excellent metal riffage at the beginning and a menu screen that displays the cover art. The tracking lines at the bottom of your screen prove its authenticity. This is a VHS rip folks. No doubt about it and we wouldn’t have it any other way. YOU’RE NOT IN HI-DEF ANYMORE, KIDDIES!!!
Some of the points of interest you might keep an open eye to are: The hammed up music in the first sequence is beautiful 80’s cheese. Strong synth hits during the kill sequences are proof positive of this 1984 birth date of The Mutilator. “The Happy Birthday Daddy, All Cleaned by Me” sign hung upon Ed’s dead mother’s body while his dad puts back a bottle of Jack Daniels is truly classy. Those “new high scoring video machines”. Water foreplay set to a facsimile of the music from the TV show Cheers did not ensure that the cast of The Mutilator would ever be known by name. Let’s face it, from the moment this motley crew realized that the weapons were missing from the wall they were doomed to die exotic deaths. With slasher films its just that simple. There are some clever kills including more than one sharp object, all deaths painful phony and moments of serene quiet that might make the less hardcore fans pass out. Zzzzzzzzzz.
Quotes from the movie that made me giggle:
“Your rubbers are too big” followed by “That’s the first time you’ve ever said that”. and…
“I’m coming to get you,” in this failed actors best Night of the Living Dead imitation voice which fails miserably without the “Barbara’ or other woman’s name inserted to keep the rhythm.
Now to that Pepsi challenge that I mention in the title to this piece. Kelly Forbes of Fangoria did a write up of The Mutilator recently. I had planned a similar write up which surprised the shit out of me to find it in Fango #314, but any time VHS is in the spotlight I’m a happy boy. While I agree that The Mutilator has some fine poster art and that that perhaps the most redeeming thing about this movie, there’s plenty to enjoy beyond the aesthetic. She’s absolutely right when she sites the classic horror blunder of great title, great poster art, shitty movie. But you can enjoy the kills. Enjoy the bad dialogue and laugh… always laugh. Forbes describes The Mutilator as having committed the, “most offensive, cinematic deadly sin: It’s boring”. Well that is probably true of the R rated version. That’s the version that I saw and had to do double time on the coffee intake to keep aware. The uncut version packs a punch; at least as much of a bunch as some of the other C list horror flicks of the direct to video distribution model. She says bury it. I say bury yourself with it and enjoy that gaff through the pelvis scene on repeat. It’ll make your date uncomfortable.
The Mutilator is more violent than I remember it being. I wonder if the words “Un-Rated Edition” actually hold any clout for the original release of this movie or whether this really could have received an R at any time it just chose not to. It is this just a marketing ploy? The R rated version of The Mutilator is cheap on the gore. Do I chastise my parents for not letting me see this at an earlier age? Yep. I think it would have been part of my horror canon that could have carried into adulthood. One of the older, reliable pictures that could make you feel just so darn good because its familiar. Like a comfort movie. I seriously needed a poster of the cover on my wall at the very least. I still need that. I need it tattooed on my back.
Make sure to enjoy the credit music. “Fall Break” is a well orchestrated 80’s tune that has absolutely no redeeming qualities. Here’s a shout out to composer, Michael Minard.
Pay Your Late Fees on Time and Often. Oh and buy VHSPS.