Written by: George Pacheco on February 25th, 2016
BluRay released: February 15th, 2016 (UK) / February 16th, 2016 (USA)
Approximate running time: 86 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 18 (UK), NR (USA)
Sound: LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Video USA
Region Coding: Region A,B / Region 1,2 NTSC
Retail Price: $39.95 (USA) / £17.99 (UK)
The Mutilator is the sort of slasher film which works best as comedic parody of the genre’s 80s excesses; a good time party film designed to bring together horror fans who yearn for a bit of bloody nostalgia.
There’s a light hearted likability and spirit to the goings on here on this 1984 film from writer, producer and director Buddy Cooper, which first hit screens under the title of Fall Break. Indeed, it wasn’t until the later re-titling and tagline of “By sword, By pick, By axe, Bye Bye” that The Mutilator began to pick up steam in the grindhouses and VCRs across America and beyond.
The film’s wacky plot consists of father who loses his tenuous grip on sanity after a tragic accident with his wife and young son. Years later, the grown son and his friends return to close his father’s beach house, and soon find themselves at the mercy of a crazed and dangerous killer. Story and acting are largely thrown to the wayside, however, in favor of composed cinematography and some truly gruesome special effects.
None of the actors stand out here from the other cannon fodder teens of the day, but it should be said that their respective characters are quite a likeable bunch, although their distinct lack of personality really doesn’t make their deaths much of a loss. Indeed, it becomes difficult to care about anything which is going on here, as it’s clear almost immediately that Cooper’s film never truly takes itself seriously as a film designed to drive audiences mad with fear or tension.
Instead, the mechanical abilities of the crew are put to the test with the film’s impressively composed shots, and the aforementioned set pieces, all of which are filled with gruesome gore and violence. One particularly infamous scene involves a young lady who winds up at the business end of a mean fish hook, and it’s a sequence which actually still manages to induce some squirming, to this day. There are also some outstanding dismemberment and decapitation scenes to be had, making The Mutilator a flick designed to satiate even the heartiest of gorehounds.
Cooper’s screenplay lacks the urgency and spirit of even the second or third tier slashers-think My Bloody Valentine or The Burning-although there are some scenes which clearly display a firm grip on foreshadowing and character development. The attempts at comedy fall flat, however, and leave The Mutilator as a film of dueling extremes. The outtakes at the end cement this notion that The Mutilator is a hokey, forgettable slasher satire which is saved by its excellent effects work.
Arrow’s reputation of bringing the utmost quality to their products continues with their Blu-Ray release of The Mutilator. The picture quality here is leagues beyond the film’s original VHS release, with sharp and saturated colors, deep blacks and proper definition. The audio track is also nicely balanced between the hammy dialog and Michael Minard’s bizarre musical choices for the score, which consist of a cheesy rock ‘n roll title theme, and some rather unimpressive synth atmospherics.
Speaking of audio, there are two commentary tracks here for the film, one with cast and crew detailing varied stories behind production, and another with only Cooper and co-star Ruth Martinez, which is comparatively low-key and conversational. There’s also a feature length “making of” documentary behind the film, an interview with composer Mike Minard, screen tests, outtake and production reels, storyboards, TV spots, a gallery and alternate opening title sequence, all rounding out a fully stacked package, all up to Arrow’s exemplary standards.