Directed by Buddy Cooper [Other horror films: N/A] & John Douglass [Other horror films: N/A]
You know, I have to admit that my recollection of this movie may not have done it proper justice. I saw The Mutilator once many years ago, and ever since, I’ve been telling people about how underwhelming I found the film. Seeing it again with fresh eyes, though, I didn’t feel underwhelmed at all.
It could fairly be said that neither Morey Lampley nor Frances Raines (Disconnected and Breeders) did much for me, but the other four central characters were pretty good. Bill Hitchcock and Connie Rogers struck me as a realistic couple, Hitchcock’s character even occasionally amusing me. Matt Mitler was strong, and making for a quality final girl was Ruth Martinez, who I really liked here.
Pulling all of this together is the fact that I really got the sense that these were friends just hanging out, so even during the moments void of murder, it was fun just seeing this group of friends chilling (and playing Blind Man’s Bluff, a game that doesn’t look remotely fun).
What adds a little bit to the performances, by the way, is the fact that this was filmed in North Carolina, and most of the actors and actresses have that southern twang in their accents which just gives the movie a little more regional flavor, something that I quite appreciated.
Of course, what really adds to the film is the quality gore, which is something I perhaps missed the first time I saw The Mutilator. With such classy kills as a character getting stabbed with a piece of wood through the throat and thusly decapitated and another guy’s chest getting all ripped up with an outboard motor (which isn’t necessarily clear during the scene, at least to me, but the impact is most definitely worth it), this movie doesn’t slouch off in that department. There might be a weak kill or two (such as the character who was drowned), but that strong finale, with some dismemberment and someone being cut in half by a car, is enough to cancel those out.
While a small point, I wanted to mention the song that sandwiches the film (plays both at the beginning and the ending during the credits) titled “Fall Break” (on a side-note, Fall Break is an alternative title to this movie, and in fact, the print of the film that I saw had this title as opposed to The Mutilator). The song is a bit too jaunty for me at times, but I did think it was a lot of fun, and it’s one of those songs that’ll end up on my iTunes (the same fate which befell “Fade to Black” from Prom Night).
Oh, and another thing that I found a pleasant surprise – unlike many horror films, The Mutilator didn’t go for some final scene jump scare, which surprised me as it sort of felt like they were moving in that direction. Luckily, it was just a little somber scene in a hospital, which I definitely appreciated.
There’s no doubt that this film is somewhat run-of-the-mill, and given that the killer wasn’t particularly distinctive in any way whatsoever, it makes sense to me that for some, this might just not cut it. And to be fair, like I said, the same could have been said of me prior to this rewatch. Seeing it again, though, opened my eyes, and while it’s not a great slasher, I did have quite a bit of fun with it.