The Mutilator
Arrow Features // R // $39.95 // February 16, 2016
Review by Kurt Dahlke | posted February 23, 2016
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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R E V I E W S
Graphical Version
The Mutilator:
Reasons for releasing this film titled as The Mutilator, from a marketing standpoint, are obvious. Reasons for making it (originally titled Fall Break) at all, remain murky. Director Buddy Cooper's only feature credit mixes a low budget 'school vacation' type comedy (sort of) and an extremely gory slasher picture with far too much talent for the film's station. While in truth a horror movie, the opening 30-minutes of breezy comedic tone really puts the viewer in a disoriented mental state by the time our first victim is lovingly slashed to ribbons with an outboard motor.

Other critics note The Mutilator as a prototypical template of a slasher movie, and indeed all the elements are present in A to B fashion. Kids get together for a weekend of fun (and a little work) at the beach, quickly pairing off, they fall victim in delightfully gory fashion to a bloodthirsty maniac. Ed Jr. (Matt Mitler) brings friends along to clean out his widower-dad's coastal condo. They want to drink beer (Natural Light) and screw. Ed Jr., who accidentally killed his mother as a young boy, naturally wants to forget the whole thing. An ultra peppy theme song and goofy antics eventually wake up a mysterious murderous creep apparently hibernating in a tool shed, who then goes on to slash, gut, stab, skewer, and decapitate everyone.

This is a gore spectacular of surprisingly low profile, one of the kind you looked at and then passed-up on the video store shelf, or maybe I was just lazy. At any rate, it's a weird one, with its early sprightly mien butting up against pure savagery, (noted effects wizard Mark Shostrom debuting his gore skills) with likeable, down-to-earth performances rubbing elbows with extremely goofy, off-putting performances, and limited settings combining with surprisingly beautiful atmospheric cinematography.

Cooper starts things off quietly; deliberate pacing and subtly effective music find young Ed Jr. accidentally disposing of his mom. Shocked and mournful dad hangs a little sign around mom's dead neck while pouring whisky down her dead throat. Years later, the grown up kids jump into a convertible for their 'Fall Break' condo-clean-out adventure (who goes on 'Fall Break' anyway?) The kids play Blind Man's Bluff, and someone gets a pitchfork through the neck. They make sweet love, and a young lass gets a gaffing hook through her lady parts. Extremely brutal. Who is doing the killing, and why? More importantly, do we even care? Seriously, among other things, this is fantastic, old-school practical gore, and as others have noted, the blood-soaked climax really does need to be seen to be believed.

But Cooper keeps things relatable with kids who seem like kids. Though the women are cute, they aren't the bombshells typical of other slasher movies, and the men, frankly, are dorks. Meantime, realistic dialog and mostly natural performances ground things in reality. Director of photography Peter Schnall and Cooper also craft some effectively atmospheric, sometimes gorgeous shots, in particular a truly rapturous swimming pool scene with orange highlights on blue water.

The Mutilator, so bold in title, lives up to its name. While slavishly hewing to slasher movie conventions, it mutilates the genre by starting out as a college sex-comedy. Instead of cardboard characters, we get authentic girls and boys next door, and instead of cheap-jack, artless images, Cooper tortures the teen-kill genre with beautiful style on a budget. Plus, people get stabbed in the face with machetes. Arrow Video releases this Blu-ray in fine form with a nice selection of extras, marking this truly unique splatterpiece Highly Recommended.

The DVD

Video:
Arrow Video brings us this great looking 2k restoration of the unrated version of The Mutilator, from original vault materials, in a 1.78:1 ratio. (Also available in this 2-disk edition is a standard definition version on DVD.) The transfer pays homage to the movie's film grain without trying to smooth it out at all, lending a rich film look to the affair. As such, details are usually good, but not razor sharp. Colors mostly look lovely and natural, and are deep and saturated, while black levels are also deep, and maintain decent definition within. A search for unrated quality elements was fruitless, until a 35mm master print of the original uncut version of the film was discovered in the Library of Congress. This print was cleaned up of damage and debris, yet still had some issues that were dealt with as best as possible. Most noticeable are some scenes that were originally color-timed incorrectly, and a night scene or two with orange fading on the side of the frame. Overall, Arrow has done a nice job bringing this classic to your screen.

Sound:
1.0 Mono Audio is serviceable but unremarkable. It lacks degradation and distortion, but obviously has zero dimensional punch. The soundtrack, however, sounds nice, with good dynamic range to compliment its overall atmospheric weirdness. The punchy 'Fall Break' theme song, mysteriously out-of-place, comes through loud and clear.

Extras:
Starting with a nice matte-finish Slipcover, Arrow loads up the extras. Reversible Cover Art means you can pretend the movie is still named Fall Break, just as the unchanged titles sequence does. A Postcard Style Insert highlights other Arrow releases, and a lengthy 26-page Liner Notes Insert features a long essay by Ewan Cant, a Tim Ferrante article from Fangoria #38, and more. English SDH Subtitles are offered, while Cooper and assistant make-up/editor Edmund Ferrell contribute an Introduction to the movie.

You get two Easter Eggs, and you get Two Commentary Tracks, one with Cooper, Ferrell, co-director John Douglass, and star Matt Mitler, and one with Cooper and actress Ruth Martinez Tutterow. You get a fine, feature-length (75-minute) Documentary: Fall Break: The Story Of The Mutilator, consisting of extensive interviews with cast and crew, plus behind the scenes footage and stills. You get 16 minutes of disgusting Mutilator Memories, in which Mark (Videodrome) Shostrom talks about his gruesome gory goods. You get 8 minutes of Tunes For The Dunes, in which composer Michael Minard explains his evocative score. You get 16 minutes of rough quality home video (circa 1984) Behind The Scenes footage of filming, and 13 minutes of Screen Tests. You might also enjoy Alternate Opening Titles, an extensive auto-navigation Stills Gallery, a bunch of Trailers And TV Spots, and Opening Sequence Storyboards. Finish off your experience by reading the BD/DVD-Rom Original Fall Break Screenplay. So many extras, it will mutilate your Blu-ray player!

Final Thoughts:
The Mutilator, so bold in title, lives up to the name. While slavishly hewing to slasher movie conventions, it mutilates the genre by starting out as a college sex-comedy. Instead of cardboard characters, we get authentic girls and boys next door, and instead of cheap-jack, artless images, Cooper tortures the teen-kill genre with beautiful style on a budget. Plus, people get stabbed in the face with machetes. Arrow Video releases this Blu-ray in fine form with a nice selection of extras, marking this truly unique, terrifically gory splatterpiece Highly Recommended.



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