When Ed (Matt Mitler) was a little boy he accidentally shot and murdered his mother while cleaning one of his father’s (Jack Chatham) rifles. Now in law school, Ed’s father asks him to go to their beach house and close it up for the winter. As this request coincides with fall break, Ed accepts, bringing with him his virtuous girlfriend Pam (Ruth Martinez) and two other couples. Once at the house though, Ed’s father begins picking them off one by one as he fulfills his twisted fantasy of hunting the most dangerous game of all.
Originally titled Fall Break, The Mutilator (1985) is a classic video store rental title. It’s the kind of demented thriller that could only exist in the eighties. The Mutilator was written and directed by Buddy Cooper whose only other significant credit is that of the sequel, Mutilator 2, which is due out in the near future. Few throw away slasher films have the kind of cult presence that The Mutilator enjoys that would make a sequel possible thirty years after the original.
From the beginning there is something odd about The Mutilator. It opens with the kind of childhood trauma one associates with the genre that’s designed to provide a sort of motive for the killer. The twist in The Mutilator is that this prologue sequence isn’t about Ed, but rather about his father. This is effectively misleading until the kids arrive at the beach house and begin going through all of Ed’s father’s trophies.
The Mutilator is a film that completely disregards tonal unity. The grim opening is immediately juxtaposed by frat boy banter, followed by a movie theme song that seems lifted from an abandoned sex comedy. This back and forth is the norm in The Mutilator which gives it some appeal as a one of kind slasher.
The jokes never land, the acting is terrible, the sex isn’t sexy but the gore and the killings are really gross and disturbing. Genre fans will know The Mutilator primarily for the inventiveness of some of these grisly spectacles. The most infamous murder in The Mutilator is when Connie Rogers is gutted by a fishing gaff, that it inserted at the bottom of her pelvic region, before having her head severed.
While The Mutilator offers plenty of superficial diversions and bloody fetishization it doesn’t really have enough substance to evoke fear in the viewer. With no likable characters and a predictable plot, The Mutilator can only manage to repulse or disgust its audience. The real question is whether or not The Mutilator is the type of bad movie that the potential spectator is likely to enjoy.