THE MUTILATOR (1984)
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Written and directed by Buddy Cooper, The Mutilator is a bit of a mixed bag, but worth watching for the 80s nostalgia and some very explicit gore. The story opens with young Ed Jr. (Trace Cooper) wanting to impress his father (Jack Chatham) for his birthday by cleaning his gun collection. Never a good idea. Ed Jr. accidentally shoots his mom (Pamela Weddle Cooper) which drives dad a bit over the edge. The story then shifts to Ed Jr. (Matt Mitler) now in college and going out to his father’s beach condo with friends for the weekend to close it down for the winter. Little does Ed Jr. and friends know, that Ed Sr. is waiting for them and planning to finally exact the revenge on his son and his companions for the accident that took his wife’s life so many years ago.
For the most part this is a slow paced flick at a time where the pace of horror thrillers was starting to pick up. The acting is very wooden, as the dialog is sometimes stilted and amateurish. There is little mystery to it, as we know right away it’s Ed Sr. who is stalking our weekend partiers and there is little suspense as victims are seen from a mile away. Ed Sr. also has almost no dialog, so we never really get much of a character developed besides that he is apparently nuts. The actor does exude some menace, so at least there is that. What does make Buddy Cooper’s horror worth watching is the exceptional and very graphic gore from FX legend Mark Shostrom (Evil Dead II, Phantasm II & III, Elm St. II & III) and Anthony Showe. The killings may be few and far between, but the kills are inventive, vicious and extremely graphic leading to both an unrated and R-rated cut when released directly to VHS. Despite the film being a bit amateurish otherwise, the gore is quite shocking and very well-rendered. The heavy 80s atmosphere also helps too and turns a mediocre flick into something that can be a good time.
The cast are all fairly wooden and most never went anywhere except for lead Matt Mitler doing voice work for the Pokémon series and Francis Raines, who had a brief film career during the 80s. They are all fairly amateur here with killer Jack Chatham, as said earlier, exuding a bit of menace as Ed’s deranged dad. None of them are bad enough to really damage the film, but none are really that strong either. Rounding out the cast as Ed Jr.’s friends are Ruth Martinez as Pam, Connie Rogers as Sue, Morey Lampley as Mike, Frances Raines as Linda and Bill Hitchcock as jokester Ralph. Not an unlikable bunch, but not anyone memorable either, except maybe for looney Chatham.
This is still worth a look due to the exceptional and very graphic kill scenes. Other than that, there is not much to recommend, as far as, acting, mystery or suspense. There is some nice 80s nostalgia along with the bloodshed and a fun 80s electronic score by Michael Minard, which helps. If you’re an 80s purist and haven’t seen this one, it is worth watching and can be fun, especially within a movie night of similar titles.
2 and 1/2 fisherman’s gaffs which are used quite painfully.