(A.k.a. FALL BREAK)
Young Ed wants to surprise his father in his birthday. He decides that a good way to do this would be to polish Dad's prized rifle collection. However, while doing so, the clumsy kid accidentally shoots a hole through his mother. By the time Dad arrives home from work, his wife is lying dead in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor. Worst. Birthday. Ever.
As sirens wail in the distance, the Dad pours himself a whiskey and slumps beside his wife's dead body. The terrified Ed watches on, perplexed.
Cut to some years later, and Ed (Matt Mitler) is now a college jock with a prissy girlfriend and four annoying friends. While larking on at their local diner one afternoon, Ed receives a telephone call from his estranged Dad - Big Ed (Jack Chatham) - asking him to go and do some maintenance work on his beach house over the weekend.
Ed is initially reluctant to do this. But his pals soon remind him that they've all just been moaning that fall break has just begun and they're already bored: they suggest they all travel there together, and turn the weekend into a boozy one. Ed agrees.
One short road trip later, and our sextet of horny, brainless youths land at Big Ed's empty condo. Before long, the beers are opened and people are coupling off hoping to get their ends away. My favourite couple are Mike (Morey Lampley) and Linda (Frances Raines) because, well, Mike's fucking awesome. Believe me, he is.
Alas, they're the first to realise that they're not alone at the condo. On the contrary, Big Ed is hiding out in the garage, suffering from recurring dreams in which he kills his son!
THE MUTILATOR came late in the day in terms of the early 80s' popular stalk 'n' slash cycle, which may account for it never acquiring the same following as the likes of THE BURNING, or THE PROWLER. Or it could just be that it's not as good.
There's certainly a whiff of cheapness about it, even by slasher cinema standards. The acting is hilariously bad at times (hello again, Morey, you Kays catalogue model, you) and co-director Buddy Cooper's painfully silly script does the inexperienced cast little favours.
Though attractively shot and decently edited, as well as feeling the benefit of Michael Minard's ambient Howard Shore-ish score, THE MUTILATOR is also pretty slow to get going. The first gory kill doesn't occur until 39 minutes into proceedings - approximately midway through the film. That would be fine if we had characters worth investing in prior to that. But, truly, we don't.
The by-the-numbers mechanics of the script makes you realise just how accurate late 90s "homages" such as I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER were; the only difference here is the young teenkill fodder are nowhere near as glamorous. Apart from Mike, of course. Have I mentioned Mike?
Co-directors Cooper and John Douglass do their best an actually do elicit some suspense in the final 30 minutes or so. But it's a long time coming. Should I even mention the bizarre-as-fuck ten seconds of intentionally comedic fast-motion which usher in the final act...?
A young Mark Shostrom supervised the FX work. It's never overly gory, but we do get a few highlights - decapitation, power-saw violence and the like. And you can actually see it all properly now, thanks to the new HD transfer.
Speaking of which, THE MUTILATOR comes to the UK as a dual format blu-ray and DVD package, courtesy of Arrow Films Video.
Presented as a healthily sized MPEG4-AVC file with no compression issues whatsoever, THE MUTILATOR comes fully uncut and restored - 86 minutes and 20 seconds - and in full 1080p HD. The original 1.85:1 aspect ratio is correctly conveyed in this 2k remastering, and is naturally enhanced for 16x9 televisions.
A little diffusion authentically softens the picture, as was pretty common in the early 80s (the film's production date is 1984) so don't fret if exterior scenes often have a soft, dreamlike appearance. Detail, depth, colour, brightness - everything is quite remarkably improved over the dark, murky presentations of past. The odd onscreen speck is so rare that I only mention to forewarn the most anal of viewers. This vivid, clean transfer really does make it feel like you're watching THE MUTILATOR for the first time all over again. The onscreen title is FALL BREAK.
English audio gets the lossless 2.0 Master Audio treatment and sounds very good for the most part. It's not a showcase-worthy track, but it's clean and consistent. Very occasional muffled dialogue is most likely a product of the cheap shoot, and not a flaw in the mastering. Which, again, is an improvement over previous incarnations. Optional English subtitles for the Hard-of-Hearing are well-written and easily readable at all times.
The disc opens to an animated main menu page. Pop-up menus include a scene selection option allowing access to the film via 12 chapters.
Extras begin with two enjoyable audio commentary tracks. One is from Cooper with Ruth Martinez (Pam in the film). This track is moderated by Arrow's Ewan Cant and is a fluent proposition with plentiful anecdotes. It could've been a little more self-aware, I suppose (where were the knowing piss-takes?), but we get a lot of solid information regardless: a lot of the film was shot in sequence, survival kits including condoms were handed out at cinema screenings, the new title helped the film a lot, and so on.
The other track is from Cooper, Douglass, Mitler and FX assistant Ed Ferrell. It's a well-natured though slightly less interesting track, despite more credible moderation from Cant.
A 68-second optional introduction from Cooper and Ferrell sees them jovially speaking about losing the film's elements at one point.
Next up is "Fall Breakers", an excellent new feature-length Making Of documentary. Clocking in at a whopping 75 minutes in length, this takes the time to interview the likes of Cooper, Mitler and more. This HD proposition is a good-natured, illuminating effort. Seeing the difference of cast members between now and then is fascinating, though it has to be said that everyone has aged very well. Interspersed with film clips and rare behind-the-scenes footage, this is an excellent companion piece.
"Mutilator Memories" finds Shostrom in fine form while discussing his FX work on the film. Recorded in October 2015, this sees Mark explaining his break into the industry and how he came to work on this, his first slasher movie.
Composer Minard gets 8 minutes to discuss his own contribution to the film, while elaborating on the thinking process behind his score. He describes Cooper as a "real hands-on director" who collaborated on the music.
A 16-minute window-boxed "behind-the-scenes reel" proffers a healthy amount of intriguing footage from the film's shoot, including a young Shostrom working on his special effects.
13 minutes of original screen tests (in VHS quality) and 4-minute gallery of the opening scene's original storyboards are perhaps for completists only, but interesting in a watch-once fashion.
Three trailers (two utilising the FALL BREAK title, the third calling itself THE MUTILATOR), two TV spots and radio spots follow. We also get an alternate 4-minute opening scene with THE MUTILATOR as its title, which is quite faded in appearance compared to the main feature. If you can bear it, we also get the country-pop theme tune - "Fall Break" - in isolation. Twice. Once with vocals, and once as an instrumental version...
A ludicrously generous photo gallery covers all manner of ground (on-location photos, cover art from various releases, etc) over the course of 9 minutes.
This handsome package is rounded off by a collectors' booklet, double-sided cover artwork and a downloadable PDF version of the original screenplay. Like I said earlier, this is a completist's dream!
THE MUTILATOR is a late, cheap addition to the slasher cycle. It's a fun film, marred or enhanced by some rum dialogue and performances - dependent upon your stance on such matters. Once it gets going though, it offers some good fun.
It looks fabulous on Arrow's blu-ray and is loaded with extras.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Arrow Video|
|see main review|