Gun owners living Stateside (or elsewhere): how do you like to store your guns? If you answered “Loaded, in an unlocked cabinet, within arm’s-reach of a child” then congratulations, you’d probably get along with Big Ed. As The Mutilator (onscreen title: Fall Break) opens, it’s Big Ed’s birthday, and his wife is in the kitchen, cooking. His son’s decided to clean all his guns for him as a birthday present, which as presents go beats yet another shower-gel-and-aftershave gift set, but comes up a little short of the new fishing rod he was likely hoping for. Except the son, also named Ed, manages to discharge the firearm into the wall, through the wall, and into his mother’s back, killing her instantly, which sort of takes the shine off it, as presents go.
Fifteen years later, Little Ed’s doing OK, hanging out during fall break with some college friends when he gets a telephone call: Big Ed wants him to close up the beach cabin for the winter. The beach cabin is all alone on an island with NO COPS, and it’s full of hunting trophies, sharp objects and, for whatever reason, a framed photo of the man Big Ed accidentally ran over in his boat. The only thing conspicuously missing is Big Ed’s battle axe, and Big Ed himself, too. Let’s hope he just went on holiday or something, and isn’t finally ready to go on a deranged killing spree as vengeance for his wife’s death.
In its short and often ignoble history, the slasher ran the gamut: there were great films (Halloween), good films (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Blood Rage), middling films (Friday the 13th, Madman), and a vast sea of truly awful films. Sadly The Mutilator falls into the latter category, with a script so indifferent it has essentially two characters, the “boy personality” and the “girl personality” with, of course, three of each; its acting is sub-am-dram; its lighting sub-porno; its score sub-local-prog-outfit. That’s not to say there’s nothing to recommend it, but there isn’t much: you might enjoy the set dressing on the cabin, which is laden down with such a truly ridiculous number of deadly weapons that you’ll have quite a time guessing which ones actually see action, and (spoilers!) the kill with the fish-hook is one of the most revolting things committed to celluloid, especially in such an otherwise harmless picture.
Audio and Visuals
This being an Arrow Video release, we get the brand-new restoration job you’d expect and, while the cheap, murky quality to the visuals is all part of the slasher experience, you’ll find a lot more detail here than you would on some VHS in the late-80s. More impressive is the work that’s been done on the sound, with the film’s silly, but wonderful, Beach Boys/Chuck Berry homage “Fall Break” blasting through your speakers as the opening credits roll.
You expect a reversible cover from Arrow, and while the original poster is brutally brilliant, it also seriously misrepresents the film, so you might appreciate having the other, more faithful, option. The menu plays the aforementioned “Fall Break” over clips carefully selected to mirror the lyrics, music-video-style.
The extras on these releases are almost always the product of admirable hard work, but this one stands out in particular, with two commentaries, the feature-length making of Fall Breakers: The Story of The Mutilator, make-up artist Mark Shostrom interviewed in Mutilator Memories, composer Michael Minard discussing his work in Tunes for the Dunes, a behind-the-scenes reel not dissimilar from that which plays over the film’s end credits, a series of screen tests, a set of alternate opening titles, clips of the song “Fall Break” in either vocal or instrumental mixes, storyboards for the opening sequence (also, perhaps uncoincidentally, the film’s best-realised), the full screenplay, a stills gallery, a collection of trailers and TV spots, and an introduction by director Buddy Cooper and special effects artist Edmund Ferrell. It’s exhausting but in its own way exhilarating going through this set – put aside an evening for it. It’s better fun than the movie itself!
The film is poor, but slasher fans and horror completists will want to pick up this title anyway, and Arrow have once again succeeded in making a tempting release out of a rather unremarkable little film.
The Mutilator is released on DVD & Blu-ray today (15th February) by Arrow, will you be checking it out? Let us know in the comment box below!