1984 gave rise to quite a few quality slashers. You had such classics as Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and to me at least, Silent Night, Deadly Night. Today, however, isn’t about those little hits, but instead, it’s about the even littler guy, the low budget slasher known as The Mutilator (aka Fall Break). Directed by Buddy Cooper, a man who loved slasher films and just wanted to make a fun movie, The Mutilator is a hidden ’80s horror gem; it provides the gore, a bit of nudity and a fun vibe throughout the 86-minute runtime. What more can you ask for in a slasher flick? It was nearly impossible to see a nice copy of the uncut version of The Mutilator, but thankfully Arrow Video searched and searched for the full uncut version, cleaned it up and provided us with an amazing Blu-ray release, packed to the gills with special features.
[tabby title=”PRODUCT INFORMATION”]
DISCS: 2 (1 Blu-ray, 1 DVD)
RUN-TIME: 86 mins
ASPECT RATIO: 1.78:1
AUDIO: LPCM Mono
SUBTITLES: English SDH
PRODUCTION DATE: 1984
RELEASE DATE: Feb 16, 2016
[tabby title=”PLOT SUMMARY”]
BY SWORD. BY PICK. BY AXE. BYE BYE. Although the slasher film was in decline by the mid-1980s, there were still some grisly delights to be had… and they don’t come much grislier than writer-director Buddy Cooper’s sickening stalk-and-slash classic The Mutilator! When Ed receives a message from his father asking him to go and lock up the family’s beach condo for the winter, it seems like the perfect excuse for an alcohol-fuelled few days away with his friends. After all, his dad has forgiven him for accidentally blowing mom away with a shotgun several years ago… hasn’t he? But no sooner are the teens on the island than they find themselves stalked by a figure with an axe (and a hook, and an onboard motor) to grind… Originally entitled Fall Break (watch out for the incongruous theme song of the same name!), The Mutilator has earned a reputation amongst horror fans as one of the ‘holy grails’ of 80s splatter mayhem due to its highly inventive (and not to say, decidedly gruesome) kill sequences, courtesy of FX wizard Mark Shostrom (Videodrome, Evil Dead II). Finally making its long-awaited bow in High-Definition, The Mutilator has returned to terrorise a whole new generation of horror fans!
[tabby title=”THE MUTILATOR”]
The Mutilator is something else. After the initial opening story setup involving a child named Ed cleaning a rifle for his dad’s birthday and accidentally shooting his mother with more precision than a trained sniper, we jump ahead a few years to catch up with the little boy, now a full-grown college kid. The movie then proceeds to play out like an ’80s sitcom, with a theme song that will drive you utterly insane. Ed, along with a group of friends are heading out to his dad’s condo to close it up for the winter and you can be rest assured that hijinks are going to happen. We’re going to see the kids play monopoly and drinking games. They are going to make out and fool around. They are going to run on the beach, whilst the instrumental version of the theme song drives even further into your brain. It’s a rather bizarre, albeit unique setup for a slasher film, but in the end, The Mutilator is just that, a slasher. It keeps the locations small, utilizing the condo effectively, and providing a nice reason why it’s difficult to call for help (the condo is on an island and the police are across the bridge.) The movie also effectively flips the protagonists around halfway through, which is something you rarely see in a slasher film.
The killer (who’s identity is never hidden) systematically picks off the college kids with a variety of fishing instruments, usually in a gratuitously gory fashion. The one kill that instantly comes to mind is a gaff being shoved in a place you don’t want a gaff shoved. It’s a rather obscene visual, but it’s the hook (no pun intended) that will sell the gorehounds on the movie. Mark Shostrom (Evil Dead II) provides the gory practical effects, which are the main star of the film.
The Mutilator has its faults, as the acting is sketchy at times (what slasher film of the 80s didn’t have sketchy acting?) and there are moments where suspense is non-existent, such as the hide and seek game where budget constraints hamper the scenes, as it’s clear they had to shoot the sequence bright and have the actors pretend it’s pitch black. The scene still works in the end, but the suspense goes out the window when you end up laughing instead of cowering.
However, the movie still succeeds, as it’s the passion and dedication that went into making the movie that makes The Mutilator a wonderful little slasher to have on your movie shelf. Buddy Cooper wanted to get out there and make a slasher movie and he succeeded beautifully.
[tabby title=”BLU-RAY OPINION”]
It’s been a long time coming since it’s announcement by Arrow Video back in June of 2015, but we can finally get our bloody hands on the Blu-ray release of The Mutilator, and boy is it a beauty. Arrow Video has lovingly restored the video, resulting in a fantastic presentation. There are a few moments of a weird halo effect happening on characters and objects in the scene, however, it only happens a few times (the provided photo below shows you the very small issue in play around the right side of his head). Besides that, everything else is wonderfully top notch looking. The same goes for the audio, which includes the movie in it’s original uncompressed PCM Mono 1.0 presentation.
The special features are going to take you awhile to get through, but they are all worth it. My favorite is the feature-length documentary on the making of the movie, which features several interviews with cast and crew. You can tell that everyone had a great, albeit stressful time making this little gem. Everyone seems to be game for a sequel as well! Other features included are two commentaries, more interviews with special effects crew and the composer, who oddly enough, doesn’t apologize for the theme song. Rounding everything out is behind the scenes footage, trailers, screen tests, storyboards and so on. It’s a boatload of stuff and all of it is absolutely wonderful.
[tabby title=”SPECIAL FEATURES”]
- Brand new 2K restoration of the unrated version from original vault materials
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
- Original mono 1.0 audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Introduction to the film with writer-director Buddy Cooper and assistant special make-up effects artist/assistant editor Edmund Ferrell
- Audio Commentary with Cooper, Ferrell, co-director John Douglass and star Matt Mitler
- Audio Commentary with Buddy Cooper and star Ruth Martinez Tutterow
- Fall Breakers: The Story of The Mutilator – brand new feature-length documentary on the making of the splatter classic featuring interviews with Cooper, Douglass, Ferrell, Mitler, actors Bill Hitchcock, Jack Chatham and more
- Mutilator Memories – special make-up effects artist Mark Shostrom looks back at one of his earliest projects
- Tunes for the Dunes – composer Michael Minard reveals how The Mutilator’s unique score was created
- Behind-the-Scenes Reel
- Screen Tests
- Alternate Opening Titles
- Trailers and TV Spots
- ‘Fall Break’ Theme Song (Original and Instrumental Versions)
- Opening Sequence Storyboards
- Motion Stills Gallery
- Original Fall Break Screenplay (BD/DVD-ROM content)
- Reversible sleeve featuring two original artworks
Arrow Video deserves a big pat on the back with this one. I never even saw the film before, but now I have an amazing Blu-ray of it in my hand, in it’s full uncut and bloody glory. It is truly a wonderful time to be a slasher fan. The Mutilator deserves all the praise I can give it and then some. A no brainer pick up.