“The Mutilator” Is An Agreeable Relic From Slasher Film’s Heyday

Cinephile and film lecturer Laura Shearer takes a look at Arrow Video’s new collector’s Blu-ray of Buddy Cooper & John S. Douglass’ cult slasher classic The Mutilator aka Fall Break…

"The Mutilator" Is An Agreeable Relic From Slasher Film's HeydayHands down one of the most disturbing opening scenes of a horror film I’ve ever seen. It’s not gore, it’s not a death occurring, it’s not at all what you’d imagine from what I’ve just written. What I often find most alienating and terrifying is the social constructs, or should I say a focus on their breakdowns, that horror films take as their core narrative reasoning.

Every horror film character has their reasoning, perhaps an excuse is given at the end of the feature by way of a conclusion for their actions. More often now, this sense of reasoning for a reign of gory terror is quickly addressed early on. No twist is required to see how far a character can go or how demented and beyond sanity their logic has been warped.

The Mutilator is no exception to this trend, bearing in mind, it’s near the beginning of a long and powerful legacy of similar narratives that take on this ideology (A Nightmare on Elm Street or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre). A hot topic in America is gun culture and its involvement in the family home which is openly and brutally addressed. The horror sub-genre The Mutilator hinges on is the teen-focused horror scenario, similar to I Know What You Did Last Summer or Scream, where a close group of friends are unexpectedly thrust into a seemingly impossible life or death situation.

"The Mutilator" Is An Agreeable Relic From Slasher Film's Heyday

Frankly speaking, it’s an 80s slasher film that does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s something that’s actually refreshing to have as a perspective alteration. A reminder of how under appreciated and intelligent contemporary horror films can be. Everything has its roots and without films like this, the horror that fans might snivel at as not so scary derives from a much more intriguing and perpetually weird background.

It’s aged horribly, but that’s surely one of its best traits. Complete with synth soundtrack, it’s everything you expect it to be. Torchlight sequences, people hiding in wardrobes, teens trapped in an isolated cabin, plus the added impressive element of special effects from Mark Shostrom (Videodrome, Evil Dead II). It’s an easy watch, with a few aspects that will haunt but not surprise horror fans. An interesting conversation piece for a DVD collection, given the brazen title.

The Mutilator four stars

Written by Laura Shearer

"The Mutilator" Is An Agreeable Relic From Slasher Film's HeydayDirected by: Buddy Cooper, John S. Douglass
Written by: Buddy Cooper
Starring: Matt Mitler, Bill Hitchcock, Ruth Martinez, Connie Rogers, Morey Lampley, Frances Raines
Released: 1984 / Genre: Horror / Country: USA / IMDB / More reviews: Latest | Archive

Arrow Video’s The Mutilator is out now on DVD and Blu-ray…

About the Author
Film enthusiast and lover of all things cinema, Laura holds a BA/MA in film studies theory and lectures/tutors film students.

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  1. CineGirl Reply

    Looks pretty gruesome. Will have to check it out.

  2. Neal Damiano Reply

    Not really arguable it is a pinnacle slasher and came out in the heyday of the slasher film era well actually towards the tail end (1984) The problem is there was a flooding of these type of films in the early 80s. I remember an average of minimum 4 aisles of slashers films in every video store alone. It became known or referred to as the video nastys. But a few stood out and were made very well (besides the big hitters like Halloween, Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw) we had My Bloody Valentine, The Prowler, Happy Birthday to Me, Maniac, Terror Train, House on Sorrority Row, just to name a few. They were entertaining and a very much missed genre.

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