Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Mutilator

“By sword/by pick/by axe/bye bye!” If nothing else, THE MUTILATOR, an independent slasher movie produced in North Carolina by writer/director Buddy Cooper, must be lauded for its clever marketing tagline. Shot as FALL BREAK on a 29-day shooting schedule and $650,000 budget by a first-timer with no experience in filmmaking, THE MUTILATOR begins bizarrely and a bit sloppily with a little boy accidentally blowing away his mother (characters played by Cooper’s son and wife) with his dad’s shotgun.

Fast forward about a decade later and Ed (Matt Mitler) is a college student bored on fall break. When Dad (Jack Chatham) calls and demands Ed come down and close up the family beach condo for winter, Ed brings five school pals along for what they hope to be a fun vacation of sex and drinking and sex. It turns into a not-so-fun vacation of drownings and slashings and decapitations with grisly makeup effects by Mark Shostrom (EVIL DEAD II), Anthony Showe (CHOPPING MALL), and Ed Ferrell (THE SUPERNATURALS). The killer’s identity is no mystery and revealed early, unfortunately removing some suspense from the film. It’s Ed Senior, whose nights are plagued by disturbing nightmares of murdering his son as a little boy.

Cooper is an odd duck. Some of his shots are artfully composed, yet his opening titles play over an inappropriately upbeat theme song that sounds like it’s from a sitcom ABC cancelled after four weeks. On the whole, Cooper’s direction is quite poor with pacing and generating excitement not in his skill set. The actors are terrible at best and obnoxious at worst, though that’s hardly unusual for a horror film or any film by an amateur. Cooper at least knew what his core audience wanted to see, delivering a bit of female nudity and so much gore that the MPAA later demanded cuts to receive an R for its extended theatrical release.

To no one’s surprise, none of the cast members had spectacular careers, though Mitler had a starring role in the unbelievable New York science fiction movie BREEDERS. Ben Moore from Herschell Gordon Lewis’ 1960s films appears as a cop who meets a gruesome ending. Bill Hitchcock’s Ralph, the film’s ersatz comic relief, ranks among the most loathsome characters ever seen in a horror movie, and that includes the serial killers. Cooper, who returned to running the family motel business in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, never directed another film.

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