The Mutilator (1984) The Mutilator/Fall Break (1984) *

     If I felt like it, I really could wrap this review up in just three words: pointless and perfunctory. Truly, I cannot for the life of me understand why The Mutilator was made. Even in 1980, at the very beginning of the slasher boom, The Mutilator would have seemed like a major waste of time, devoid as it is of effective shocks, honest suspense, or anything beyond the dimmest outline of a plot. By 1984, however, this movie was so thoroughly redundant that it seems to have left the well-trod ground of mere formula behind it, and forged on ahead into the realm of just plain going through the motions. There are a few well-executed and commendably mean-spirited gore scenes, but collectively they constitute The Mutilatorís only redeeming feature.

     We start, inevitably, with a prologue that explains how The Mutilatorís insane killer came to be the way he is. A boy named Ed and his mother (Trace and Pamela Weddle Cooper, both of them doubtless related in some way to writer/director/producer Buddy Cooper) are getting ready for the celebration of Ed Sr.ís birthday. Mom is in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on the birthday cake while Ed cleans his dadís arsenal of hunting rifles. You know how people always say you should act as if thereís no such thing as an unloaded gun? Well weíre about to see why. Assuming that thereís no ammunition in the rifles, Ed points one at the door between the living room and the kitchen, and pulls the trigger. The gun fires, and the bullet passes straight through the hardwood door, retaining enough velocity afterwards to shred Edís motherís spine and apparently sever her dorsal aorta. Yeah, Dadó happy fucking birthday! When Big Ed (Jack Chatham) gets home from work to find his son holding his wifeís dead body, he goes a little haywire. Little Ed flees the house and calls the police; as the cops pull into the driveway, Big Ed is pouring a shot of whiskey down his wifeís lifeless throat.

     Years go by, and Ed Jr. matures toÖ umÖ high school age? College age? Damned if I can tell. In any event, heís now played by Matt Mitler, from Basket Case 2 and the original Breeders, who is much too old to be mistaken for someone in any stage of adolescence. Whatever school Ed is currently enrolled in is having its fall break, and he, his girlfriend Pam (Ruth Martinez), and their friends Ralph (Bill Hitchcock), Mike (Morely Lampley), and Linda (Frances Raines, of Disconnected and Bad Girlsí Dormitory) are all hanging out in a pool hall lamenting their lack of exciting plans for the vacation. Just then, the phone rings behind the bar, and the bartender announces that itís for Ed. In fact, itís Edís crazy, drunk father, calling to tell the boy that heís just completed his latest bender down at the beach house, and ordering him to come clean up the mess. Ed is incensed at first, and has no intention whatsoever of complying, but then his buddies make the connection that cleaning up the beach house would provide them all with an excuse to spend fall break down at the shore. Ralphís girlfriend, Sue (Connie Rogers), gets added to the party the next day, and then itís off to the beachó and off to the opening credits, with their noxious Loverboy-like musical accompaniment, as well.

     At the beach house, Ed tells the others all about his dad. Big Ed is an accomplished trophy hunter and fisherman, who boasts of having hunted ďeverything except man.Ē (Foreshadowing? What foreshadowing?) Heís got a competitive streak a mile wide, and an ego to match. Heís also been loonier than a shithouse rat ever since the accident that claimed Edís motherís life, and has made no secret of the fact that he has never really forgiven his son for shooting her. Further exposition reveals that nearly all the cabins on the beach are unoccupied at this time of year, and that the only law enforcement presence is a single cop (Ben Moore) who patrols the area on a rather haphazard basis. Then Pam notices a couple of empty hooks on the wall beneath Big Edís fishing trophies, and Little Ed explains that they would normally hold his fatherís favorite possession, a real, authentic, no-shit medieval battle axe. Ed speculates that his father took it home with him when he vacated the beach house, but we would know better than that even if we didnít get to see what comes next: a change of shot to the inside of a closet in the garage, where Big Ed is sleeping off his drunk, clutching the battle axe and dreaming about murdering his son.

     You could seriously write the rest of the script yourself. The kids pair off into couples, separate, and get stalk-and-slashed by Big Ed one at a time. One couple get theirs while skinny dipping, under circumstances which force Buddy Cooper to resort to the most shamelessly obvious contrivance Iíve seen in some time in order to prevent one of them from noticing the otherís plight until itís already too late. At one point the cop wanders by, but doesnít do much of anything. Pam and Ed are the last to be attacked, and must take turns rescuing each other. Pam finds the victimsí bodies in the garage closet. Big Ed doesnít die from a seemingly mortal wound, and the Final Couple are forced to take more drastic steps. A car refuses to start for no fucking reason. Nobody watching the movie gives a shit about any of it.



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