The Mutilator (1984)
WRITER: Buddy Cooper
DIRECTOR: Buddy Cooper
STARRING: Matt Mitler as Ed Jr.
Ruth Martinez as Pam
Bill Hitchcock as Ralph
Connie Rogers as Sue
Frances Raines as Linda
Morey Lampley as Mike
Jack Chatham as Big Ed
Ben Moore as Cop
QUICK CUT: A group of college kids head out to Ed's beach condo to help close it down, and celebrate the end of summer, and end up meeting his dad!
Ed Jr. - A good kid, a good son, who made a terrible, horrible mistake. The fact he turned out so well, so happy go lucky, oh gosh, with lots of friends, is amazing.
Pam - Ed's girlfriend, and her primary personality trait is, 'isn't ready to have sex yet'.
Ralph - The prankster trope of the movie, but somehow manages to he his own guy. He's into pulling pranks, but isn't that annoying sort. He's just a big, friendly goof, meaning no harm.
Big Ed - Ed's dad, and aside from being a great hunter, not much is really known about him. He sure can hold a grudge, though.
THE GUTS: Welcome back, Triskelions! We have come to the final movie for the Summer of Slashers, The Mutilator! Or as it's also known as, Fall Break. Our general plot here is a bunch of college students, on break from school, get roped into closing down Ed's father's summer home on the beach, and decide to make a vacation out of it.
Sure, we're not in the woods, it's not quite summer, but I feel like kids heading out to close up the summer home, and encountering a murder spree, is the perfect way to end the Summer of Slashers. So let's do this.
We open up in Flashbackville, as a wife and son prepare for the patriarch of the family's birthday. Mom is making a cake, and their son is cleaning all of dad's guns. Because there is NO chance THAT can go horrendously wrong.
So approximately 1.3 seconds later, things do exactly that, as the kid accidentally pulls the trigger, and marks his mother in the back. He kills her, JUST as dad pulls in for his big surprise party!
We jump ahead a number of years, and Ed Jr. is all grown up, and in college, and he and his friends are just hanging out, moping, wondering what to do for their fall break, when Big Ed calls, somehow finding his son at the bar. Well, it's good to see that pair patched things up and there's no bad blood between them!
Big Ed wants his kid to spend his vacation at the beach home closing the place up for the winter, but Ed doesn't want to waste his vacation doing *work*. But the rest of the gang figures hey wait, WE CAN HANG OUT ON THE BEACH with a house provided?? Party time, let's go!
So the entire gang piles into the car, despite Ed saying he's got a bad feeling about this. Yeah, thanks Han Solo, you're in a movie called The Mutilator. I'm sure that was a clue. And in all honesty, I think that's why Fall Break works better. Sure, you'd know it was a horror/slasher going in anyways, but making it a bit more hidden and coy, the audience can kinda play along with the innocence.
Ralph grabs some beer, everyone piles into the car, and they drive into the credits...and one of the best credit songs I've heard from this time period. It's a throwback even for the 80s, but it's fun, and very much against the coming horror.
Oh, and while driving through the credits, Ralph's already drank enough beer that they have to stop and get more. Is it even noon yet??
They finally arrive at the condo, and find the place is unlocked. And by unlocked, I mean, doors are open, but at least it looks like nothing has been stolen.
Ralph finds Big Ed's trophy room, with tons of weapons that yes, will be featured later in the movie. Ed kills some time by telling a bunch of stories about everything around the room. In hindsight, it's clearly setting these things up, but it's also pretty natural. You come to a friend's place with some conversation pieces, and hear all about them. The biggest problem is that it's almost too much at once. But it's still good stories.
There is one seriously missed opportunity. Big Ed has a tribal mask he probably stole, and Ed spends a lot of time talking about it, but it's never brought up again. I wonder why no one thought, hey, let's have the killer wear it! I mean, it's a silly mask (And it reminds me in a way of the mask from Final Girls, but I digress), so that might've put the kibosh on things, if it was ever even a thought. Especially since the mask is for a god that people made sacrifices to. It could've all tied together nicely.
Plot point! There IS something missing, Big Ed's battleaxe. But hey, I thought his wife died years ago? ZING! But Ed agrees to call the cops if his dad says he didn't take it home.
There's this thing with the music that *kinda* bugs me, and this is as good a point to mention it as any. At times, it has a VERY Jaws feel to it, and I'm pretty sure its on purpose. Every time you see Big Ed, there's a little "Duhhhhdun..." and Little Ed even mocks the Jaws theme when talking about a shark his dad caught. It only bothers me because that is SUCH an iconic score, and even though it works here, and makes Big Ed seem like the same sort of unstoppable hunter, which is perfect, you also can't help going, "HEY that's Jaws!"
While the gang chills, drinks more beer, and gets goofy, Big Ed has nightmares...actually, probably fantasies at this point, of killing his son in various gruesome ways. I guess he still has a few unresolved issues there, huh?
Linda and Mike wander around, heading into the garage, and Big Ed's murder closet. He's got some big spikes in the wall, and Linda ponders, "Gee, what do you think these are for?" Well, murdering people I assume. Honestly.
And little do either of them realise, but Big Ed is lurking in another murder closet, listening in on them pointing to every item and literally giving him ideas on how to kill people with spikes, and weights, and outboard motors.
They all have dinner, and afterwards, Mike and Linda wander off to walk along the beach, because that's what people do when they head to the seaside for the weekend. It's not long before someone realises they've been gone for awhile, and they thankfully buck the trend and the ENTIRE group goes out to find them, rather than onesie twosie.
Meanwhile, the couple they're all looking for has found a pool covered up for the winter, but at least it's a dome like tent enclosure, so they can totally still use it!
Big Ed is long overdue for an appearance, so he bursts out of the water and drags Linda underneath to drown, while Mike misses it completely.
Mike pops out of the pool, finding his clothes missing, but does find a trail of clothing breadcrumbs that he follows...well, to his own demise, really.
He finds himself back at the condo, in the garage, where Big Ed bursts out with the boat motor and slices Mike up into chum. Thanks for the idea, pal!
Big Ed takes the two new bodies into his murder closet, and uses those handy giant spikes to hang up victims. I see he's taking lessons from Madman Marz...
Meanwhile, the rest of the gang runs into a local cop doing his rounds, and he tells them to get back home before the storms roll in.
They head off to search some more, and the cop heads to the condo to investigate the possible break in, and eventually Big Ed finds him, knifes him in the cheek, and beheads him.
Everyone not dead makes it back to the condo, and to kill some time, Ralph suggests they play a game of Blind Man's Bluff, and says he'll grab the beers. This is Beer Drinkin': The Movie, I think.
It's a bit of reverse tag, with the person being It, hiding in the dark, and everyone coming into the house one by one, to try and find them, until everyone's dru...everyone's found the group.
While all this is going on, Big Ed is watching from the shadows, with frequent Meyersvision shots, and I will say, as much as the Jaws notes get overused, I do *really* love the hunter/prey feel of this. Big Ed has been set up as a hunter, you see the weapons and trophies and such, and knowing that he's there, watching, waiting to strike, is great for the tone.
The game itself is fun, but I have two problems with it; first of all, it's a LOT of time with people silently wandering around a dark house. Second of all, the movie really fails at the dark thing. I know filming nights is tough, and you want the audience to *see* the action, but...but this really missed the mark.
Oh. Oh no. It is so so dark. However shall we find anyone in this utter blackness of entropy?
There IS some good tension, once Big Ed comes into the house, but it almost immediately fizzles once the game is over. They could've done something MORE here, with Big Ed more of a presence during the whole game, instead of the very end. Just missing the kids, either by almost grabbing, killing them but the timing not being right, or the kids just not seeing him as they turn the right corner and miss him.
Good ideas that just aren't executed QUITE right.
But Ed the Sock finally ends the game when he finds everyone in the kitchen, and hands out Even More Beer. Beer Drinkin': The Movie!
After a long night of fun, games, and missing people, everyone decides its time to get ready for bed, until Sue remembers they forgot to lock up. She sends Ralph to take one last shout for Mike and Linda, before last call.
So Ralph heads downstairs, and partakes of Beer Drinkin': The Movie some more, as he locks up and shouts out into the cold bleak emptiness outside.
He wanders down to the garage, figures they're having hidey sexytime games in the darkness, and instead wakes up the sleeping Big Ed.
Ralph almost ponders nailing the missing friends into the murder closet, but decides to not be THAT much of a dick. And while I want to say that might've solved the movie's problem of Big Ed, the killer DOES have a battleaxe, so...
And that's Big Ed's cue to burst out with a pitchfork and run Ralph right through the neck, and closes him in with the rest of the bodies.
Sue gets tired of waiting for her boyfriend to come back, and now it's her turn to wander alone in the dark. I knew we'd get there eventually!
While she's trying to find her death, Pam hears a noise and it becomes her turn to wander around. She checks in on Mike and Linda's room, and a body falls down at her...well, a fake body that Ralph set up as a prank. I love the inversion of the usual, "Wander around and find dead friends falling out of hiding spots the killer perfectly set up".
She runs and wakes up Ed Begley Jr. because she's not about to go it alone. Meanwhile, Sue continues her own wanderings, and Ed the Elder isn't far behind.
Pam's spider-sense tingles, and she decides screw this, screw everyone, we're leaving, we'll figure it out later. But Sue talks them into one last look...which ends with her being found immediately by Big Ed.
Ed drags her into the garage, and introduces her to Chekov's gaff that she was so interested in earlier. He hooks her in the groin, and whereas Sleepaway Camp shied away from showing anything with a similar scene, this is not that movie. This is one of the most visceraly painful things I've seen. It could be worse, but it still shows quite a bit.
The two survivors stumble into the garage where Sue is laying on the workbench, and falls to pieces as they get close. Ed backs into the murder closet, so the door swings open revealing the bodies tucked away in there. This is easily one of the latest reveals of the living finding out they've been in a horror movie all along.
Little Ed sees his father's axe-carrying shadow, and hides Pam in one of the murder closets, to confront the killer, whom he has yet to figure out is pops.
He knocks his kid out and drags him around, and before he can finish the deed, Pam bursts out of the closet, distracting him, and Ed wakes up. Just in time to get stabbed in the leg!
Pam finds a knife, stabs Big Ed in the chest and he goes down. The couple limp to the car, and of course it won't start.
And since we all know horror movie rules, when they look back in the garage, Big Ed is Not Really Dead.
Daddy deadest climbs into the car and uses the axe to cut into it like a can of sardines. Well, it was a convertible with a soft top, so that's no big deal, but still.
Pam uses the car's cigarette lighter to burn Big Ed's hand and make him let go of his son, and the car finally starts. She backs up and flings the killer off the car. He climbs back up, so she backs the car into a cinder block wall, and THIS is when Ed finally recognises his father.
Some handy dandy cops finally show up to find out where their friend is, and have Pam pull forward, and I learn a very important lesson; you are able to fully bisect a human being by pinning him up against a cinder block wall with a car.
The cop checks it out, and while he's busy being gobsmacked at a man sliced in twain by a car's bumper, Big Ed is STILL NOT DEAD, and hacks the cop's leg off.
And after a brief scene of the kids recovering in the hospital, in an inarguably upbeat ending, considering, the movie rolls credits over bloopers and silliness, and that great song once more.
Video: It looks PRETTY good for an 80s slasher movie. They did as good a job as I'd imagine.
Audio: A perfectly solid mono track.
Sound Bite: "Dad used to tell me that he'd hunted everything but MAN." Well, Big Ed can mark THAT off his bucket list.
Body Count: Percentage wise, very respectable. Big Ed IS a good hunter.
1 - Barely over 90 seconds in, and young Ed shoots his mother in the back.
2 - Big Ed drowns Linda
3 - Mike gets gashed up with a boat motor.
4 - Big Ed fought the law, and beheaded it.
5 - Ralph is a pain in the neck, and gets stabbed in the throat.
6 - Big Ed gaffs and beheads Sue.
7 - The cop might survive losing a leg, but I doubt it.
8 - Ed's dead, baby. You don't easily survive being cut in two at the waist.
Peak Corpse: The cast realises that everyone is dead at an hour and 12 minutes in!
Best Corpse: Big Ed himself, because you can't top bisection.
Blood Type - B: A lot of solid gore, although it tends to be quick and light. The makeup effects are good, and man, those guts.
Sex Appeal: Random acts of nudity, especially when there's a pool involved.
Drink Up! Whenever you see a weapon being used that got set up earlier.
Video Nasties: Gotta go with the slashy death of Mike with the motor.
Movie Review: For a slasher movie, this is solid enough. Kids go off to the beach, meet slasher, die. The slasher has a valid reason to be going after...well, Ed Jr. The rest are just collateral damage. But Big Ed is clearly not all there. It's sadly a bit too padded out, especially the Blind Man's Bluff scene. I said it earlier, but it really sums it up; this movie is full of great ideas that never quite get pulled off as good as they could. An A for effort, to be sure. The characters are not personality tropes, and are generally likable. The closest to being a familiar type is Ralph, the prankster. Still, it's a solid enough, if flawed attempt at a slasher movie. It is much better than the sum of its parts, and give it a higher rating than it's probably worth. Four out of five battleaxes.
Entertainment Value: The highlights of this movie are the kills. They are great, almost every one. They're unique, they're surprising, and each one is perfectly set up. The gore is rock solid, if brief, and having a short runtime keeps things moving. You're never waiting TOO long for something to happen, and even when it lags, Big Ed is nearby. It's easy to see why this is a cult classic, and just as easy to see why it's kinda forgotten and overlooked. The stuff people come to these movies is pretty good, but the budget and plot is a bit of a meh. I really enjoyed The Mutilator however, and even if it may sit around too much, the adventures of Big Ed were a blast to watch. Four out of five pieces of Big Ed.