AUGUST 10 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : THE MUTILATOR
Mom is happily decorating a birthday cake for Dad, so little Ed also wants to surprise his father. He opens the gun case and extracts a weathered rifle to clean. Of course, being a boy, he has to play with the weapon. It accidentally discharges and hits Ed's mother in the small of her back, causing an entry wound like you would expect from a shotgun loaded with buckshot. The little boy rushes to her side, but the woman is already dead. Ed's father just so happens to walk in the door at that exact moment. He slaps the little miscreant and threatens his son with the same rifle that killed his mother. Displaying wisdom beyond his years, the boy runs away. His father drags the body into the living room, then cracks open a bottle of whiskey as emergency sirens approach.
Probably the weirdest thing about the opening scene is the lack of speech. Little Ed does not beg his mother to get up, only saying, "Momma, momma?" nor does Ed Sr. ask what happened. He looks around, sees the rifle, and commences to smacking his rug rat. Why doesn't anybody speak? It is like watching a family of telepaths.
Fast forward many years; we meet Ed again, now a college student and hanging out with a group of friends from school. (They look like refugees from the "Dukes of Hazzard.") Seems that Fall Break snuck up on the kids and they were caught off guard. They have nothing to do, nowhere to go, and are bored. Even drinking at the bar has lost its luster. The group is rescued from the doldrums by an unexpected call. Ed's father wants him to prepare the beach condo for winter. Now, I have never been the parent of a college student, but tasking a bunch of them with closing up the beach house strikes me as a bad idea. Unless you want them drunk and fornicating; then it becomes a given.
The kids pile into Ed's raggedy old convertible and head out. As they do, the soundtrack kicks into full gear. Later on, I can guarantee you will ask yourself, "What in the world is up with the music in this film?" Sometimes you find a chord or two lost from the "Jaws" soundtrack, but most of the songs are bright and happy little numbers. It frequently becomes distracting.
In the years since his wife's death, the old man took to drinking. A staggering number of hard liquor bottles cover most surfaces inside the beach condo. Ed chalks it up to his father engaging in a weekend-long bender with buddies who are dedicated alcoholics. Okay, no way. I have some friends and we have put away some alcohol before. To create the number of empty bottles in the house would require a platoon of veteran winos, along with a medical staff for the ones that lapse into comas. Where do you get that many bottles? The director must have had a friend who owned a bar, an often crowded bar.
Along with the recyclables, the beach house is decorated with various manly items. Trophies, both deer and fish, along with a huge gaff and a framed 8x10 picture of a man killed when a boat ran over him, adorn the walls. Ed explains the story behind several items, but comes up short when Pam notices a blank spot on the wall. "Oh, that's just dad's battle ax. He must have taken it home." replies Ed. The idea of a UA battle ax unsettles Pam (What are you afraid of, virgin?) until her boyfriend agrees to call his father about it in the morning.
Not that there will be any need to call Ed Sr. He is asleep in the garage (the bottom level of the house), probably still suffering from his excesses and dreaming about murdering Ed. By that I mean Ed when he was a young boy, the same age as when the shooting accident took place. Guess who is about to snap and become our insane title character? You got it. And the battle ax? He is sleeping with the weapon.
Once dinner is over, Mike and Linda go for a walk. They explain that it is to help with digesting the meal, but everyone knows the real reason. The pair finds a pool that has not been drained for the winter and both of them dive in sans clothing. What follows next can only be described as frolicking. They splash, hug, jump around, and play hide-and-seek by alternating who is submerged. They have not been able to keep their hands off each other's butts all night; now that they are naked, in a pool, and alone, this is what they do?
Linda is dragged under and, I assume, drowned by the killer while Mike is hiding beneath the surface. He stays under long enough for Linda to be killed and her body removed from the pool. Is Mike going to college on a swimming scholarship? Along with the dead girl, Ed Sr. takes the pile of clothing that the lovers shed prior to getting wet. He drops pieces along the way back to the beach house, providing Mike with a trail to follow and enticement. The last two items, Linda's bra and panties, lead the young man into the dark garage. He is caught off guard as the killer bursts from the shadows with an outboard motor! Hahahahah! Killed by a small boat motor! To make it even more ridiculous, Mike just stands there as the propeller carves into his torso. He dies, but is stuck in the kneeling position. My best guess is that he started to crumple, but was frozen by rigor mortis before hitting the floor.
Yep, that must be it.
Meanwhile, the remaining college students turn off the lights to play blind man's bluff. The goal was a chilling scene as the killer enters the house and wanders through it, passing near some of the hidden characters (who believe the barely perceived figure to be Ed, since he is "It"). It fails horribly. Part of the problem is that it is obviously daytime outside; just look at the windows. Do you think that there are yellow floodlights outside of every window? Another glaring issue is that Ed's father is on the tail end of a long bender. Even if the short dip in the pool to kill Linda washed off some of the stink, he should smell like a moonshine still. There is a distinct difference between the smell of beer and hard alcohol. College students would notice it right away.
Even though one couple is MIA, the other two pairs turn in for the night. Ralph is excited about the prospect of premarital sex. He immediately starts to complain when Sue insists he go downstairs and make an attempt to find Mike and Linda before locking the doors. During his search, Ralph wanders into the garage and is stabbed in the neck with a large gig.
When her boyfriend does not return, Sue goes looking for him. Luckily, she does not encounter the killer (because she avoids the garage). However, by now Pam and Ed are alert to the fact that something is wrong. The three young adults decide to drive to the police station and get help after one last circuit around the house. Pam and Ed go one way, while Sue goes the other. The solitary girl runs face-first into the psycho. What happens is brutal. Ed's father grabs Sue by the throat, carries her into the garage, and slams her down onto the workbench. He then impales her with the huge gaff that he took from inside the house, hooking the point through her groin and out through her stomach. Most of the deaths in this movie are gory, but I expect people to have their throats slit, heads chopped, and even chests cut open by boat propellers. Seeing a young woman slaughtered like that was unsettling. Between the music and other silliness, the film had been laughable. Not so when Sue is killed.
Another thing that bothers me about Sue's death is that she does not struggle or scream for help. In some ways, the short and violent scene reminds me of the film's beginning.
Returning from their counterclockwise circuit, Ed and Pam find Sue. They also discover their other friends, because the film is coming to an end and that is what happens in slasher flicks. The last two (number varies) survivors flail about in shock and manage to encounter every victim from the previous ninety minutes. Notice also, the two virgins are alive (Ed has to be one, too; just look at him). Pam is able to stab the killer, who they still have not recognized as Ed's father, with a cheap fishing knife. Experienced viewers know he is not down for the count and that the car will fail to start until the couple's lives are in immediate peril.
I have come to the realization that people like to make movies about deranged killers. The plot of "The Mutilator" is strictly paint by the numbers. If you have seen a handful of these movies, you can easily identify the characters and guess who is going to die. What makes it funny to a bad movie fan is some of the absurd contrivances that the viewer is expected to accept. Several people are killed in the garage, one of them with an outboard motor, yet the other characters do not hear anything? Do not forget that every person who throws a pyramid sinker not only hits what they are aiming at, but embeds the sinker into the object (wall, person, etc.).