There are few films that elicit the full "oohs" and "aaahs" among 80's slasher flicks like The Mutilator, also known as Fall Break, a film with your typical 80's slasher flick storyline yet a film with such inventive kills, crafted by Evil Dead 2 FX guru Mark Shostrom, that you can't help but enjoy nearly every minute of the film's just shy of 90-minute running time.
Codirectors Buddy Cooper and John Douglass get the tone just right in The Mutilator, amping up the violence while giving the film a fun and quirky sensibility that had me singing its key theme song, the aptly named "Fall Break," the minute I saw the words Fall Break.
In the film, Ed (Matt Mitler) is asked by his father to go lock up the family's beach condo for the winter. Ed considers it the perfect opportunity to have a few alcohol-fueled days away with his friends. After all, what could go wrong? Surely his father has forgiven him after all these years for accidentally blowing away his mother with a shotgun that one day?
With a tag line like "By sword. By pick. By axe. Bye Bye.," you already know that you're in for quite a bit of action with The Mutilator. This Arrow Films release is the film's first appearance on hi-def, which appears to be happening more and more with Arrow Films, an indie distributor with a strong focus on cult and horror films. The acting isn't much to speak of here, though it's worth noting that Mitler has continued working periodically over the years and appeared in 2014's Virginia Obscura. His pals in the film include Ralph (Bill Hitchcock, who only made one other cinematic appearance), Mike (one-timer Morey Lampley), Sue (one-timer Connie Rogers), Linda (Frances Raines, the grand-niece of Casablanca's Claude Rains), and Ruth Martinez as Pam, Ed's virginal girlfriend.
Let's be honest, though. You don't watch slasher flicks for the quality acting. You watch slasher flicks for the quality slashing. Quality slashing is in abundance in The Mutilator along with the always desired ample doses of T&A, humor (both intentional and unintentional), and gore galore.
Arrow Video has crafted quite a few high quality extras here including - Introduction to the film with writer-director Buddy Cooper and assistant special make-up effects artist/assistant editor Edmund Ferrell; Audio Commentary with Cooper, Ferrell, co-director John Douglass and star Matt Mitler; Audio Commentary with Buddy Cooper and star Ruth Martinez Tutterow; Fall Breakers: The Story of The Mutilator – brand new feature-length documentary on the making of the splatter classic featuring interviews with Cooper, Douglass, Ferrell, Mitler, actors Bill Hitchcock, Jack Chatham and more; Mutilator Memories – special make-up effects artist Mark Shostrom looks back at one of his earliest projects; Tunes for the Dunes – composer Michael Minard reveals how The Mutilator’s unique score was created; Behind-the-Scenes Reel; Screen Tests; Alternate Opening Titles; Trailers and TV Spots; ‘Fall Break’ Theme Song (Original and Instrumental Versions); Opening Sequence Storyboards; Motion Stills Gallery; Original Fall Break Screenplay (BD/DVD-ROM content); and Reversible sleeve featuring two original artworks. As always seems to be the case with Arrow Films packages, the extra interviews including audio tracks with several cast and crew members including those who never worked on another film but who came back to remember this one.
I love that.
There's a 75-minute documentary about making the film, Fall Breakers; The Story of the Mutilator, shot on location at the hotel where the film was shot (the Oceana Motel in Atlantic Beach). There's more. There's so much more and it's all pretty incredible. I mean, seriously, this is Criterion level packaging here and it's really a "must have" for indie horror fans and certainly fans of this film. While I typically find myself appreciating Arrow releases, this one is one of my favorites.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic