Blu-Ray Review: The Mutilator (1984)

Published on February 15th, 2016 in: Blu-Ray, DVD/Blu-Ray Reviews, Horror, Movie Reviews, Movies, Reissues, Retrovirus, Reviews |

By Jeffery X Martin


The Mutilator is an oddity in the slasher genre, less for what it is and more for what it is not. If you’re looking for copious amounts of nudity, look elsewhere. There’s not even a lot of bad language. On that level, The Mutilator is more like a live-action Disney movie from the Sixties. You half expect Dean Jones and Don Knotts to show up.

There’s also an uncomfortable pathos in the motivation of the killer. He’s not just some mindless, unkillable monster. He has a grudge, and it’s a madness that is hard to reconcile. You certainly don’t empathize with the maniac, but you have to respect the twistedness of his plan.

Then there’s the gore, lovingly restored on the Arrow Blu-Ray. You expect it from a movie called The Mutilator, but there’s a weird kind of sweetness on the film’s surface which makes the blood and guts almost incongruous. The violence is over the top. There’s one particular scene involving a giant fishing hook that drew furor from parent’s groups, and for good reason. It’s one of the most horrific scenes filmed that decade.

There are lots of elements in The Mutilator that should not go together, and I’m still not sure that they do. It’s a tremendously disjointed movie. Imagine switching back and forth through three different television channels, trying to make all of it into a cohesive piece of work. “Well, the football team is taking care of the talking cat who is on trial for murder.”

There is something about this movie, though, that is compelling. Maybe it is the sense of instability that runs through it, that lack of being settled in one specific genre. A lot of great horror comes from the intrusion of violence into a non-violent situation. That’s the shock. That’s where the fear and the screaming come into play.

I’m not calling The Mutilator great horror. The acting is pretty terrible. The scenes without gore could be trimmed a lot. A faster pace would have benefitted this movie greatly. The theme song is genuinely awful, but will work its way into your brain like a spinning drill bit.

The Mutilator is good horror, with some excellent gore. It’s certainly a call back to the gentler era of slashers, where you didn’t have to kill someone every 12 minutes or slap a green filter on everything. Violent morality plays used to be fun. We’ll say The Mutilator is fun.

We’ll also say the Arrow Blu-Ray looks great, certainly better than the other copies I’ve seen of the film. The extras are excellent, including a feature-length documentary about the production of the film, which has woven its way into South Carolina history. The cast and crew obviously had a great time making this movie, and are clamoring for a sequel. An interview with special makeup effects artist, Mark Shostrom, is also worth your time. And if you hate the theme song as much as I do, there’s an interview with the composer, so you can put a face to your pain.

There is a large section of fans who truly love this movie. It did quite well on the grindhouse circuit, back when there was one, and for those sleaze-loving folks, this is a must-buy. They’re going to love the shiny picture and crisp sound.

I think I would rather watch The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes again.

The Mutilator was released on Blu-Ray by Arrow Video on February 15, 2016.

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