For the Love of: The Mutilator (1984)

UNKLE LANCIFER: Let’s all take a premature fall break and lovingly fawn over a horror jaunt like no other, Buddy Cooper’s 1984 slash-terpiece, THE MUTILATOR! To salute this bad boy properly I have secured the help of stalwart MUTILATOR super-fan Amanda Reyes of MADE FOR TV MAYHEM fame. Ya’ll know our pal Amanda is an expert when it comes to TV movies but it just so happens she’s a walking encyclopedia when it comes to slasher flicks too! You can’t talk to her about THE MUTILATOR without her eyeballs transforming into cartoon red hearts! I’ve seen it happen! Anyway, time’s a wastin’! Let’s get MUTILATING! Here are some of the reasons we love this special one of a kind flick so darn much…

AMANDA: Big Ed’s Motives: Although a good slasher film doesn’t need a backstory to be effective (the enigmatic Michael Myers in the original HALLOWEEN is probably the best example), sometimes understanding someone’s murderous motives adds an unexpected layer to the film. PROM NIGHT probably did it best in terms of crafting a sincerely sympathetic killer; and while I doubt anyone feels sorry for Big Ed in THE MUTILATOR, there is definitely an element of “Oh yeah, I understand.” Big Ed loves his wife, Little Ed blows her away. Big Ed gets mad. Little Ed’s friends are collateral damage. No big whoop.

AMANDA (cont.): Honestly, the opening of THE MUTILATOR lays out a really complex story about a boy who did something really horrible (accidentally, sure, but still), and the trauma that follows the surviving family members. What makes the whole slice and dice somewhat gratifying is that we know why Big Ed is on the prowl. Look, I don’t condone it, but Big Ed, I get you.

LANCIFER: Super Hero Pam: We need to talk about Pam as portrayed by Ruth Martinez. I’m going to go out of my way not to use the term “final girl” because it’s inadequate and semi-condescending. Pam is not some meek goody-goody who cautiously squirms her way toward survival; Pam is the boss of everything and everyone and the obvious lone master of her own fate. If anything, Ed Jr. is the “final-boy.” He’s the one with all the psychological baggage to unpack due to his unresolved guilt over accidently killing his mother while cleaning his father’s gun in the mega-Freudian pre-credits sequence. Not to be too spoiler-y but the way I remember it, Pam not only saves Ed Jr.’s life but she also quite literally carries him through the film’s climax. She’s his knight in pony-tailed armor and basically has to push him aside to kill his dragon for him because he’s taking too long. She even drags his sorry ass to the hospital afterwards! I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a deleted scene in which she jumped into scrubs, threw on some rubber gloves, mended his wounds and sewed him back together too. That’s not even mentioning her jaunty cap, signature vest and candy apple shades, Pam’s got style to spare.

AMANDA: The Shed of Death: There are just some places that are meant for doom. Look at the barn in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3, and the Shed of Death in THE MUTILATOR. What is so compelling about Big Ed’s toolshed that everyone feels so damn duty-bound to visit it? This locale works out well since it just happens to be Big Ed’s headquarters. Want to catch Ed sleeping with his battle-ax? Visit the shed. Arguably, this spot is equally as creepy as his war-torn vacation home, which is full of all sorts of dark treasures (remember when he ran over someone with a speedboat and then photographed and framed it?!?). But the tools of death and destruction run rampant in that shed. Everything from an outboard motor to metal spikes to that really horrifying and controversial fishing gaff can be found, so it works out well that everyone who is anyone finds their way into Ed’s mutilation workshop. Works out well for the audience, I mean, not so much for the victims!

LANCIFER: The Location: I really adore THE MUTILATOR’s oceanfront location. It feels so familiar to me. I know it was entirely filmed in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina but I can’t help but think of a friend of mine’s house in Long Beach Island, New Jersey. I would not set foot in such a place during the summer but it’s one of my favorite places on Earth off-season. There’s this dreamy end of the world atmosphere everywhere and it’s so spooky walking the streets with nary a car around. Director Buddy Cooper does such a great job capturing the quiet eeriness of an abandoned beach at night where you can barely see five feet ahead of you and you almost feel like you’re walking on the moon. Plus the guy deserves serious praise for making a rather small house feel like an expansive maze-like mansion you could get lost in. Kudos, Buddy!

AMANDA: That line: “I’m going to set a new high score on video machine.” That line has to be one of my all time favorite things ever. There’s something so beautiful about the all-purpose and somewhat odd dialog which is followed by dramatic pauses throughout THE MUTILATOR. While the premise is dark and possibly allegorical, there’s no flowery metaphors in the line readings as this film heads from point A to B in much the same way a Ferrari goes from zero to sixty. And it’s wonderful in all of its un-ironic, unpretentious glory.

AMANDA (cont.): This line is also delivered by the lovely Frances Raines, who made several low budget films throughout the eighties before she basically disappeared from the face of the earth (according to IMDb she is happily married with a son… yay!). This isn’t her best role, that would probably be the even more surreal DISCONNECTED, but she’s totally adorable and I’d love to join her for a game of video machine if she’ll have me.

LANCIFER: Nothing to do with the film itself but I have to tip my hat to THE MUTILATOR’s striking poster! It’s one of my all time favorites and I think the depiction of such a dark concept (four victims hung on a wall, one alarmed at the prospect of getting gutted by a giant hook) being presented in such bright bubbly primary colors perfectly captures the film’s contrasting nature. Seriously, I can’t think of many films that swing so swiftly from light-heartedly goofy to unsettlingly sadistic, can you? I’m also going to admit serious affection for the earlier and more folksy and raw FALL BREAK art because it sports similar counter intuitive hues and there’s something so off about it that it looks like it may have been drawn by the film’s psychotic killer himself.

AMANDA: Morey, Morey, MOREY: Truth: It was incredibly hard for me to pick just one character to talk about (hence, Frances above, Morey here and some more characters below). Morey Lampley, who plays the ill-fated Mike in THE MUTILATOR, never made another film. Whether or not he was buddies with the filmmakers, or simply auditioned for the role is unknown to me. In fact, pretty much anything aside from his character’s brutal death by outboard motor remains a riddle wrapped up in a mystery inside an enigma. And maybe that intrigue is part of why I sometimes find myself skimming the net, looking for any piece of info I can unravel on the lanky blonde victim.

AMANDA (cont.): There’s something hypnotic about Morey stalking the grounds of what looks like a closed down amusement park, quoting lines from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. But it’s really mostly during his death scene, which is probably the second most violent one in the film (the first being the infamous fishhook scene, which is almost too nasty for its own good). Although he only registers a sense of mild discomfort during the actual act of the killing, his body is completely mutilated (hence the title, I suppose) in the full body shot. The combination of moderate distress and the utter brutality of the attack actually haunted me upon my first viewing of it. Since then, I’ve grown to love Morey’s big smile and goofy dialog delivery. He should have been a contender in the slasher movie world!

LANCIFER: Those Savage Kills: Speaking of THE MUTILATOR’s semi-surprising sadistic streak; it’s fitting this fine film was recently released by my heroes over at ARROW because it makes such a great companion for another recent offering of theirs, the fabulous BLOOD RAGE. Both of these eighties babies share a similar Ying/Yang, giddy/gory, goofy/grim dichotomy. THE MUTILATOR has got to be the zaniest, most jovial film to ever feature decapitation and strongly implied genital mutilation by way of an oversized fishhook. I love to be taken off guard like that! I love to find myself mirthfully giggling one minute and then all the sudden…record scratch sound…I’m being pushed towards feeling queasy and genuinely disturbed. Like BLOOD RAGE in its unadulterated form, THE MUTILATOR delivers the frothy splatter slasher fans crave and it does so in a way most modern horror films fail to. I know you don’t need bloodshed to make a horror movie good but it certainly helps to make a party picture that you can enjoy with your more rambunctious friends. Not that you can’t enjoy it by yourself with the invisible friends in your head. I do.

AMANDA: Couple at the convenience store: Remember when I said it was really difficult for me to narrow down one cast member to give some love to? That extends to the very limited supporting crew of locals who add just the right touch of extra flavor to an already piquant tale of madness and mutilation! The couple featured at the convenience store featured in the opening credits appear to be non-actors who are having a ball with their short but humorous scene where they let Ralph talk himself into buy an extra case of beer.

AMANDA (cont.): There are two notable things about this scene. One is that it would seem Ralph believes that two six packs will be enough liquor to get him and his five friends through a week at the beach! The second amazing thing I noticed is that couple does not appear to know exactly where they are. When we first see the woman, she is obviously waiting for a cue before she moves. The actor playing the cashier has a half smile through the entire scene. The overall effect is charming because, inevitably, this regionally produced shocker is all about heart… even if the heart in question is the one being ripped out of your chest. It’s love.

AMANDA (cont.): Addendum: I may be the biggest MUTILATOR fan I know. I first saw this movie on a date back in the early nineties and was way more impressed with it than I was with my date. I found it on VHS a few years later and it became a regular spin for me, especially in the later nineties when I worked graveyard and needed to unwind at 8 a.m. This, along with PIECES, were movies I loved to watch while falling asleep (lord knows why), and have become like a comfy afghan that keeps me company on the cold nights of life.

AMANDA (cont.): Recently, the director, Buddy Cooper emerged when there was an announcement that a Blu-Ray release was on the horizon. His facebook page (HERE) is an amazing space to get a real behind the scenes look at the film, and it’s also where he sells some memorabilia, and interacts with fans. So charmed by Buddy and Big Ed, I currently own six posters (3 for THE MUTILATOR proper and 3 for the alternate title FALL BREAK), two copies of the FALL BREAK song on 45 (in all my life I never thought I’d have that), and several continuity Polaroids and storyboard sketches. They are all treasured items that look so good next to my gorgeous Blu-Ray copy of THE MUTILATOR. The feature length making of documentary extra confirms that this film was indeed a labor of love, made by people simply looking to produce a good movie and have a good time along the way. I love this movie so much, I feel like I could go on forever, but I think between Lancifer and myself, we’ve got the bases covered!

LANCIFER: That Song: No post about THE MUTILATOR would be complete without mentioning its theme song. I’m just going to come right out and say it’s genius. It’s somehow perfectly fitting and totally inappropriate at the same time. It is inescapably eighties sounding through and through and its point blank storytelling nature has a familiar super-catchy sitcom opening theme allure. It describes in loving detail that time of year when summer has died and the weather has cooled and you’re mentally preparing for the long haul hibernation of winter but you’re just not ready for it yet and so you go skinny-dipping possibly after an ill-advised amount of alcohol consumption. How it never became a number one hit across the country, I’ll never know. I’m sure for many, the moment that this song starts near the beginning of the film, is the exact moment they knew they were about to watch something special. Most importantly singer Peter Yellen’s repeated refrain that, “We’re going to have a good time” is a sung promise that THE MUTILATOR never fails to keep. Truly, if you let this movie fall into your arms, it’s going to break into your heart.

Traumafession:: Doctor Pseudonymous of Senseless Cinema on Deadly Blessing

Hello. I have been reading your site for years and have always enjoyed all your features and quizzes. Your Sunday Streaming links have led me to a lot of great, underrated movies. I would like to share a traumafession (and also, not to be too self-serving, I hope you can share a link to the blog I started recently). Here goes with the traumafession:

The most traumatizing thing I ever saw as a kid–and I saw it repeatedly–was the TV spot for Wes Craven‘s Deadly Blessing with the spider falling into the woman’s mouth. (I know this has been mentioned before on Kindertrauma as a Name That Trauma, but I think it’s traumatizing enough to bear repeating.) The unbearable suspense of the spider descending toward the wide-open mouth still gets to me today. In my memory, it lasts a long time, but I’m sure it was really only a second. It wasn’t just that the image itself was so horrifying, and obviously real; it was the fact that you could be watching your little black and white TV in the afternoon and your harmless show could be interrupted, with no warning, by this scene that was intensely creepy and repulsive. I couldn’t believe they were allowed to show such a disturbing thing on television! And yet every time it came on, I couldn’t look away.

On a different note, I have great memories of watching Hammer movies (on that same black and white TV) with my father when I was young. We would stay up late and watch Christopher Lee as Dracula, trying to catch as many of those Hammer Dracula movies as we could. When my father died a few years ago, that was one of my fondest memories.

Now for the self-serving part. I started a blog last month called Senseless Cinema , a response to comments that movie reviewers sometimes make about films that are so weird or poorly made they seem to come from another universe. The conceit of Senseless Cinema is that those movies are in fact from another universe, and I have traveled from that universe to set people straight about the brilliance of these films. I defend movies that are generally considered terrible in a way that comes across as (I hope) pompous and at least occasionally humorous. So far I have covered movies like The Nightmare Never Ends, Demon Wind, and Shriek of the Mutilated (another Name That Trauma).

Name That Trauma:: Tristan R. on an Unsolved Trauma From Six Years Ago!

Traumatic mission to name my trauma!!!

6 Years ago I left this trauma (HERE) in the hands of the good folks at Kindertrauma but have still never managed to find the culprit…it’s time to try again!!!

I remember seeing this on TV in the early nineties ( it was in colour). Hope I’m not getting scenes confused but I’m sure it was a film which initially begins at some archaeological dig maybe in Egypt then focuses on a family either in England or America who are affected by a curse or possession related to the dig? I’m sure their was some kind of bad spirit and hallucinations involved but one scene I remember really vividly after all these years was of a conversation between a woman and her lover – she is laying naked full frontal in a bath (think she had red hair) and he crouched beside her clothed (Either one of them may have been possessed). This was so long ago I couldn’t tell you if it was trashy or art-house…whatever it was made an impact on my young mind.

…and I’m sure there may have been a scene where something evil appears to man as he is driving in his car windscreen or looks down from the top of the car into the windscreen???

Suggestions I’ve had and followed up on are – The Kiss, Playroom, Gargoyles, Manhattan Baby…it was none of these. I wouldn’t rule out it being an episode of a TV show either.


Name That Trauma:: Michael A. on a Repeated Staircase Stumble

When I was a kid in the early ’80s, I made a point to catch Suspense Theater every Saturday afternoon. It aired on WPGH in Pittsburgh and showed mostly horror movies — like Hammer/Amicus/AIP stuff — with a dash of sci-fi (including timeless classics like Starcrash and Starship Invasions). It also showed one unidentified movie that I’ve wondered about all these years later, but I only remember the opening-credit sequence.

It’s in color, and I’m guessing from the ’60s or ’70s. It starts with a guy walking up a dark stairway. He reaches a door at the top of the steps. The camera stays near the bottom of the steps, looking up at him from a distance. The door opens. Someone or something then emerges and hits the guy, apparently striking his head. He then tumbles back down the steps and toward the camera.

Now here’s where it gets especially weird and memorable: the movie loops that footage — starting with the door opening — all the way through the opening credits. So you see the guy take a hit and fall down the steps over and over again until the movie really begins. Sadly, that’s all I recall.

I will be grateful (and impressed!) if anyone can ID this movie.



Name That Trauma:: Brother Bill on a Sightless Backwoods Cabin Dweller

It’s one thing to forget the name of a movie you saw as a little kid 20, 30, 40 years ago but this “Name That Trauma” is just plain embarrassing because the film I’m trying to place couldn’t be more than a decade old, meaning it came out sometime in the late 2000s.

All I remember is there is a girl living in a backwoods cabin with no eyes (or eyes were removed, or blind… whatever it was, she couldn’t see) and she wears a blindfold with those old-timey flat glass eyes attached to it (looks very creepy.) I want to say the cabin decor and the way she dressed was almost retro-50s ish(?), as if stuck in a time warp, wearing hand-me-down clothes from generations ago. Somehow a man wanders into her cabin and he ends up with his own eyes removed and his still living body hanging from a tree with a rope run through his empty eye-sockets. OUCH! It may have been a subtitled film, I can’t remember.

It’s NOT Sheitan (2006) which also features eyes getting removed and was around the same time-period sort of maybe.

A little help here?

Brother Bill

Mini-Tribute:: Creature (1985)

Stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before. The other day I snagged a used VHS tape of a movie I had vague negative memories towards at one of my favorite thrift shops because what the hell? It was only a dollar. But halt the presses! After watching the movie, I ‘m pretty sure my bad memories of it must be false implants of some sort because I suddenly love it! The movie in question is 1985’s CREATURE. Am I sure I even watched this before or am I mixing it up with a sloppy fusion of ANDROID (which also featured KLAUS KINSKI) and boring INSEMONOID (which also featured a pissed off space monster)? As it turns out, CREATURE is one of the more entertaining ALIEN wannabes and from now on, I’m going to think of it in the same high regard as say FORBIDDEN WORLD (1982) and GALAXY OF TERROR (1981). Good lord is there anything more fun than a sci-fi horror hybrid riding the coattail exhaust fumes of the unmitigated masterpiece ALIEN? Doubt it.

And you know what’s really weird? As much flack as CREATURE gets for being an ALIEN clone when you watch it now, it’s actually more like a psychic precursor prediction of PROMETHEUS (try saying that a hundred times fast). Seriously there’s some kind of DEAD SPACE death disease bouncing around this flick that transforms KINSKI into a black-eyed, space helmet headed zombie-oid who could easily have been lifted right out of that semi-recent spooky space jam. Plus you want stars? I’ll give you stars! CREATURE boasts cinema’s greatest father, LYMAN WARD!!! He’s the dad of both FERRIS BEULLER and ELM STREET 2’s Ron Grady (ROBERT RUSLER). And how about sophisticated glamour-puss DIANE SALINGER? Not only did she star in both PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE and PEE WEE’S HOLIDAY, she was also married to PEE WEE as Penguin’s ma in BATMAN RETURNS! She’s a total badass in this and probably the inspiration for that Kay-Em 14 character (LISA RYDER) in JASON X. Not that you need more than KINSKI.

I guess now is the part when I’m supposed to plead to the powers that be that CREATURE be released on Blu-ray but nope, I gotta say I’m all set here with this rusty and crusty VHS tape! The picture is actually way better than what I had prepared myself for and there’s something so fitting about watching low-tech science fiction on tape because it comes across as an intercepted transmission of some sort. Plus I’m a horror fan not a horror consumer and yes, I really dig the nostalgia factor. Folks keep trying to make nostalgia a bad word but that’s never going to work on me. Perhaps the most retro reaction I’m going to have toward CREATURE is I’m going to watch it again! Does anyone remember when a movie rental was so special that you tried to get as many views as you could out of it before you returned it? In closing, this is one of the best dollars I ever spent. CREATURE delivers all the eighties goodness you could ever want plus it’s never stingy on the blood and gore and it’s kind enough to treat you to a decent view of the big bad monster. What more can you ask for? Should I have told you the plot? C’mon you know the plot.

Blessed Are the Children (2016)

When I was in art school a million years ago all I wanted to do was paint drippy abstract monstrosities while my teachers seemed bent on forcing me to draw stiff bowls of stale fruit. I had a class in which the entire semester consisted of sketching exactly ONE drawing of a boring statue. I swear if I didn’t have my trusty Walkman (and my well worn JAMCDARKLANDS” cassette) I probably would have murdered someone. Anyway, one of my teachers justified this torture by saying, “You have to learn the rules before you can break them” and that has always stuck with me. Strangely enough that sentiment popped into my head recently while watching BLESSED ARE THE CHILDREN, a movie that lovingly salutes many a horror trope and then when you least expect it, slyly stomps on a few too. One thing is for sure, writer/director CHRIS MOORE has been doing much more than blindly collecting and stacking his shelves with horror titles throughout his life, he’s obviously been closely studying what makes his favorite flicks tick as well.

Hey, we know Chris around here! He’s shared more than a couple posts with us over the years. To tell you the truth, I never feel comfortable writing a review for a film from somebody I know. It’s not because I’m worried that I can’t be objective, it’s because I’m worried I’d be the first person to cynically roll their eyes if I saw similar logrolling taking place on another website. But you know what? I should just lighten up. From what I’ve seen, journalistic integrity isn’t exactly a gigantic concern within the horror community these days (and that’s putting it lightly). Besides, at the end of the day, when it comes to a movie that’s built to scare, it either works or it doesn’t and for me, BLESSED ARE THE CHILDREN works. It could probably use some trimming down and some of the set pieces are sharper than others BUT (without ruining anything) let me just say that one scene in particular genuinely SHOCKED me and that’s not the easiest thing to do. Trust me, it’s safe to say the threat(s) rampaging in this film are undeniably off-putting and alarming as hell.

BLESSED focuses on three equally charming gal pals (KALEY BALL, KENI BOUNDS and ARIAN THIGPEN) and it’s sorta like SEX IN THE CITY if you replaced THE CITY with the suburbs and the SEX with being mercilessly stabbed to death by a horrific figure wearing a wailing and somewhat accusatory baby mask. Much of it may read low budget and homegrown but that’s part of its charm and it shouldn’t throw off true slasher fans raised on backyard delights (and KT favorites!) like THE MUTILATOR and OFFERINGS. You’ll note right from the opening credits though, which are a lovely homage to HALLOWEEN, that director MOORE has loftier goals in mind and he does a fine job manipulating the viewer’s focal points particularly in the well-edited Di PALMA-esque kill scenes. Garnish all that with blood red clad ambiguous marauders slicing through the flick like personified trigger warnings for anyone traumatized by THE BROOD and/or DON’T LOOK NOW and you’ve got a rather impressive roll call of worthy horror inspirations.

I’ll pull back the reins before I oversell. That’s never a fair thing to do. I can think of a few films I’d have a much healthier relationship with if only they weren’t rammed down my throat. I just know if I had blindly rented BLESSED from the Redbox I would have started off smugly thinking I knew where it was going and I’d have been proven completely wrong. These days independent filmmaking is a lot cheaper and easier than it used to be and that can lead to a bunch of movies by people who are let’s say, talent-challenged. That’s not a problem here at all. You can tell the guy behind the camera is genuinely interested in the characters and his empathy for them is contagious. Better still for gore hounds, MOORE is not afraid to take the gloves off and get nasty at the precise moment it’s required and he knows enough about horror movies (and slashers in particular) to understand which batons are worthy of passing on and which ones are ready to drop. Plus, I gotta add a busload of extra kudos for the smooth, neutral handling of the potentially incendiary subject matter. This soufflé could have easily flattened into a preachy pancake with a more heavy-handed chef and that fate is admirably avoided. So without any bias, I say, check out this movie; it’s wonderfully unnerving, notably shocking and an irrefutable reminder that the spirit of independent horror is alive and slashing. And with some bias I’ll add, YAY CHRIS! Good job, buddy! Don’t forget us little guys!

Name That Trauma:: Jared D. on a Black and White Horror Trivia Book

So, back in middle school, I checked out this book from the library more times than I can count. I can’t remember the name of it to save my life though. It had a hand-drawn black and white cover and the bulk of it was filled with information regarding Dracula and other generic scary things. But at the end of the book, there was a section of horror movie trivia that included questions about “Frankenhooker” and the name of the video store that Jason walks past in one of the “Friday the 13th” sequels. If this rings a bell for anyone, I would greatly appreciate it!

Thank you!