By Breanna Whipple
CALGARY – If you could summarize the months of summer as a freshly blended piña colada, you could pluck any slasher film falling between the late ’70s to early ’80s and use it as the perfect metaphorical accentuating umbrella. Drenched not only in deliciously candied apple plasma, a beloved staple of the aforementioned sub-genre is the excessive promiscuity and abuse of intoxicants. Wild in every sense of the word are the seemingly mindless teens out to have nothing but a good time – and whom without fail allow themselves to be relentlessly slaughtered at a quickened pace.
Paralleling the unwritten law of heavy metal music, slasher films are quick and sleazy. They are the dirty rock and roll of horror films, and they ignite an insatiable lust for blood in those who have fallen head over stiletto heels for them.
Falling at the tail end of the golden age of slasher films, The Mutilator (1984) is often overlooked due to the over-saturation of the genre by the year of its release. Wasting no time selling heavily on the gore ticket, the movie poster cannot be described as anything but a beautifully grotesque display of a scantily clad woman suspended by rope next to three corpses as a bloodied meat hook menacingly awaits her. Already horrifyingly gruesome, this illustrated image only scratches the surface of the nastiness awaiting viewers in the 86 minute runtime.
The film kicks off on a tragic note, as a sweet young boy accidentally kills his mother while cleaning his father’s gun. Fast-forward several years and that young boy becomes the protagonist of the film — a loveable college student whom upon being contacted by his estranged father decides to visit the old family beach house with a group of his closest friends.
Like many slash-tastic video nasties that came both before and after, the early warning sides of imminent danger are ignored by the oblivious teens. A home adorned with animal carcasses, a strange photo of a mangled man, and weaponry adorning the walls is followed by a simple explanation.
“He’s hunted everything but man,” our protagonist says of his father. Later on when alarm is expressed upon discovering that his father’s battle-axe is missing, it is met with immediate laughter and dismissal. As to be expected of any vacationing party animals, another can of beer is cracked and all is momentarily forgotten.
“We’re the only ones on the island!”
The line is expressed several times foolishly throughout the film.
Remarkably cheap and nasty, The Mutilator is unique in its utilization in weapon variants. While Jason is known for his machete, Freddy for his glove, Michael Myers for his kitchen knife, victims in The Mutilator fall ‘By sword, by pick, by axe, bye bye!’ Paying homage to more serious slashers such as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and Black Christmas (1974), the film provides an equal balance of schlock and horror. Having been released in the final year of the golden age of slashers, it exemplifies the progression of the sub-genre and ultimately why the era came to a close.
Undoubtedly more focused on carnage above all, it serves as a wonderful illustration of simplistic, fun, fast-burning horror. Despite the comedic relief provided by laughable acting, what makes slashers so eerily effective is their undeniable anchor in realism. Unlike ghost stories and creature features, the murderers in these films are average people just like us. They are our friends… Our family members… Our neighbours… They’re everywhere, and that summates the true definition of horror in human nature.
Catch The Mutilator at a midnight screening August 25 at the Globe Cinema (Calgary).Globe Cinema, midnight screeninG, The Mutilator