The mid-eighties the horror genre truly was an interesting time, the slasher genre had a slowdown, but preparing for unsuspecting rebirth with the release of A Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984, and creating two stars Robert Englund and Johnny Depp, while creating another chapter in Wes Craven’s life. It also had the home video market on the rise, and showed the independent low budget films another road to explore, hence director Buddy Cooper, with his only feature length film credit, The Mutilator, where he also served as screenwriter, producer and feature on the soundtrack. Now, his film, never tries to advance itself further, it’s straight out of the box, quirky slasher horror project, which tries to create the best tension possible, and deliver as much gore as possible. Mutilator suffers from a few clichés and the oddest opening soundtrack opening, a title song which repeats the words ‘Fall Break’ referencing a spring break atmosphere, however, change to the current title for marketing reasons. This course led to a change in the tag-line “By sword, by pick, by axe, bye bye” presenting a splattering indulging tone for the teenage horror market and of course it incorporates the right amount of T&A, with John Douglass as co-director. Cooper’s flick uses standard slasher and horror pieces, a run-down beach condominium instead of cabin, in the Atlantic Beach of North Carolina, with a group of sexually charged, heavily intoxicated college kids, drinking while driving partiers.

Slasher movies in general use paint by numbers, an early killing, with psychological damaging situation, then switching to years later, isolated locations, rowdy teens or young adults, and some carnality and massive killing spree. Herein, Cooper, while a newcomer to the scene, understood exactly the intention certainly understands the mechanics of the sub-genre well. He likely ‘watched a few movies, took a few notes’ made it all fun and present scenes with entertainment values without getting all too seriously. Therefore, the flick starts with a pleasant household scene, a woman making a cake for her husband, and a boy (Trace Cooper) in the father’s study with a note to his father about cleaning his rifles, and sadly fires a round in the chamber exploding into his momma’s back. Needless the next scene, which occurs, needs your eyes to view and understand some interesting family dynamics.  Advance many years later, and the boy, now a man, Ed Jr. (Matt Mitler (Deadtime Stories [1986])) in college and receives a call from his father Big Ed (Jack Chatham) to close up his place at the shore, which signals a party for fall break with friends. Now as opposed to other slashers, Cooper lets us into the warped mind of the killer early on, with strange trophies and many exotic sea faring murderous weaponry.  The cast effectively do their respectful roles, nothing Shakespearean, just a simple a and careful attitude, from Ed Jr.’s girlfriend, Pam (Ruth Martinez) and friends Mike (Morey Lampley), Linda (Frances Raines (Breeders [1986])), Ralph (Bill Hitchcock), and Sue (Connie Rogers) a few of them play silly games, while others indulge sexual conquests. However, in the end, the gore and blood splatter deliver in the outrageous manners possible, from fish gaff to outboard motor, even torn in half all giving the gore-hounds enjoyment.

This flick is not going to win awards, but in 2016 achieved a blu-ray release from Arrow Video and includes the Fall Breakers: The Story of The Mutilator feature length documentary, for the horror fans of this special fun period in the genre, still influencing filmmakers of today. While the movie, contains over-the-top acting, and sometimes a tad off key moments, it exists before the excessive political correctness in films, and just accepted for what it is a straightforward slasher movie.  In addition, the movie contains the early product placement in the film of certain beer, which some viewers incorporate to their watching of this film, where that beverage flows more often than the blood at times.

The Mutilator while not a good movie, still endures the passions of gore-hounds, with latex and practical effects and gives the pleasure where richly craving, even after 35-years, this twisted flick delivers a wonderful haul of bodies with just a little bait.

This review was originally published in October 2016 on the now defunct Rogue Cinema website with a view count of 1,592.


  • A vacation that became a nightmare.
  • Their horrifying vacation was no day at the beach!
  • By pick, by axe, by sword, bye bye!

IMDb Rating: 5.3/10

Baron’s Rating: 5.0/10