The original slasher cycle was drained nearly dry by 1984, but there was still a little fresh blood coursing through its veins. A double bill at a drive-in theater with juicy titles could still draw a crowd.

I remember seeing the marquee at the late and deeply lamented Anchor Drive-In, in Newport News, Virginia. The Mutilator and Massacre at Central High. How could any red-blooded, spirited young person resist? It sounded like heaven on Earth to me. Squares undoubtedly felt something like that was only fit for cretins and misanthropes.

It was a cool Sunday night in early October. A perfect setting for a down-and-dirty double feature. I distinctly remember I was reading Philip Jose Farmer's Gods of Riverworld. I look back at the timeline of my life by the books I read and the movies I watched.

I was with a couple who graciously took me along with them. They knew I loved horror movies, and they also knew I loved to copiously imbibe alcoholic beverages while I watched them.

The Mutilator topped the bill, with the older feature, Massacre at Central High being the second movie. Massacre was clearly the better picture. It was made before Halloween jump-started the slasher era, and the film has a vague Lord of the Flies vibe. It also has a few real actors like Andrew Stevens and Robert Carradine in the cast. Poor, doomed Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith is also in the movie.

The Mutilator isn't as interesting, but it has a plucky spirit and an admirable go-for-broke attitude.

The horror historians claim that The Mutilator was originally called Fall Break. I saw it at one of its first screenings and I am 1000% positive it was billed as The Mutilator.

In fact, unbeknownst to me at the time, I was witness to a small piece of slasher history that Sunday night. According to that unimpeachable fount of journalistic integrity, Wikipedia, The Mutilator debuted in my hometown, Newport News. It received an X-Rating and the distributors decided to release it that way. Damn the MPAA. It opened in the New York grindhouses three months later.

The movie was not X-Rated for sex, but for violence. In fact, in those good/bad old days, nearly every horror movie got slapped with an X, and producers were forced to cut their cinematic children in order to avoid the commercial death of the X, or going out unrated.

All that kind of sucked, but it was fun to despise the Motion Picture Association of America in those days. It was our version of Britain's Video Nasty censorship.

The Mutilator isn't any slasher classic, but I've seen worse, and if you are an aficionado of this sort of thing, so have you. The film is professionally shot, and the overall production looks good. The actors are strictly drama club mediocrity, but frankly there isn't a lot for them to do with the material. The obligatory cheesy title theme, "Fall Break", by no-hit wonder band Peter Yellen and The Breakers is suitably cringe-worthy.

What does work in The Mutilator, the meat of the matter if you will, is the generous amount of gore sequences. Mark Shostrum provided most of the effects, and the work is well above average for this sort of low rent slasher ripoff. Shostrum may not have the reputation of Tom Savini or KNB Effects, but he has always been one of the best. He went on to do stellar work on Elm Street sequels, Evil Dead 2, From Beyond and a host of other genre productions.

When The Mutilator failed to achieve a proper distribution with its restrictive X-Rating, the producers submitted to cuts, which was suicide for a movie like this. We aren't talking about Halloween here, a movie that doesn't have or need explicit gore. The Mutilator lives and dies by its graphic content. It dwindled into obscurity after that.

There was a VHS release of The Mutilator from Vestron, but I am unsure about the cut used in it. Arrow Video released the movie in a pristine 2K print in 2016. I finally got around to watching it last week. It's about like I expected. A fun little unpretentious movie with a lot of guts.

Buddy Cooper, the director of The Mutilator, recently announced his decision to make a sequel. That's pretty cool, but I doubt I will watch it. I haven't really been much of a fan of later slasher revival attempts. With few exceptions like Scream and Behind the Mask, they've all left me cold.

However, I can go back and try to relive the magic. I can never be the twenty-three year old unsophisticate I was when I watched The Mutilator and Massacre at Central High, but I can bask in the memory of times when slasher movies ruled the biggest screens on the planet. When I could drink beer half the night and go to work cheerfully hung over on Monday morning. Before the pressures and problems of adulthood slashed their way through my youthful innocence as effectively as any masked cinematic killer ever carved up a group of bland teenagers.

Written by Mark Sieber

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