Film Review: Mutilations (1986)

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SYNOPSIS:

A High School Science Field Trip is stalked by an Alien!

REVIEW:

The most fascinating films come from artists who pour their heart and soul into a project only to have the final product be a colossal mess. They spend all of that time making their vision come to life only for it to be realized as a monstrosity. Nothing seems to work properly in the film yet it all comes together to create a magical experience for the viewer. Troll 2, The Room, and Birdemic all share this quality. They are watchable because of how misdirected their good intentions are. Many times, these movies are buried beneath the beloved films. They are delightful when discovered, but the discovery needs to happen for them to be known.

That brings to attention the movie Mutilations. In the same way as the three movies namechecked in the previous paragraph, there seem to be good intentions to the movie. However, the good intentions do not make up for the lack of quality in nearly every element. The fundamentals of what make a good movie tend to be missing throughout Mutilations. That is what makes the movie so interesting to examine, though. The lack of quality is as mesmerising as watching a great movie by a masterful director.

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Mutilations was released in 1986. The Larry Thomas written and directed movie starred Al Baker as Professor Jim McFarland. The professor decided to take his high school class on a trip to a small town where rumors of extra-terrestrial activity ran rampant. The group of students soon learned the danger that comes with investigating aliens and tried to stop anybody else from suffering a similar, deadly fate.

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As the description of Mutilations suggests, there were many instances of special effects use throughout the movie. Due to the low budget and the absence of commonly accessible computer software, the production had to resort to using cheap practical effects. For the flight of the alien spacecraft, the effects looked very inexpensive and unrealistic. The flying saucer resembled a child’s toy dangling on a string. The scenes of mechanical flight were the only true problems in the look of the effects, however, as the rest of the practical work was rather impressive. From the creature work involving the aliens to the effects used to portray the violent deaths of certain characters, the effects were enjoyable. The fight scenes between aliens and humans had a Harryhausen feel to them that was perhaps out of date in 1986, yet still did not take away from the movie at all. The retro nature of the effects helped to play into the highly delightful low quality feel of the movie.

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Also adding to the low quality feel of Mutilations was the set design and use of the set to create tense and scary moments. The set was very simplistic. For the majority of the film, the group of human characters were holed up within a house and the caves around it. The house looked like a rundown, abandoned home, even though there was a character living there. The walls were white with dirt and streaks all over them. The dressing of the walls and the amount of furniture was minimal. There was an empty feeling to the house that gave it a similar feel to the caves surrounding it. The caves themselves looked as though someone had used papier-mâché on some drywall. This was not much better than the environment that could be seen through the windows of the house which was absolutely nothing. When something happened outside of the house, all that happened was that flashes of light flickered onto the faces of any standers by. There was enough effort put into these elements to show that Larry Thomas cared about his movie, but not enough to actually be good.

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None of these admirably bad elements of Mutilations compared to the acting that appeared throughout the movie. Since the movie was completed on what seemed like a shoestring budget, the caliber of actors that could be hired was not the best around. Each and every actor throughout the movie was stiff as a board in their dialogue, but they seemed to get into what was going on physically. Any and all problems came in the form of the dialogue. Due to the nature of one character being a professor and the rest being students, much of what the characters said prior to the attack by the alien was exposition. There was expository dialogue about space, stars, aliens, and the mysterious happenings around the small town. It was said in a flat, boring tone. The actors seemed uninterested in what they were saying and instead seemed to want to focus on the extra-terrestrial action.

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The majority of this review has been spent tearing the movie Mutilations apart. That is not the intention. Mutilations was still an entertaining horror movie. In the same vein as The Room or Birdemic, all of the bad elements combine to make a special experience. It crosses the line from being a boring sort of bad and lands in the territory of a movie that is unbelievably bad. That was likely not the intention that Larry Thomas had when he set out to make his horror flick. Yet it was the result. With a few drinks down the hatch, this could be an extremely fun movie to watch with a few friends. Get together, have a few laughs, watch Mutilations.

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2 Responses to Film Review: Mutilations (1986)

  1. Rolando says:

    So how were you able to review this? The VHS is pretty rare and I even had contact with Larry Thomas’ son to get me a copy but he vanished much like any copies of the VHS in our modern day. Has it been released?

    • I don’t remember the actual source as its been in archive for awhile, but I believe we grabbed it from a youtube upload. Some of these old 80s films are uploaded in their entirety there. no formal new release yet

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