Mutant (1984)


Mankind's deadliest threat will not come from the skies.



Year of Release: 1984
Also Known As: Night Shadows
Genre: Horror/Science Fiction
Rated: R
Running Time: 99 minutes (1:39)
Director: John 'Bud' Cardos, Mark Rosman


Cast:

Wings Hauser ... Josh Cameron
Bo Hopkins ... Sheriff Will Stewart
Jody Medford ... Holly Pierce
Lee Montgomery ... Mike Cameron
Jennifer Warren ... Dr. Myra Tate
Marc Clement ... Albert Hogue
Mary Nell Santacroce ... Mrs. Mapes
Stuart Culpepper ... Mel



Summary:

Two brothers are traveling together on vacation and arrive in a small and unusually quiet Southern town. While trying to find out what happened to the missing citizens of the town, one of the brothers disappears. The remaining brother teams up with the local sheriff and they discover a toxic waste spill has transformed the missing people into bloodthirsty zombies, roaming the streets at night for their next victim.


Review:

Mutant, remindin' us not to let Jesus take the wheel after he's been drinkin', cause there's no tellin' when he might snap an start runnin' pickups fulla rednecks off the road. An actually, that sorta thing is to be expected, I mean, you ever think about how horrified the man'd be to come back to life an see how we've taken the object he was condemned to die on an plastered it all over our bumpers an hung it from the rear view? It'd be like welcomin' Martin Luther King back to society with a shindig fulla guests wearin' conical white party hats. Wouldn't exactly make the guy feel real comfortable, ya know?

An speakin' of unqualified people takin' the reins, Halloween's over, an that means it's time for somethin' even more horrifyin' to go down - Election Day. It ain't so much the presidential stuff that bugs me, although I am gettin' pretty tired of Hillary "basket of deplorables" Clinton an Donald "grab 'em by the pussy" Trump constantly interruptin' my Outer Limits reruns on Comet. Could somebody please tell these people that I believe 'em both about how terrible the other'n is so I can get back to Robot Holocaust? Seriously though, that ain't nearly the worst of it, it's the LOCAL guys who're really scary. See, normally we don't have nothin' but the occasional cattle grazin' measure on the ballot around here cause we don't have no term limits on the city council positions, so normally a spot only opens up when somebody either dies or gets caught addin' the Spice channel to their cable package an hasta resign in shame. But the other night, durin' the 3rd debate, Buster McGarnagle was sittin' in his camp trailer yellin' "she's a gotdamned liar!" at his tv set in between bites of a mutton sandwich, when part of it got hung up in his throat an killed 'im dead on the spot. I hear his ex-wife's gonna sue the Clinton campaign for wrongful death, since that kinda spelled the end of 'er alimony payments. So anyway, now we got three of the scariest human beins on Earth all vyin' for Buster's council seat, includin' Nan "the raging cuss" Barnabas, who recently took back her maiden name after decidin' 'er husband was a tool of the fascist imperialist power structure (Amos is our local game warden), an Skunky Hernandez, bein' the showman/moron he is, invites 'em all out to the Grime Time to address the drive-in goin' public of Chickawalka County from the roof of the concession stand. What this amounted to was each candidate explainin' how their opponents were such liberals that they made Carl Marx look like Scrooge McDuck, an I warned Skunky that if any of those blowhards went over their allotted time that they'd be lucky if all I did was start the projector in the middle of their speeches, so I'm completely washin' my hands of the whole deal right now.

So like I was sayin', inevitably Nan goes over her 30 minutes, an I flick the projector on at 9:01 to give the public what they actually came to see, right when she's gettin' to the part of 'er speech about how we can't allow discount school lunches for war orphans cause it'd make 'em too dependent upon the taxpayer. Well, Nan takes the standin' ovation I got for cuttin' 'er off as vindication of 'er political leanins an starts preachin' into 'er bullhorn even louder'n she was prior, OVER the movie, an that pretty much tore it for me. I wasn't about to let that go down, not on my watch. Fortunately, I'd kinda expected this to happen, so I'd gotten Billy Hilliard to park the septic truck Skunk'd been usin' to suck all the reconstituted drive-in dogs outta the outhouse pits next to the projection booth an had 'im run about 30' of hose up to my deck. Ya know, just in case. Only took about three minutes to get the hose up there, but by then Nan'd moved on to 'er big "Make America Straight Again" gay re-education center plan, an I gave Billy the signal to reverse the pump. Covered that bitch from 'er bee-hive hairdo to the tip of 'er power pumps, an even though it pretty much guaranteed me a weekend of squeegeein' the roof of the concession stand, I've never felt more patriotic in my entire life, cause sometimes the only way to fight mud slingin' is to sling somethin' even more disgustin'. An just you watch, the same turkey that spent almost 40 minutes railin' against government's gonna turn right around an look to the court system to resolve this little incident, I'll guarantee it. Cripes, you'd think she'd never had a tampon lodged in 'er ear canal before, the big baby.

I rewound the DVD an restarted the flick over while Amos struggled to carry 'er down the steps without losin' his footing or takin' a knee to the groin, but I'd radio'd over to Juanita that I was about to fire the shatapult so she'd have a chance to close up all the windows on the concession stand prior to the butthole barrage, so it didn't really affect the evenin' too bad. I was a little worried about that, cause Mutant is one of the best flicks we're ever gonna get to show, bein' confined to the public domain as we are, an I didn't want that little stunt to leave a bad taste in the mouths of anybody but the intended target. Had a good night though, thanks in no small part to the great performance given by Wings Hauser, who if you've never seen 'im before, is kinda like John Glover an Robin Williams put together on an LSD trip. Half the fun of a Wings Hauser movie is the waitin' until he finally goes apeshit, cause ya know its gonna happen eventually. So in appreciation of Wings an his tireless efforts to bring culturally significant flicks to the drive-in audience, I'd like to run through a few of the things you're gonna learn watchin' this movie. First, you need at least 8 confederate flags hangin' in your bar before most patrons'll believe you ain't a Yankee sympathizer. Second, sometimes the pressure to fit in at school is so intense that kids'll even go zombie just to make friends. An third, southern buildings come fully equipped with their own complimentary mouth breather stakin' out the closet. Ya know, just in case you need a good scare, or somethin' off the top shelf.

Now, I'd like to get serious here for a minute if possible, cause I chose this particular flick to abuse my influence as a well respected pillar of the white community an draw attention to what's goin' on out at the Dakota access pipeline right now. Ever notice how nobody seems to listen to the wise old Indian, except in the movies? Well, I did, an I figured this flick might be able to help bridge the gap between the confederated tribes an big oil. This's about more'n dishonored treaties an a century of gettin' a buncha Italians to round out a cast of natives, it's even more disgustin' than that. See, the Dakotas, they're a well educated buncha folks. They've seen enough drive-in movies to know what happens when you go poisonin' somebody's water supply with toxic crapola, an they don't wanna see this situation come to that. These big shot oil tycoons, they haven't gotta clue about the real world, cause they're too busy drivin' around in their coal-fired yachts to take in the kinda educational cinematic opportunities that the rest of us DECENT people enjoy. They've got prostitution budget meetins an pork rind futures to mull over, an so they don't realize these protests're as much to help THEM as they are to save the Indians' water supply an sacred territories. Cause when that pipeline goes an springs a leak, (an let's face it, who among us ain't accidentally put a .22 hole in one after a bullet ricocheted off an old cow trough?) we're talkin' mutant Indians on the warpath, finally takin' their revenge on whitey for centuries of raw deals. An who knows; maybe that's what's gotta happen before we get wise to the seriousness of these kinda situations. Maybe we NEED a planet-wide mulligan, like when that comet hit us an wiped out the dinosaurs an forced us to wait around for Hammer to resurrect 'em on the movie screen. Course the dinosaurs couldn't do anything to stop it, whereas all we gotta do is stop an think: "hey, maybe there're some things more important than money" an just back off a little bit. So, in conclusion, I think every oil executive should hafta watch this flick, with their cell phones OFF, before this deal gets even more outta hand. An if when the credits roll they still wanna do it, well, don't come cryin' to me when you guys're the first to get your skulls turned into soup bowls.

The movie begins down in the deep south where some ignit EPA guy's nosin' around somebody's property (which is about as smart as sneakin' up on a Vietnam vet an poppin' a paper bag fulla air to see what'll happen) scoopin' up a sample of the Tall Man's blood layin' out in the lawn. Only when the guy goes pokin' around in the cellar he runs into somethin' that strangles 'im in silhouette an burns up all the skin around his neck an causes 'im to burp up a buncha smoke like he's been partyin' at Woody Harrelson's house. The next day, Wings Hauser an his little brother who looks like somebody stapled Jonathan Taylor Thomas' hair to Corey Feldman (Mike) are drivin' through the country, when Wings takes his hands off the wheel to play that "let's scare the chicks" game guys used to play back before all those after school specials inadvertently made it too lame to do anymore, an just about has a head-on with a pickup fulla potato heads. These guys're perpetually one half rack of Busch away from a paternity suit with the owner of the cow pasture next door, an they don't take kindly to Wings scarin' 'em into further soilin' their already fouled drawers, so they whip around an tailgate Wings' car til they run 'im off the road an into a creek fulla outhouse runoff. Wings is P.O.'d, but tanglin' with the rubes is a sure-fire way to get ticks, an since he dunno how far it is to the nearest pet groomer, they decide to just thumb it down the road with a guy named Mel who don't wear a shirt an has a naturally occurrin' perm coverin' 90% of his body. By the time they finally make it to town it's already past sundown, an they immediately hear some rummy gettin' his neck steamed like a wrinkled old man's hinder at a health spa. So they head into the bar to find the sheriff, but instead they run into the Growth Keepers again, an pretty quick we got city boy behind gettin' kicked all over the pool table. Fortunately, Sheriff Bo Hopkins shows up an throws Albert (the head bumpkin) an the rest of the Stray Mullets outta there, but when Mike an Wings try showin' 'im the dead body, it's been snatched an replaced with some other drunk who musta crawled out of an outer space collard green. Bo does, however, find some more of that Weber's horseradish in the vicinity, an takes it to Dr. Ann Coulter over at the clinic to analyze once she finishes diggin' all the beer bottle shards outta Mike's arm. In the meantime, Bo drops Wings an Mike off out at the house from the opening sequence an tells 'em he don't wanna see them or their complete sets of teeth ever again or else he'll confiscate their pants an leave 'em alone with Albert an a jar of Crisco.

So Wings an Mike head up to the house to rent a room from Blanche Dubois (Mrs. Mapes), who gives 'em each a bed to sleep in an turns out to be pretty nice despite all the electroshock therapy. But later that night, Mike wakes up hearin' somethin' scratchin' around under his bed, an when he leans over to see what is, he gets pulled down under the floorboards an smoked like a batch of deer jerky. The next mornin', Wings goes lookin' for Mike at the bar an gets distracted by this school teacher (Holly) who tends bar on the side just to rile up the D.A.R.E. instructor, an she tells 'im Mike may've gone down to the gas station on the edge of town to pick up a souvenir stuffed chigger or somethin', an that she'll drive 'im over there if he'll promise to quit makin' 'er self conscious about not wearin' a bra. Elsewhere, Bo's over at Ann's clinic discussin' the chemical composition of the Country Crock sample, an she tells Bo that it's actually blood, only it ain't people blood, cause the stuff absorbs regular blood an swells up like an inner tube bubble when it comes in contact with it. Then there's a crash in the specimen lab/break room an by the time Bo an Ann get back there the mini fridge has been broken into an had all its samples stolen by some pervert lookin' for a way to beat the paternity test on his sister's baby. Meanwhile, Wings an Holly've stopped off at the school to let one of the remedial students (Billy) know that when nobody's shown up by 11 'o clock it generally means classes've been canceled, cept then they hear this groan like an old pickup door that needs some WD-40, an when Wings goes to check it out he finds Albert downstairs in the closet with some dead girl who accidentally confused 'er eye shadow with the foundation. Then he an Albert duel with a coupla lead pipes until a steam valve gets busted open by an errant swing an Wings shoves it right square in Albert's face an gives 'im a much needed steam eucalyptus facial treatment to tighten up his pores. Course, by the time Bo gets over there he's already pretty P.O.'d about all this police work's cuttin' into his hangover recovery time, but now Ann wants a chance to examine the body even though she ain't qualified to do much more'n treat the sniffles an reattach severed fingers, an Bo gets so freaked out when she screams "all I want is one night with the body!" that he just lets 'er take it.

Bo's got a Shamu-sized fish to fry as it is since somebody's gotta tell the dead kid's parents what happened, only when he gets over to 'er folks' house the place looks like the '75 Steelers used it for a practice field, an the doorknob to the kitchen pantry's hotter'n the one Macaulay Culkin rigged up for Joe Pesci in Home Alone. So, fearing a pickled beet related crisis, Bo kicks the door in an finds the girl's dad with a face that looks like Babe Ruth's been usin' it for an ashtray, at which point the guy warns 'im about "the hands" before goin' to the big farmer's market in the sky. While that's goin' on, Wings is over at Holly's place tryin' to explain to 'er about how if he don't make it home with his little brother he's never gonna be invited to Thanksgiving dinner ever again, until he eventually rattles off some dialog that's so sappy it causes an appendicitis attack an Holly hasta take 'im to see Ann before his gut bucket explodes like a Galaxy s7. Turns out its just a case of toxic chemical exposure from the dead girl that fell on 'im back at the school, an that he'll be fine once he sweats it out, which, if you know Wings, shouldn't take more'n about an hour. Then Ann starts speculatin' about how the dead girl got turned into a 3-D charcoal drawing while she ignores 'er physician's assistant in the hallway who's gettin' the dry heaves an turnin' into Cesar Romero as the Joker, til the guy eventually gets ahold of 'er an turns 'er into a steamed vegetable. The next day, Wings an Holly've checked purt'near anyplace a wimp like Mike is likely to be hidin', so Wings hops this fence that looks like it might lead to Chuck Heston's Most Dangerous Game Preserve, an once he makes his way into this old barn he discovers the charismatic, yet deodorantially defiant Mel in charge of a toxic waste dumpin' operation. This's obviously part of some evil conspiracy concocted by the country music industry to kill off everybody who drinks their liquids straight outta the sink rather'n cans imported from Milwaukee, in an effort to get a bigger share of the radio market. Then Wings' scaffold starts comin' apart like Tommy Wiseau in The Room an Mel's goons try usin' Wings' head to test out their radioactive apple bobbin' tank, when outta nowhere Holly comes plowin' through the wall an severs this hose that starts sprayin' that yellow baby food glopola all over the place until she an Wings get outta there while everybody else is bein' melted down into puddles of Wicked Witch piddle.

Course, by now Holly's gettin' a little worried about 'er uncle back at the house, so she dumps Wings off at the police station to tell Bo about all the latest developments, only in the meantime Bo's gotten suspended for usin' the booking camera to take jug shots of all the farm fresh babes. Unfortunately when Holly goes up to check on 'er uncle he's pretty much gone Chudley Moore on 'er an starts tryin' to singe off all 'er goldilocks, until Wings an Bo show up an scare 'im off faster'n a second date marriage proposal. Then they split up an Bo an Holly go to check on Ann at the clinic, only by the time they get there the waitin' room's fulla decayin' Medicaid patients an Bo ends up havin' to send Holly beatin' cheeks outta there an hide in the filin' room once it's apparent he ain't got enough rounds to take on this klandemic alone. Elsewhere, Wings's gone back to Mrs. Mapes' place to retrieve his curlin' iron an poke around in the basement, cept the old hag ends up lockin' 'im down there like a discarded treadmill an that's when he finally finds his char-broiled bro. He don't get much time to grieve though, cause pretty quick he gets attacked by this broad who looks like Carol Kane after the vacuum cleaner got thrown into reverse an drenched 'er in dust bunnies, an Wings just about gets nailed by a decapitating strike from Mrs. Mapes as he comes out the basement door. Fortunately, the momentum from Mapes' whiff carries 'er into the stairwell where she gets eaten by the Carol Kane composite creature. Meanwhile, Holly's gone to hide in the schoolhouse where she finds Billy hidin' from the rest of the student body who're now mutants an look like they're settin' up for the school carnival of souls, only the little boogers out-muscle 'er an drag Billy out from under the bottom of the bathroom stall they're hidin' in an turn his chest cavity into a pile of baby cracked ribs. Then Wings shows up to break up the errant teacher conference, an once they manage to escape becomin' the grillage of the damned, Wings drives over to the clinic to try findin' Bo; cept while he's fartin' around inside playin' with the wire/bead maze in the waitin' room, the fog is rollin' in outside, an the Foamega Men're startin' to dog pile on the car with Holly trapped inside. Gonna cut this one off here, but some tool let this one drop into the public domain.

Alrighty, well, despite being a little lacking in the production value department, this one's a lot of fun. I always like these flicks that're made in the same vein as The Being and C.H.U.D., and when you get right down to it, Mutant is pretty much a combination of C.H.U.D. and The Omega Man, even though Mutant and C.H.U.D. were both released in August of 1984 and thus did not plagiarize one another. Excellent month for mutants on the rampage, August '84. But the most interesting thing about this flick doesn't really have anything to do with the movie itself, but rather, the company that produced it. See, Mutant (originally titled The Pestilence) was the last movie ever released by Film Ventures International, which was an indie company that started out releasing softcore porn movies that ended up rakin' in a bundle of money on account of the American public havin' been starved for that kinda thing due to all the Nazis on the film censorship board. Then the company started out buying up Italian flicks and releasing them domestically, the most successful of which was probably Beyond the Door, which was an Italian Exorcist clone. So once the owner (a guy by the name of Edward Montoro) started to make bank on other people's movies, he decided to branch out and make his own, using the Roger Corman philosophy of producing low budget flicks that tended to be derivative of other popular movies of the era. This actually got him sued by Universal when he released a flick called Great White, which Universal claimed was a ripoff of Jaws, with the judge ultimately ruling against Montoro after he'd already sunk 4 million bucks into advertising the movie. Undeterred, FVI went on to release a slew of pretty decent genre flicks including: The Visitor, The Shape of Things to Come, Pieces, The Incubus, Mortuary, Grizzly, Day of the Animals, and The House on Sorority Row, as well as some fairly painful titles like The Dark, The Power, and Pod People. Only problem was that when Day of the Animals became the most successful independent movie of 1976 (it made 39 million off of a budget of $750,000), Montoro got greedy and tried stickin' it to William Girdler and the rest of the crew, who also had to sue him to get what they were owed. Mutant was the last flick FVI ever made, and when it flopped at the box office Montoro embezzled a million dollars of the company's money and basically pulled a D.B. Cooper. Nobody has any idea where he went, or even if he's still alive, but whatever else you wanna say about him, he obviously had that scheme planned out well in advance and got away with it. So basically the guy was a huge prick who happened to have a keen eye for good directors and writers who were looking to break into the industry, and generally exploited their talents to make some highly enjoyable flicks, while illegally fattening his bank account.

In any event, time to cram a toxic waste feeding tube down this thing's throat and see if it chokes. The plot isn't anything new, nor is it anything special, but I personally like these sorts of stories even when they're put forth by a low budget crew who can't necessarily ensure it reaches its maximum potential. That said, the story itself does tend to hold up pretty well, what with the obvious parallels to the modern events like the Dakota Access Pipeline feud and the situation in Flint, Michigan, although I do realize that it's pretty likely that anyone affected by those contaminants, or would-be contaminants, may not actually turn into mutant zombie nuclear reactors. The the plot's pretty good, even though there've been a lot of these types of flicks made over the years, including Prophecy and Nightmare at Noon, which also starred Wings Hauser. The acting is pretty good for the most part, with Wings Hauser turning in another stellar performance. Wings is another one of my favorite character actors, although they made him act like a halfway sane human being until about 2/3s of the way through this one. Also enjoyable are Stuart Culpepper as the criminally under-utilized Mel, Bo Hopkins as the down-on-his-luck sheriff, and Marc Clement as the shit-kickin' redneck Albert. The only weak performance comes from Jody Medford who has a few scenes where she's really phoning it in to get the shoot wrapped up, but she's not like that all the time, and even still, she does pretty well when called upon to become the hysterical damsel-in-distress. I'd also point out that some of the folks playing zombies really made asses of themselves, but then that's not too uncommon for low budget flicks that don't have enough crew members around to herd all the cats.

Here's who matters and why (Bo Hopkins and Wings Hauser are right on the borderline as far as actors I expect genre fans to know, but I'm gonna say they should be popular enough that their resumes aren't necessary): Lee Montgomery (Burnt Offerings, Ben, The Midnight Hour, Dead of Night), Marc Clement (King Kong Lives), Cary Guffey (Close Encounters of the Third Kind), Jennifer Warren (Shark Kill, The Intruder Within), Danny Nelson (Blood Salvage), Mary Nell Santacroce (The Legend of Blood Mountain), Stuart Culpepper (Trapped), Johnny Popwell (Deliverance, The Visitor 1979), Ralph Pace (The Return of Swamp Thing, Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones, Voyage of the Rock Aliens), Wallace Wilkinson (Cannibal Apocalypse, Trapped, The Visitor 1979), Charles Franzen (Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones), Elijah Christopher Perry (Final Exam, Black Rainbow, Dogs of Hell, A Day of Judgment, Whiskey Mountain), Lavon Lacey (The Remnant), Joseph Long (Zombie Cult Massacre, Night Wars, Shadows Run Black, New Years Evil).

The special effects, while not completely without merit, are definitely the movie's weak spot. Most of the zombie effects are done with nothing but white face paint with a little black around the rims of the eyes, which harkens back to flicks like Night of the Living Dead and The Omega Man. Both excellent movies, but one was in black and white, and the other was made 13 years before Mutant, and by 1984 we expected a little bit more than this. The mutants who do get some attention on the effects front are a bit better, as they feature some melted flesh and various other forms of bodily damage. There's also one transformation scene where Jennifer Warren's lab tech starts havin' his skin bubble up like bath night after a bean and ham hock supper, and that scene is just so-so. Good for its budget, but not so good when compared to a transformation scene from say, The Howling, which was a big budget picture. I liked the shooting locations pretty well, particularly the city's "main street," which is a great example of a rural, small town America, and brings a real sense of isolation in addition to simply having a great look. The movie was shot in Norcross, Georgia, which at the time, had a population hovering around 4000 people. You can always tell when a filmmaker is trying to make a city of 40,000 people *look* like it's only got about 5000, and for that reason, I always enjoy seeing these regional flicks that were obviously shot in some small town that I would likely never have gotten to see otherwise. As far as the interiors go, there's a great little bar and a school that were obviously real places, as well as a police station and a doctor's office that were almost certainly a generic office building of some sort. But really, that shot of Wings and his brother walking into town with nothing but those few businesses stretching out before them says it all for me, and the movie's score definitely gets a little bump for having chosen this particular locale. The soundtrack was composed by Richard Band, who quite frankly, is the most talented member of the Band family. Richard's soundtracks aren't always the catchiest (Puppet Master is an exception), and they're never composed to be the emphasis of the scenes over which they play, but the guy always produces quality pieces that benefit the movies in which they appear. Now granted, Band is one of those composers where five seconds into the opening credits you know it's one of his scores because he's got a very distinct style that tends to overlap from movie to movie, but I really like just about every soundtrack he's ever scored, even when the movie itself isn't necessarily that good. So, having scored just about every movie ever to come out of Empire Studios, and later Full Moon Pictures, it's almost a certainty that you've heard at least one of his compositions, and probably enjoyed it. Overall, despite suffering from some poor special effects, it's good enough to pass both on its technical merits, and in terms of its ability to entertain, even if you can see the shadow of the boom mic during the entire duration of a scene that runs for upwards of half a minute. Definitely makes my top ten list of public domain titles, so check it out.


Rating: 65%