Okay, I think I finally realised something. It's taken my entire history of watching horror movies for this to click, which is kind of embarrassing, but I think I just figured out that my approach to slasher films has been all wrong.
So my main complaint with a lot of these movies always seems to be the interminable downtime between the kills. For me to really enjoy a slasher film, there has to be something interesting happening to bridge the gaps between the blood being spilled. It doesn't have to be Citizen Kane over here, it just needs to hold my attention and, ideally, lay the groundwork for actually giving a shit about who survives and who doesn't. I don't necessarily mind a conveyor belt of victims steadily making their way toward death; I just want to care, just a little bit!
The Mutilator (original title: Fall Break) is a perfect example of the giddy highs and woefully bad lows of films like this.
Written and directed by first-timer Buddy Cooper - a film reviewer for a newspaper who wanted to make movies, so he did. I have to respect that! - this is part of what must have been a bloody cascade of films made after the success of Friday the 13th in 1980. In it, we see a group of college kids staying in a beach house and being murdered using a different weapon each time (hence that awesome tagline).
And the gore, courtesy of SFX man Mark Shostrom (Videodrome, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, Evil Dead II, a couple of Phantasms) is really good, but the price of admission for it is TERRIBLE dialogue, DELIVERED TERRIBLY for extended amounts of time.
At one point, we follow the worst character in the entire film (the "joker" of the friend group 😐) for fucking ages as he walks around looking for his mates. He cracks jokes and does voices and funny walks to no one in particular for soooo looooong until he's finally killed. There's no tension here at all, and just like in The Prowler, it gets boring and frustrating waiting through these slumps.
I found myself wishing I were a) more drunk, b) with a group of friends, or c) drunk with a group of friends. And that's when I realised that my sitting alone or with my husband just chilling and watching this stuff isn't how it was originally meant to be consumed. Stuff like this was meant to be drive-in fodder; where you're laughing and goofing around with friends and/or making out while the movie is playing. That's what passes the time while you're waiting for fucking Ralph to die. You're meant to be throwing popcorn, cracking open another beer or making snide comments - that's what makes this stuff bearable.
So, mental note for the next 80s stalk and slash that I suspect might be like this: cheap beer, funny friends are essential.
Unless you're coming to it armed with the above, I'd say The Mutilator is a "fast forward between the kills" kind of situation, as everything else is painful to sit through. The odd, melodramatic feel, the sluggish pacing, frankly insane theme song, the appalling acting... it's a lot.
Streaming on Shudder right now. What a waste of such an amazing tagline.