Friday, April 30, 2010

Mutant (1984) - 3/5

When I originally bought the original Vestron video of Mutant many years ago, I thought I was in for some huge mutated monster movie due to the title the cover art (a beast head hovering over a town). This proves how misleading some incarnations of the cover art and title can be. To my surprise Mutant (aka Night Shadows) was a thinly disguised "zombie" movie. The title sequence is kind of blah and I originally thought "yep, I got exactly what I expected." The film actually becomes a lot better as the movie trucks along. We start off with a killing and then delve into a story about two "city boy" brothers traveling along a remote southern highway where they run into some cliché rednecks who wreck their car. They are forced into a small town but the kicker is that toxic waste being illegally dumped near the town has turned many of the residents into mutated zombie like ghouls who start to feast on the blood of the remaining normal tenants. Eventually it dwindles down to a few survivors having to escape the zombie-like hordes.

The idea of the mutant zombie creatures is actually interesting for this kind of film. The toxic waste changes the person's blood into a green/yellowish substance and swells. It swells to degree that their palms split. Through these splits the "mutant zombies" suck blood from victims like a leach. The make-up job on these ghouls is actually quit good and they have a nice terrifying appearance in dark corridors.

Not only are the ghouls impressive, but director John Cardos (Kingdom of the Spiders) is also able to make many great scenes of suspense. There are two terrific scenes with "zombies" attacking a women and a kid in a school bathroom and another when "zombies" surround a car and start burning through the glass to get to the person inside. I've been a horror film fan for years and nothing really makes me squirm, but there were a few scenes here that actually got me on the edge of my seat. He also moves the film along at nice pace and it builds and builds until the suspense filled climax. Nice job Cardos!

The acting here also brings this film up a couple of notches. Usually genre films like this have poor acting and actors that usually cause unintentional laughter. The cast here is very good lead by seasoned veterans Wings Hauser (Vice Squad) and Bo Hopkins. The supporting cast is also good and they all play the film seriously. There is a scene towards the end of the film where a female lead starts to lose emotional control and Hauser has to comfort her while being terrified himself. I really felt they were scared out-of-their minds. Thumbs up on the acting which is rare for this type of film.

The only really cheese thing is the story, which I know the story sounds like direct-to-video material. No doubt today it would be, but Mutant was made back in the early 80's and that was a great era because movies like Mutant got a theatrical release and because of this, they a high-quality look them that direct-to-video fodder today sorely lacks.

For horror fans looking for a nice mostly forgotten 80's horror film that actually has quality, then give Mutant a shot. It's got a great cast, good acting, nice effects, and some truly suspenseful moments. I was totally surprised by Mutant and recommend it.

For some reason Mutant as been released in many different incarnations on DVD (6 that I know of). I originally bought the Diamond Entertainment release (It portrays the same cover art as the original Vestron video release) but its picture quality was no better than my VHS. By far the best edition available on DVD is the Elite Entertainment version which features the atmospheric original poster art on the box cover. The picture is crystal clear (you can actually see what's happening in the dark scenes!) and in anamorphic widescreen. A beautiful release of a rare film. If you want to own this film, you owe it to yourself to get the Elite Version!

Written By: Eric Reifschneider


  1. Really should make 'Mutant 2' through 'Mutant 6' as sequels and make the way the normal humans change into big alien creatures by poisoning human bodies to swell up twice as more bigger until their flesh deforms into completely monster forms.

  2. I like the way those guys turn into zombie-like monsters when their bodies and throats swells into the light skinned mutant forms. The air-bladders make-up effects on this movie is so cool. I hope they will make thousands more new bodies and throats swelling mutation films soon.