Saturday, February 25, 2012

On Second Viewing: Mutant (1984)

Like it or not, those of us that review movies sometimes end up revisiting ones that we didn't care for when we first saw them. Call it a form of masochism, call it dedication to your craft, or you can call it a momentary lapse in judgement. Sometimes, we find ourselves enjoying said movies upon second viewing, while other times...not so much. Without further adieu, let's take a look at a movie I previously reviewed.

That out of the way, when I first saw "Mutant", I certainly didn't hate it. I found it to be a shockingly watchable and at times decent movie that didn't live up to it's full potential. It was originally meant to be directed by Mark Rosman ("The House in Sorority Row"), but ended up going to John "Bud" Cardos ("The Dark", "Kingdom of the Spiders" and "Gor II.") It was also originally called "Night Shadows", which is a much more appropriate title considering that the movie is more of a zombie movie than it is the "Alien" ripoff the title, poster and tagline ("Mankind's Greatest Threat Will Not Come From the Skies") suggest.

The premise, deals with brothers Josh (Wings Hauser) and Mike Cameron (Lee Montgomery), who end up in the middle of nowhere in a small, redneck happy town. Believe it or not, there's worse things going on than hillbillies: a toxic waste factory is turning people into grey skinned, mutated zombie/vampire hybrids. When Mike goes missing, Josh has to find out what happened to him-as well as survive the zombie outbreak along with an alcoholic sheriff (Bo Hopkins) and Josh's new love interest Holy (Jody Medford.)

Giving "Mutant" another chance, I actually found myself liking Hopkins as Sheriff Will Stewart, as he manages to take a cliched role (alcoholic sheriff with a troubled past) and make him a character whose at least a little likable. I also found myself liking Hauser and Montgomery more, especially Hauser, whose got a lot of charisma. I also found the final 20 minutes of the movie to be pretty entertaining, as it throws in some genuinely suspenseful scenes (zombies surrounding the protagonists car, a kid attacked by zombified children) that actually have some real punch. I even found myself liking the direction more, as Cardos has a way with crafting suspense with a minimum of gore.

That out of the way, I still feel that this has some serious flaws. Whilst our main characters are interesting, everyone else is a one-dimensional stereotype who can't act-especially the violent rednecks. It also suffers from some serious pacing issues, as much of what happens early on isn't particularly scary, nor does it feel like it benefits any of the characters. Finally, I found some scenes to be laughable, especially one in which a doctor slowly turns into a zombie whilst another one (Jennifer Warren) talks into her tape recorder.

I still feel the same way I did the last time I saw this movie-it's a shockingly watchable movie that could have been better. That out of the way, I'm going to say that I definitely recommend it as a rental or a Youtube streaming (it's available there for free I do believe), as it's got enough moments to make it worth seeing at least once or twice.

Amusingly enough, this was the last release from Film Ventures International, an Independent production company that started in the 70's. After "Mutant" tanked and the company folded, company founder Edward L. Montero took one million dollars and has since never been heard from or seen again. According to an interview on the website Unknown Movies,* he may be in Mexico. Another interesting bit of trivia is that Dick Clark was a producer for this movie.


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