Sorry for the confusion with the title of this one, folks. On the screener DVD this is titled MUTILATION MAN but it’s listed on IMDb.com as THE MUTILATION MAN. Now it seems the name may be M!! But let’s put this confusion aside. MUTILATION MAN is a surprising film. It’s being distributed by Midnight Releasing, which has given us a mixed bag of films lately. In the last year I’ve reviewed VS. THE DEAD (fun as hell), BIOPHAGE (disappointing), EVIDENCE OF A HAUNTING (very slow), SLICES OF LIFE (awesome in every way), and WISCONSIN PROJECT X (confused and slow) from Midnight Releasing. And even though all these films aren’t successful, I applaud Midnight Releasing for giving these and many other indie horror filmmakers a voice. To me it’s worth watching 4-5 crappy flicks and then suddenly stumble upon a gem. This is what happened with MUTILATION MAN.
Based on the title alone I was expecting just another sub-par torture-porn flick of people tied up to various things being mutilated by the titular character. This certainly isn’t what we got. The film opens with a man being tied up in a chair (okay, okay; that part was accurate). Next to him on a table is an old-school alarm clock that suddenly goes off. A large, masked man enters the room, turns off the alarm clock, and picks up an axe. The tied up man begins to beg for his life and you get the feeling he’s been enduring many hours (if not days) of torture from his masked captor. The axe comes down and then we head over to the credits. We then meet out main players, which aren’t many. There’s Jessica and Roy (Sabrina Carmichael & Stephen Twardokus, respectively), a married couple who become the next targets of the masked killer; Ted (Ed Cole), Roy’s partner; and Marcy (Denise Gossett), who works with Roy and Ted and who really has nothing to do with the rest of the plot.
After celebrating their anniversary, Roy and Jessica are attacked and tied up in their garage by the masked killer, or ‘Mutilation Man.’ The alarm clock is set up and once it goes off he starts inflicting his tortures on the couple. It’s clear that Roy is the real target and that he’s using Jessica’s pain to try and break Roy. And here’s where writers-directors Derek and Shane Cole show some restraint. Instead of having seemingly endless scenes of the couple getting tortured, the Cole’s do something mainly unheard of … they introduce a plot into the mix!! The Coles take what could’ve been a very tedious and standard torture-porn flick and give it a measure of depth with a mysterious and engaging story. It becomes clear that the masked killer didn’t randomly pick Roy and Jessica out of the phone book. There’s a reason he’s there and the brother writing-directing team unfold the story in an expert way that drives the plot on and really grabs the viewer’s interest. I’m keeping this review completely SPOILER FREE so I’m not going to go into any of the details of the plot other than what’s written above, but trust me, it has a fun pay off.
The (very limited) cast does a good job with the material. We get some supporting cast members who play the detectives who have been following the case of the ‘Mutilation Man’. He’s struck before, in different parts of the country, and always manages to leave no clues behind at the scene of the crime. Well no clues except for horribly mutilated bodies, that is. Both Shane and Derek Cole are credited as playing the titular character and they both have very commanding and intimidating screen presences. The character speaks exactly zero lines of dialogue in the film, yet they manage to say volumes with their body language and by simply being on screen. It’s a great performance. Carmichael and Twardokus (Jessica and Roy) also do really nice jobs. They never cross the line into melodrama and considering they are tied up in chairs for the majority of the film, they manage to get across a sense of terror and fear.
The f/x are a mixed bag as the brothers take a more ‘old-school’ approach to them. They don’t come outta the gates at full speed. Instead they start with most of the violence and ‘mutilations’ being done just off screen (we can only hear what’s going on). But as the film builds to the climax the f/x get more and more explicit and in-your-face. That was a nice touch. And the mask the killer wears is extremely effective. It’s a simple, yet haunting mask that gives away no expressions of it’s wearer. Nice choice.
MUTILATION MAN is a really nice surprise. This is the kind of indie horror film that makes it worthwhile sitting through other really shitty ones. Sure it’s not a perfect film. There’s some pacing problems in the beginning and certain elements are never explained (like why the killer uses an alarm clock), but these are small complaints. Derek and Shane Cole make a great team and I hope they plan on revisiting MUTILATION MAN in the near future. MUTILATION MAN is being released by Midnight Releasing on December 6, 2011. For more information, check out their website here. Definitely check this one out.
Directors: Derek & Shane Cole (& writers)
Plot: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Gore: 6.5 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer