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Surprisingly… “Mutant”

Mutant
Year: 1984
Genre: Horror
Director: John “Bud” Cardos
Stars: Wings Hauser, Bo Hopkins, Jody Medford

Two brothers discover that the residents of a small Southern town are being infected by a form of toxic waste, turning them into blood-ravenous zombies.

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Surprisingly, it wasn’t the piece of crap that I thought it was.

Radiodrome Road Trip

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Well the film opens with some guy investigating a spooky house and then he’s killed.  But that scene sucks and is pretty boring so let’s just skip it.

Two “city boys” are out for a drive in the middle of Redneck Country on their way to some camping spot or something like that.  Also, they’re brothers, so that means the set up for this movie is essentially Jeepers Creepers without a girl and lacking in the onscreen sexual prowess that is Justin Long.  The characters’ names are Josh (Wings Hauser) and Mike (Lee Montgomery) Cameron.  For the sake of the analogy I want to make here, we’ll just pretend that Mike is named Alex though because these two really represent what I’m gonna call the “Radiodrome Road Trip”

So you have Josh, driving his car and listening to music with headphones on.  Oh sure, it’s illegal to drive with headphones, but Josh doesn’t care.  Besides, there’s nothing ever on the radio and music always sounded better when played on cassette in a Sony Walkman with the cover held on with an old piece of electrical tape and listened to with a beaten up pair of headphones.  Alex tries to tell him, “Josh, Josh. Stay on topic.  Keep your eyes on the road.”  to which Josh says “No, this is how I do things,’ and starts driving wildly all over the road with no regard for safety. Josh pisses off some locals who try to force them off the road.  Alex pleads, ‘Josh.. just leave them alone,” but Josh stubbornly stays on: “No, I’m not going to be fucked with.  They want a fight, I’ll take those pussies on!”  While Alex cries, “Josh, don’t feed the trolls,” their little car is driven off the road and into a creek.

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You see, Josh? This is what happens when you ceaselessly taunt the Joss Whedon fans!

mutant 4Lost and traveling along the internet – I mean HIGHWAY, Josh and Alex make a new friend.  I can’t remember the character’s name so we’ll just call him Cecil.  He offers a fresh new perspective to what was already becoming a tired routine and all is right with the world.  Josh and Alex are able to put aside their differences and listen and laugh together as Cecil makes some joke about aliens.  Everyone is happy now.

Thus ends that analogy because the movie doesn’t stick as a good representation of a Radiodrome Road Trip for long.  Oh I would love to see the further adventures of these three (and you can, every week on Radiodrome),  That would be a great movie but unfortunately only one of these characters stays on.  One is murdered and the other turns into a bad guy.  Can you guess which fate befalls all of these characters?

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Personally, I’m hoping the hot guy without a shirt is the hero
because the prospect of spending 90 mintues with Wings Hauser’s hair is disheartening.

Our “Hero”

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On the left is Wings Hauser in Mutant in 1984.  On the left is Russell Hitchcock from Air Supply in 1984 singing their hit “Making Love Outta Nothing At All.”  They have the SAME hair.  Why was white-man afro so popular in 1984?

mutant 8Our hero is Josh, who’s been a reprehensible character the whole movie.  Oh I would have liked his much better looking brother to be the hero.  Sure, Lee Montgomery’s character was an emotional wimp but at least he LOOKED better, as shirtless as the star in any David DeCoateau movie and he didn’t have that god-awful Air Supply hair.  When his brother goes missing, Josh looks for a little bit but is then immediately distracted by beer and pretty lady at bar.  From the second he says “You look splendid,” and shakes the girl’s hand, you know that Holly (Jody Medford) is going to be the love interest for the movie.  She’s no Lee Montgomery but I guess she’ll suffice.

Everyone in the town is being killed off by mysterious mutants.  In fact, other people are becoming sick and then turning into these mutants.  The town sheriff, Will (played excellently by Bo Hopkins) teams up with the local doctor to try and figure this out.  Meanwhile, Josh and Holly are also trying to figure out why everyone in the town keeps disappearing.  The mystery is actually pretty good, with some fun twists as it unfolds in a very deliberate and suspenseful fashion.  I thought I was just going to be watching some movie about small town people getting killed in dumb ways over and over as would be the standard of any 80s horror flick with a title like Mutant.  Instead, this is actually a very well put together thriller.  Much better than I would have anticipated from the director of Kingdom of the Spiders.

Tolerable Zombies

Josh and Holly discover that a chemical plant nearby is responsible for mutating everyone in the town.  Oh, and guess who’s behind this chemical plague…

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Oh no! Cecil’s back and he’s hijacking Radiodrome!

mutant 10The chemical waste turns people into zombies.  One can avoid the subject as much as they want by saying “mutation” but the truth is these are zombies.  They are undead and mindless flesh-eating monsters. ZOMBIES.  And I fucking hate zombie movies.

But not this one!  Holy hell does Mutant pack one hell of an amazing last act. THIS is how you make a zombie movie, goddamnit!  I’m sick of zombie stories where it’s 90 minutes of people trying to survive amidst the occasional overly-gory death scene.  Honestly, I don’t know what people see in something like The Walking Dead since I can’t tolerate 20 minutes of your average zombie flick, more-or less an hour long show about it every week.  But Mutant is not about the zombies.. .it’s about the build-up to the zombie, the real great mystery thriller that results in the climactic showdown against these creatures.  Everyone ijn the town has become a zombie… everyone except Josh, Holly and the police officer who went to go seek help and hasn’t returned yet.

What keeps this from turning into a stale zombie flick is the fact that there’s real suspense and the film is pretty relentless with it.  That bathroom scene for instance.  Holly goes to an elementary school bathroom to save a child, only for them to be attacked by a ALL the little kids in the town that are now zombies.  First off, little kid zombies aren’t something you see every day and, despite Holly’s best effort to protect the kid she’s saving, these zombies snatch him right out of her arms and eat him right in front of her.  It’s damn thrilling and, honestly, the best scene in the whole movie.

You'd never see anything like this in a shitty DTV zombie movie these days.You’d never see anything like this in a shitty DTV zombie movie these days.

Mutant surprised me by actually being a quality film.  I went into this with the lowest possible expectations and came back with one of the best zombie movies I’ve seen – and this isn’t even a zombie movie, really.  Horror thriller?  Maybe?  It’s like an episode of The Outer Limits that turns into total awesome in the last act.  And this was off that Pure Terror DVD set from Mill Creek – with 50 horror movies, of which only a few have been any good.  This is one of the better ones on that pack.

About The Author
Matthew Coats
Matthew Coats
Formerly known under the pseudonym of Alex Jowski. Site owner, movie aficionado, and film school grad. Matthew Coats presents reviews, some written, some as vlogs, and some as weekly shows, for a variety of different movies and television shows. After years of struggling to get his own projects off the ground amidst the normal routine of living, Matthew Coats decided to create a site in order to share and promote movie reviews, video games and much much more from talented and original people all across the internet.

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