“The Mutilator”: College students find their horrifying vacation was no day at the beach!

By on October 18, 2017

To celebrate our favorite month here at Night Flight HQ, we’ve added a bunch of great B-movie, cult and strange Horror movies, which are streaming in our newly-added “Horror Month on Night Flight Plus” section over on Night Flight Plus, including a mid-80s stalk-and-slash classic, Buddy Cooper’s The Mutilator!

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Here’s how The Mutilator — a slightly NSFW 86-minute slasher which you may remember from its colorful poster showing four soon-to-be disemboweled teens hanging from hooks — was described on the original Vestron home video box cover:

This spine-tingling chiller is the harrowing tale of the five high-school students whose dream vacation of a fun-filled holiday at the beach becomes a nightmare when they are stalked by The Mutilator!

Ed, a likeable high school student, busily discusses vacation plans with his friends when he receives a message from his father asking that he close up the summer house at the beach. While his friends feel that it’s the perfect opportunity for a vacation, Ed is uneasy about the request, as his father has never quite forgiven him from the accidental shooting of his mother.

When the group arrives at the summer house, they discover Ed’s father’s collection of bizarre weapons. To add to their anxieties there is the ever-present feeling that they are being watched. Suddenly, Ed’s house guests begin to meet bizarre deaths, each one more grisly than the next, but The Mutilator is saving best for last.. the best for Ed.

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Buddy Cooper and friend

Read more about The Mutilator below.

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First-time filmmaker A.B. “Buddy” Cooper Jr. got the idea to film in coastal North Carolina’s Morehead City, and other locations in and around Carteret County, after walking around on the deserted resort town there on a Monday after Labor Day.

He’d also recently read in Variety that thirty-percent of movie ticket sales in the U.S. were for horror movies, and thought it might be a good investment possibility as well.

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At the time, Cooper was reviewing movies for the Carteret County News-Times, but he’d always wanted to be a filmmaker, even taking film courses at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he earned a law degree, graduating in 1969.

In June of 1982, Cooper took a screenwriting course at The American University in Washington D.C., and began writing his horror movie — originally titled Fall Break — which follows six college students who spend a weekend at a deserted beachfront resort, where they’re confronted by a deranged killer.

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The story winds its way to its inevitable conclusion, ultimately focused on the college students (not high school students, as the box art claimed) searching in the darkness for their missing friends.

Each of them is being killed off in more and more gruesome ways, including, famously, a large fishing hook stabbed between a girl’s legs.

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Cooper made sure to write in scenes that took place in real locations, like Harold’s Bar & Grill, and the Oceanana Motel in Atlantic Beach, which Cooper and his family owns.

He wanted to capture the feel of that “fall break” of one final fun weekend in the sun, just before students begin returning to their college dorms.

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Two American University faculty members, John Douglass and Glen Herndon, agreed to serve as technical advisors, and Cooper set up his own film production company, OK Productions.

Douglass — who shares the director credit with Cooper; IMDB also lists his job as a SFX technician on James Cameron’s The Abyss — brought a group of graduate students and recently-graduated students with him to help crew the production (self-financed and budgeted around $450,000).

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Fall Break began shooting on May 4, 1983, with a cast and crew of sixty, nearly all of them from North Carolina.

Cooper himself appears in the film as the bloodied man in the photograph in Big Ed’s trophy room.

Actor Ben “Bennie” Moore — who plays a cop in the film — was also in Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964) and several other H.G. Lewis films, but has mainly worked as a stuntman on blockbusters like The Blob (1988) and From Dusk Till Dawn (1996).

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On location in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina

The highly inventive — and decidedly gruesome — kill sequences were handled by legendary SFX wizard Mark Shostrom. Among his many credits are Videodrome, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, Evil Dead II, and a couple of the Phantasm movies.

Cinematographer Peter Schall had previoulsy worked on the crew of Louise Malle’s Oscar-winning Atlantic City feature, as well as a number of documentaries.

“Fall Break,” the beach music theme song performed by Peter Yellen and the Breakers, was co-written by Michael Minard and songwriter Artie Resnick, who co-wrote the Drifters’ hit “Under the Boardwalk.”

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An unrated version of Fall Break premiered at the Plaza Cinema in Morehead City on January 6, 1985.

The unrated film did well regionally in NYC and L.A., even making it to #13 on Variety‘s weekly chart of top-grossing films, where it charted for six weeks.

In order for their film distributor to book screenings in theaters across the country, however, which they needed to advertise in local newspapers, some of the gore scenes were edited out to obtain a suitable”R” rating.

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The film’s title was officially changed to The Mutilator for its Vestron VHS/Beta release, thereafter enjoying a healthy cult reputation amongst horror fans as one of the “holy grails” of ’80s splatter mayhem.

It wasn’t “officially” released on DVD until Arrow Video’s long-awaited version finally arrived in February of 2016, and it’s their gorgeous High-Def version we have streaming for you over on Night Flight Plus.

Watch the unrated version of The Mutilator and other newly-added titles in our “Horror Month on Night Flight Plus” section over on Night Flight Plus!

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.