Monday, January 15, 2007

Vamp or Not? Mutant


You know what its like, I’m sure, you are in a DVD store, you spot a film (in this case called ‘Mutant’), it has the legend on the cover “He needs your blood to survive” and it is less than £1. You’re sure it’ll be bad, but you think, “What the Hell.”

Such is the sordid tale of how I came to look at this 1984 release, directed by John “Bud” Cardos, and also known as “Night Shadows”. Now, on the surface this is little more than a small-redneck-town zombie flick and yet – “he needs your blood to survive” – well let’s see…

The film starts with a man snooping around the grounds of a house at night. He finds some orange goo and takes a sample and then he snoops into the cellar. He sees a hand flop out of the dark, there is a strange slit in the palm and then he is grabbed. We cannot see who grabs him but we do see that smoke seems to pour from where he is held.

Mike and JoshTwo brothers, Mike (Lee Montgomery) and Josh (Wings Hauser) are driving through the country. Mike has split up from his girlfriend and Josh is taking him away from it all. Messing around as he drives, Josh almost crashes with a truck. The next thing you know the good ol’ boys in the truck are ramming the siblings off the road and they end up in a stream. Having had their fun the good ol’ boys drive off.

The brothers end up walking and, having walked past a fence with a sign for the New Era Corp (you just know they are going to be involved) they get a lift from local weirdo Mel (Stuart Culpepper). Mel drops them some ways from town and, once away, radios someone to say that they are just city boys passing through.

By the time they reach town night has fallen. Josh aims for a bar but Mike hears something from the direction that a drunk has stumbled (we’ve seen the drunk grabbed and smoke like the guy in the intro). A victimWhen they investigate they find his body. Mike wants to go to the cops and heads for the bar but Albert (Marc Clement) and his good ol’ boys, who ran them off the road, are there. A fight ensues, in which Mike is stabbed in the arm and Josh is about to be bottled, until local Sheriff, Will Stewart (Bo Hopkins), intervenes. Mike tells him about the corpse but, when they get there, there is just a, very much alive, homeless drunk where the body had been. Stewart does find some of the goo and takes a sample.

Jennifer Warren as Dr TateStewart takes the brothers to local doctor Myra Tate (Jennifer Warren) and gives her the goo to analyse. The goo has caused the container to become hot and is eating through the bottle. He then takes them to a certain Mrs Mape (Mary Nell Santacroce), who will have rooms for rent, and we recognise the house from the start of the film. During the night Mike hears something and looks under the bed. Hands grab him, causing his skin to smoke, and drag him under.

The next day Mike is missing, Mrs Mape suggests to Josh that he’s gone to town. Josh fails to notice that his trainers are still in the room.

Strange things are afoot. Most of the town is deserted due to a “flu bug” that is going around. The goo turns out to be blood, ish. It has no red cells and has a compound in it that turns it orange and is corrosive. It seems to eat normal blood. Bodies are found, distorted and with slits in the hands and, eventually, Tate discovers that this compound is mutating the human body causing it to crave blood and the slits in the hands are like leech’s suckers (and specifically mentioned as such in the script). It is full genetic mutation as the substance would corrode normal human flesh.

Jody Medford as HollySoon Josh and teacher (and part time bar maid) Holly (Jody Medford) are, along with the Sheriff, fighting to survive. Strange, to me, that there is (except from the Sheriff) very little use of guns. If I had been Josh I’d have been raiding the nearest gun store and there must have been one.

The creatures (as Tate describes them) are very zombie like but it is blood they are after – with an unusual method of feeding that has been used in some vampire stories creature before hand slits(Morbius had a similar feeding method in the Spider-Man Neogenic nightmare cartoons) but unheard of, to my knowledge, in the zombie genre. They are also very sensitive to light and a point is made that the infected take light bulbs out – note they don’t just smash them they take them out. They sometimes shamble but are, at other times, quite fleet of foot. We see one shot several times and still escape (by jumping out of an upper floor window) and yet other ones are shot and killed successfully. Fire seems to kill them rather well. We should also mention that Tate’s office is raided at one point for its blood stocks, not standard zombie behaviour but something depicted in many vampire films.

New Era dumping chemicalsThe source is a toxic chemical that is being dumped by New Era in mine shafts and chemical toxins creating zombies is a common zombie genre motif. The film doesn’t necessarily think out how the chemical is infecting people, no mention of it seeping into the food chain, the water supply or of gasses escaping is made. We also cannot tell why some are infected and others not – though at least the film recognises that by admitting that it doesn’t know. Why some of the infected are dying and others are alive and dangerous is not tackled but one suspects it has something to do with whether they can get fresh blood or not.

hand through glassThe corrosive nature of the goo means that the creatures have a cool power of being able to push their hands through glass which melts as they touch it, so why doors are good at keeping them at bay is anyone’s guess. The eighties hairdos sported by the brothers are amongst some of the scariest things you’ll see in this movie and that is not to take anything away from the film – they are just really scary.

Bo Hopkins as Sheriff StewartThe film is fairly much a zombie flick but it does borrow liberally from the vampire genre in that these things crave blood and hate light – however it is all light sources and not just sunlight. There is also the nice sub-story of Mrs Mape feeding guests to her turned daughter. A fairly enjoyable (for the price) low expectations zombie flick then, with definite vampiric overtones that place it on the borders of vamp.

The imdb page is here.

No comments: