Friday, September 28, 2012

Neon + Slime = MUTANT

Mutant (a.k.a. Forbidden World) (1982)
Director: Alan Holzman
Seen via: Shout! Factory DVD (R1)
Rating: 6/10

You might guess from the grinning xenomorph on the poster and the one-word title consisting solely of the name of the monster that Mutant was made to cash in on the popularity of Alien. You'd be right. Mutant is in every way a third-rate barrel-scraping knock-off. But what it lacks in originality (or budget), it makes up for in slime. So much slime. Someone involved with this film knows the way to my heart. Lest you think this is director Alan Holzman's first foray into sci-fi, think again - he's also responsible for editing Battle Beyond the Stars, the film that gave a new (literal) meaning to the word mothership:

Unfortunately, after this one he abandoned the genre in favor of TV movies and documentaries. The set designer however, was a young man named James Cameron, who would go on to direct the sequel to the movie that this one rips off. Okay, so the sets were re-used from another Corman project - Galaxy of Terror - but with this film, you take what you can get.

Mike (played by Jesse Vint, who the eagle-eyed among you might recognize from bit parts in Chinatown and Silent Running) is some sort of space pilot who's awoken by his robot companion SAM when their ship is mysteriously attacked. The space battle that follows is a weird sequence with the same few effects cobbled together repeatedly. It's a pretty good example of how not to edit a coherent space battle, but it ends up being strangely trippy just because of how disjointed it is.


The whos and whys of the battle don't really matter though, because the whole thing is an excuse to get Mike down on the planet Xarbia, where experiments in designing synthetic life-forms are being conducted in hopes of resolving a galactic food crisis. (Although I'd guess if the entire galaxy runs out of food, you're kind of screwed.) Once we're down on the planet, it becomes very clear that we've entered a full-blown Alien rip-off. This thing is growing in the lab:



And it's not surprising that this biological experiment eventually breaks free, given how messy and unkempt the lab is. Now things take off and start to get interesting - the mutant eats people by injecting them with its DNA, and this causes their corpses to slowly dissolve into pure protein that the beast can eat.

While the monster is running amok, Mike is busy getting busy. Not just with one of the girls in the station, but BOTH. One of these scenes occurs with the lab's security guy creepily watching on survellance cameras. Wait - they placed security cameras in the bedrooms? Who thought that was a good idea? Get ready for some neon eighties sex intercut with a sweaty creeper watching intently.

 

Did I mention the slime? There's a glorious amount of it. While the station's occupants are preoccupied with voyuerism and the like, the corpses of those killed by the mutant go through many disgusting stages:


I don't generally like spoiling endings, but this one is too good to not mention. As the mutant gains strength from eating nearly everyone on the station, our heroes get increasingly desperate. So desperate, in fact, that the best solution they can come up with to defeat it is to feed it a cancerous tumor that the scientist, Cal, has been cultivating inside his own body.

To get the tumor, Mike takes the obvious approach and rips the tumor out of Cal's body WITH HIS HANDS. (You can watch this scene here if you don't believe me.) After eating said tumor, the mutant instantly gets cancer and dies. The thing that blows my mind is that there was a scalpel there to perform the initial incision - why the hell did Mike not use it to cut the tumor out instead of ripping it slowly off poor Cal's liver?

You can tell that Holzmann really gave it his best shot with this movie. What the effects lack in quality, they make up for in neon, blood, and slime, which is usually a fair trade-off for me. Nothing in this film calls to mind the word "quality," but there are quite a few entertaining bits. This is exactly the kind of video rental or Saturday afternoon TV matinee that I would have loved as a kid, and I got a certain amount of joy out of it.

Also, there is an abundance of stuff like this:


Goggles, lasers, gore, and cheap creature effects - if any of these things sound appealing to you, this might be worth a look. Just note that the unrated director's cut on the Shout! Factory release (the one tagged "Roger Corman's Cult Classics") is an awful, dim, low-quality VHS rip, complete with glitches. I can't speak to the quality of the theatrical cut, since Netflix didn't send me that disc.

3 comments:

  1. The "Forbidden World" cut was the theatrical version and was released on VHS (where I initially saw it), and "Mutant" was the pre-release director's cut with seven minutes of extra dialogue scenes (mostly comedic stuff).

    I have this on Blu-ray, and it's awesome (the theatrical cut). It's weird watching such a pristine detailed print of a movie like this.

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    1. Thomas - good to know there's a better print out there! I can see how it would be sort of weird though. As poor as the quality was on the VHS rip, it sort of fit with the overall sleazy feeling of the movie.

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