On first glance, horror and wrestling make strange bedfellows; one offers catharsis through bloodshed and plot twists and the other…okay, scratch that. They pretty much trigger the same responses in the viewer, which is harmless fun. So where are all the wrestling themed horror flicks, or vice versa? Well now thanks to Intervision Picture Corporation, we have one – Masked Mutilator, a film that sat in a cool dry basement for 25 years before being unearthed, polished up, and released in a slammin’ new Blu with tons of extras.
Yes, the film was shot in 1994 and not released until now; it’s not a matter of embarrassment on the filmmakers’ behalf, but rather that old chestnut of lack of completion funds that kept it shelf bound for so long. Luckily executive producer Dale Schneck had the reels in his cellar, and reached out to a local university to help transfer the 16mm prints and create a wraparound to tie the footage together. And guess what? It works. Well, enough anyway; the performances by a group of mostly non-actors and athletes are rough, but there’s an energy and can-do spirit to Masked Mutilator that can’t be denied.
We actually start in the world of wrestling, as Vic Mangino, aka The Masked Mutilator (Jeff Sibbach) accidentally kills an opponent in the ring. Flash forward several years, and Vic is running a home for troublesome teens (or rather twenty-somethings), with one could say, an inordinate amount of tough love. Not only will he put them in a headlock when they get out of line, but he has a room on the property called “the cell” as a solitary confinement. Into this mix steps Steve Carson (Brick Bronsky, aka director Jeffrey Beltzner), a beefy college graduate who wants to study Mangino’s methods.
Steve and Vic don’t mix; Carson doesn’t agree with Mangino’s curriculum, but they’ve got a more serious problem – someone is wearing Vic’s Mutilator mask and offing the kids one by one. Could Vic be back to his homicidal ways, or is the killer looking to frame him for the deaths?
Masked Mutilator’s story is standard issue, slasher division; a prologue to set the tale in motion, kills, an explanation for said killings, and an excitable finale. The new wraparound does fill in some plot holes missing from the original footage and helps hold the film together; setting it in the peripheral world of wrestling (or at least a beholden aura of it) is different though, and makes it somewhat unique.
I say somewhat, because like many of its brethren from (mostly) the ‘80s, Masked Mutilator falls short in direction, dialogue and acting. What it does bring though is a new psychopath look beyond the standard wear and a couple of fresher deaths. Our boy is fond of pugilism and head smashing, to say the least. And the effects are pulled off sparingly but with aplomb; blood flows when necessary to still qualify as an entry in the sub-genre. The ending twists itself even more by breaking out some hand to hand combat that works due to the wrestling background of several of the actors.
So, Masked Mutilator is a scrappy little effort that is different enough to warrant the viewer’s attention, and Intervision has made sure to give you all the info (and then some) on this find:
Fun extras all around, and as most of the main cast also held onto various hats during production, informative throughout; my favorite piece is with co-writer/executive producer Dale Schneck, who recounts how, with enthusiastic assistance from a local college, he was able to finally bring life to a long forgotten project.
I guess horror and wrestling do go together; at least well enough that a group of enthusiastic film junkies fought to bring their love of two contact sports to screens, and show that eagerness to good effect even 25 years after the count.
Movie Score: 3/5, Disc Score: 4/5