So yesterday I was holding forth about horror hosts. This got me all nostalgic for some of the stuff I saw on Chiller Theater as a kid. For reasons I can’t explain, the title that kinda leapt to the forefront of my less than intact memory was Shriek Of The Mutilated. This movie freaked me right the fuck out when I was a kid, so I thought a revisit was in order.
The fun starts in a university lecture hall where Dr. Ernst Prell is prepping his students on the field trip/mission they are undertaking the next day. What are they doing? Looking for a yeti. As he dismisses them, he stops one member, Keith, and invites him to dinner at a special restaurant that boasts “a rather exclusive and very unique clientele.” Remember that for later.
We cut immediately to a party in someone’s apartment. Of note here: A) the song “Popcorn” by Hot Butter, 2) a man poking a woman’s breast as he talks to her, and D) another guy trying to look up a woman’s skirt as she bends over. Ah yes, the 70s.
Anyway, this couple shows up, the St. Clairs. It turns the husband, Spencer, was on a similar expedition with Prell 7 years previous then came home and went kinda nuts. Rather then fire him, the dean gave him a job with the maintenance department. One of Prell’s current students, Lynn, hears all this, and goes to talk to him, saying she’s studying under Prell, and they’re going on a field trip the next day.
Spencer gets upset and says, “They said there would be no more field trips!” Then his wife attempts to calm him down. This is followed by some klunky exposition in the form of a fairly wooden monologue about his experience. At home later, they argue, and he slits her throat with a bread knife, but apparently not well enough.
She crawls into the bathroom where he’s soaking in the tub washing blood off his shirt. Interesting that she’s not trailing blood anywhere. Her final act is to throw a plugged in toaster into the tub. It’s unclear whether she managed to heave herself off the floor to plug it in some place or if it just has a super long cord.
It’s worth pointing out here that there are some breathtaking moments in cinematography scattered throughout the movie. Some I mentioned above, and here’s another. After Spencer gets zapped by his wife, there’s a cut to…wait for it…the tub faucet! Hitchcock ain’t got nothin’ on Michael Findlay. Okay, to be fair, Hitchcock had way bigger budgets. But still. And if Findlay sounds familiar, he’d go on to create a good deal of controversy with Snuff (1976).
And just like that, our adventurers start out the next morning: Prell, Tom, Lynn, Keith, and his girlfriend Karen. They arrive at the home of Prell’s friend/colleague Dr. Karl Werner. Pleasantries are exchanged. Dinner is eaten. The sun rises, and everyone goes traipsing into the woods. Given their quarry and the time of year, it’s worth noting you don’t see flake one of snow. Also, for a cryptid search, the gang is on some awfully well established/maintained trails.
By now it’s been over 20 minutes since the bread knife/toaster incident, so let’s meet The Big Bad. It jumps out and attacks Tom and is every bit as frightening as you’d expect a man-sized Ewok to be. When Tom fails to return, they go looking for him the next day only for Karen to get a, uh, leg up on the group by finding one of Tom’s.
I’m gonna fast track the rest of this and get to the, for reasons that will be mildly humorous in a minute, meat & potatoes of this whole thing. At this point, if you want to experience The Big Reveal on your own, you should stop reading. See, the whole thing is actually a big ruse in order to lure victims to the annual meeting of what turns out to be your garden variety anthropophagistic Satanic death cult.
Yup. Remember that “rather exclusive and very unique clientele?” Well, come for the cryptid; stay for the cannibals. Seems this zany band gets together every year for a special dinner, special in the sense that the main course can’t be assaulted in any way, but has to be frightened to death. Hence the fake yeti which conveniently doubles as an explanation for people’s disappearances.
There’s no doubt that this movie is bad. It’s rated R, but from a gore standpoint, who knows why cuz there ain’t none. Nobody gets mutilated either, so the title is just a big fat lie. Okay, Lynn and Karen let out some decent yelps, but these are hardly the shrieks of the mutilated, or at least, the not mutilated yet-i. In fact, one of Lynn’s screams is heard off in the woods by Prell, Keith, and Karen, but somehow not by Dr. Werner who’s close by at the time. I’m no physicist, but…
Also, I’m not sure where they found music for the score. I imagine it’s something they didn’t need to license. The point is it’s pretty awful and entirely mismatched with the action to the point that it becomes distracting.
And yet, there’s a kind of sick charm to this movie. The idea for the story, while poorly executed, is certainly beyond the pale. Maybe that’s what earns it the R rating. Sure is hell wasn’t violence, gore, sex, drugs, or nudity. Oh, and the very end is one of the worst and therefore best throwaway gags ever: “Mr. Henshaw. White meat or dark?”
SKULLS- 12 (I mean, it’s just gotta be experienced)
Armadillo Alert- 23 minutes (A new feature. You don’t see a lot of armadillos in horror movies, or really any movies, so I consider it kind of an event when one shows up. Therefore, strictly for you amusement and bemusement, I’ll let you know when to expect it)