“Welcome to the Garden of Eden. We play God here.”
Roger Corman: he started in the Fifties, making crude but interesting SF and Horror films for next to nothing. In the Sixties, he moved into far more polished (and expensive) Gothic Horror films. In the Seventies, he moved away from directing, instead producing a wide range of very different films, many of them quite good. And in the Eighties?…
Welcome to the land of cheap exploitation horror!
This is a very familiar film…at least in parts. It starts with a space battle stolen from Battle Beyond the Stars, and the sets (designed by James Cameron, of all people) were mostly borrowed from Galaxy of Terror.
However, this is not aimed at the same audience as Battle Beyond the Stars. That one, despite a certain amount of innuendo, was intended for the same general audience that Star Wars drew.
This one is “R” rated.
And not only do we have copious quantities of gore on hand (notably the slimy, mutating corpses), as we’d expect from an Alien ripoff, but we also get quite a few (literally) steamy scenes, including a lengthy sex scene, a nude steam bath (which isn’t quite as long) and an important dialogue scene while the two main female characters take a lengthy “shower” together.
For all that Mutant is firmly in the “cheap Alien knock off” mode, it actually has an interesting idea or two running around in there somewhere, including the hybrid creature’s origin, its method of…”food preparation,” the uncomfortable relationship it shares with the lead scientist, and the rather icky way they defeat it. It’s particularly notable that the creature’s apparent Xenomorph-style birth is only hinted at and never shown, which is actually an interesting change-up on a familiar pattern..
And it saved them a lot of effects money.
However, it also has a hero who is the sort of freewheeling troubleshooter character who had largely vanished by the Eighties (well, except in Italian films. But that hardly counts). Nor do we have the tough, female lead in the Ripley vein who has become pretty much standard these days. Heck, this was made the same year as The Thing, so we don’t even get the cliched “black guy with a flame thrower.”
It almost seems old fashioned if you think about it.
However, the “flash forward” sequence at the beginning of the film, showing a jumble of images from the film, and the corresponding “flashback” sequence at the end do not make a whole lot of sense. One might explain the first as a dream while in hypersleep, but the other?…
If the “flashback” is meant to be the hero suddenly realizing his dream came true, you think he might have noticed these familiar things happening all along: …that’s funny, didn’t I dream that?…
As the flashback didn’t end up with him back in his ship and waking up from his dream only to have the events of the film repeat themselves à la Invaders from Mars, my best bet is that they needed another four or five minutes of something to fill out their runtime.
But, hey, that’s just a guess.
Oh, well. You’ve got the general idea: sex, nudity, gore, action, creature violence, two different versions of the “you’re so much wiser than we are” moment in the original The Thing From Another World, lots of heroics, and a Hail Mary pass of an ending. It’s better than it deserves to be: Maybe Roger was still trying to put that little extra something in his films that isn’t in the latest made-for-SyFy Crocosaurus sequel. It even shows sparks of imagination here and there. You might not want to admit that you like it in public, but it should be just fine for a midnight movie.
Which is about all you can say about a movie like this.
A TO Z REVIEWS