“You can’t be groovy if you’re retarded.”
While this is the first Dire Wit film I’ve seen, I don’t believe it would be inaccurate to suggest that sensitivity, political correctness, and just plain old good taste have much of a place in their aesthetic spectrum. So: despite a risk of castigation for insensitivity and a lack of political correctness, I feel I have to engage with the above quote from Mutantis, and politely disagree – this bastard child of Ed Wood and cheap Italo-horror films is most definitely retarded, and yet it still grooves as hard as Bootsy Collin’s star guitar.
Mutantis follows the ethically challenged Father Joy who takes his group of groovy drug and free-loving step children out to Possum Valley, ostensibly for an innocent camping trip. Father Joy, however, has other plans: he’s got a thing for one of his step-daughters; also, he’s hunting Bigfoot. There have been rumors of a mutant beast roaming Possum Valley – a forested valley that houses a toxic waste dump, a haunted Native American burial ground, and a toothless witchy vagrant woman with a love of providing oral favours – and Father Joy believes this creature is the famed shaggy monster rather than anything nuclear in origin. Father Joy and the kids soon discover that no gentle Bigfoot is roaming the woods. The hunters become the hunted as the sexually voracious Mutantis stalks and attempts to rape and murder anyone that ventures near it’s bower in Possum Valley.
Mutantis is a film that doesn’t just flirt with bad taste, it frolics and revels in it like some kind of BO, patchouli, and weed-scented bad taste hippy in a bad taste summer of love. We’ve got extensive monster rape, a creepy step-dad that could use a good sit down with Chris Hansen, a caricature Native American who does the hand-whooping and talks in a somber, stilted voice, and between scene wipes, we’re treated to a shot of an ample bare bosom as though the film was recorded on a VHS palimpsest of old late night porn. So keep that in mind when I say that the film is also pretty hilarious and entertaining. The DIY dollar store aesthetic is kind of charming, the Ed Wood-like exposition-spouting narrator has some great lines (“Space. The earth. Scientists say that life on earth could go on forever. But they also say that even though monsters don’t exist, one day they could. And on that day, we may all be in danger.”), and the film gives us some pretty inventive kills. It also embraces it’s limitations – I particularly enjoyed a scene where the heroic, revenge-bent Dr. Fury announces that the mountains are too steep to climb, and the camera pans to show us a landscape that clearly has no mountains.
Director Kelly Fitzgerald and crew do his best with the no budget, and their best here is actually quite a bit. Although the costumes are admittedly ridiculous and the monster’s paper mache form isn’t exactly terrifying, the film is imbued with a great grindhouse aesthetic. Believe it or not, at times it can look quite striking. Writer Mark Leake delivers some good laughs, particularly near the end, and some funny characters and situations, although it’s all a little messy. It’s hard to judge the acting and writing here when the crew is setting out to deliver a deliberate homage to enjoyably bad films, other than to say that with Mutantis, they’ve certainly succeeded.
This is a film in love with trash cinema and with filmmaking in general, and that love shows. Yes, it’s cheap; yes, it’s trash; Mutantis bears those qualities proudly. If you like your films fun and bizarre, look no further and let yourself fall in with Dire Wit’s groove. Unless you’re just too establishment for the vibe, man.