Ingeniously shot without a big Hollywood budget, MUTATOR is scary, no-frills fun that makes maximum use of its eerie research lab and underground passageway locations and bears favorable comparison with such early sci-fi classics as THE THING and THEM.
Something very mysterious is happening at Tigen Industries. Its disillusioned public relations whiz, Ann Taylor (Carolyn Clark), wants to resign, and CEO Axlerod's (Brian O'Shaughnessy) daughter Jennifer (Embeth Davidtz) has launched a plan to free the animals Tigen scientists experiment on in
their top-secret lab. While animal rights activists picket outside, David Allen (Brion James) receives his employee orientation from two security guards, Murphy (Greg Latter) and the "Professor" (Dennis Smith), who believes the Tigen eggheads have engineered an artificially created monster. He's
As Jennifer and her activist pals Adam (Neil McCarthy) and Tina (Lindsay Orbach) innocently initiate their break-in, Murphy becomes trapped under fallen equipment and Ann Taylor starts hearing strange noises outside her office. When the head of security Travers (Milton Raphael Murrill) informs
his boss of an alarm being activated, Axelrod orders him to contain the problem without calling the police. After Murphy is slaughtered by the monster, the Professor also falls prey when he single-handedly tries reasoning with the creature. After the trio of activists free themselves from a
stalled elevator, and Axelrod arrives to seal off the building with time-locks, Allen reveals that he is a former Tigen researcher; he's returned to rectify his mistakes. Trapped in the building until morning, Allen formulates a plan in which they will locate everyone in the building (including
Jennifer and her friends, whom they've spotted on a monitor) before facing the mutator--mutators, that is.
Although David has taken the precaution of concocting an anti-mutator mix, one of the creatures kills a scientist--causing Tina to panic and become the next victim. While trying to save his daughter Jennifer, Axelrod incinerates himself. Circumnavigating through an underground tunnel system in
order to flee through the city sewers, the survivors forge ahead. Remaining behind, David battles the fiends with chemicals and ingenuity. After everyone has reached the safety of street level, David joins them after setting up an explosion that will blow up the mutators and much of Tigen
Burdened most by the scruffy, non-frightening mutators themselves, MUTATOR wisely avoids showing the creatures too early. Yet, when it finally must unleash the dreaded monsters, they turn out to resemble ferocious, oversized pussycats. If you can overlook that disappointment, you can still get
your pants scared off by the forcefulness of John R. Bowey's direction and the skillfulness of the screenplay, which reveals information in bits and pieces (e.g. by withholding David Allen's true identity).
A rarity among contemporary spookathons which exist solely to slice and dice victims for shock value, MUTATOR creates interesting characters at cross purposes, such as the corporation head's firebrand daughter Jennifer, who opposes her father's unethical practices, the guilt-ridden public
relations woman, and the security guard called the Professor, who's a self-taught expert in genetics. Held rapt by these intelligent characters, we become engrossed in their dilemmas as they struggle fiercely for survival. The lives at stake belong to people we care about. In a standard slasher
flick, characters would merely be roadblocks set up in the monster's path.
Capitalizing on camerawork and lighting that give the research facility a nightmarish quality, director Bowey invests every nook and cranny of this isolated science center with hidden menace. Among the standout set pieces are the unnerving scene in which the animal activists climb out of their
elevator entrapment and the sequence in which the freaked-out Tina runs right into the claws of a mutator.
Bound to elicit shudders from aficionados of mad scientist movies, MUTATOR also incorporates cogent statements about animal rights and big business venality into its fabric. On another level, it examines the plight of employees experiencing a crisis of faith when an employer demands unquestioning
loyalty as part of a job description. A thinking-man's shriek-show, MUTATOR jolts and stimulates--a rare combination in contemporary sci-fi, which usually settles for cheap thrills and gross-outs. (Excessive violence, profanity, adult situations.)
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- Released: 1991
- Rating: R
- Review: Ingeniously shot without a big Hollywood budget, MUTATOR is scary, no-frills fun that makes maximum use of its eerie research lab and underground passageway locations and bears favorable comparison with such early sci-fi classics as THE THING and THEM. S… (more)