Hey! Low budget production companies! Be more like Dire Wit Films.
Yes, my relationship with Dire Wit goes back quite a few years. I recall seeing ads for their Italian cannibal movie spoof ISLE OF THE DAMNED in the back pages of my favorite film magazines, and I quickly devoured it once my local cult rental place (R.I.P. Have You Seen) got a copy. It was wild, crude, unpolished and often riotously funny, and I wrote about it on my personal blog when that was still a thing people did. Once I got this No-Budget Nightmares gig, the friendly folks at Dire Wit were some of the first people I approached to interview, and we maintained a relationship going forward. They were even nice enough to send me a pre-release version of their most recent film 7TH DAY to gauge my feedback on it.
So, yeah. I’m a fan. And I was unreasonably excited for their latest film MUTANTIS, which promised to do for ‘MAN AGAINST NATURE’ monster films what the group had previously done for cannibal movies. But this time around the film isn’t helmed by pseudonymous director Antonello Giallo (actually Mark Leake on their first film, PLEASURES OF THE DAMNED, and Mark Colegrove on ISLE OF THE DAMNED), but instead by Kelly Fitzgerald, who was the assistant director on ISLE. I had some concerns that the post-dubbed, outrageous style of their previous films might be abandoned; particularly after the more serious tone of 7TH DAY.
I needn’t have worried. While monster cinema doesn’t quite bring to mind the cliches of ’70s European cinema as well as those earlier films, the group still decides to double-down on all of the usual throwback tropes; and it’s all the better for it. The violence is cartoonish, the wigs are awful, and the dialogue is either delivered as dramatically as Shakespeare, or whispered in a monotone. Mercifully, they’ve decided against adding a bunch of fake film damage (a personal pet peeve), and instead have included some deliberately clunky reel changes and frame edits — usually accompanied by some bare breasts, which eases the pain significantly. They’ve also effectively used some filters to enhance the washed out appearance of the (digital) image and effectively emulate the look of celluloid.
The plot is rather perfunctory, but certainly bizarre. Scientist Father Joy (Steve Hobart, wearing what is likely the worst looking wig in the history of cinema) takes his children to the woods under the guise of a camping trip, but actually plans to use the three to help lure a Sasquatch(!) which he’ll presumably use to get rich and famous. Instead, the group runs afoul of the horrific MUTANTIS, who has lobster like claws, a bird-like beak and both male and female genitalia. The creature goes wild; attacking and copulating with anyone who gets in its path, and it’s up to the scientist’s oversexed kids — with the help of adventurer Dr. William Fury — to put an end to the monster’s violent rampage.
While I would normally be upset by a Sasquatch bait-and-switch, it’s difficult to get too peeved when you’re presented with a creature of such majesty and economy of design. The result of an unholy sexual union, Mutantis might be mostly paper mache, but he’s all heart. He’s also a vicious killing machine, and dispatches the denizens of the woods in a variety of unique, goopy ways that become more outrageous as the film progresses. While the sexual nature of his attacks will likely turn some audience members off, Dire Wit are equal opportunity offenders. Sex (and, for that matter, rape) becomes part of their bad-taste stew, and they make no apologies for the rainbow of bodily fluids that splatter, spew and drip across your screen.
This celebration of bad-taste does have a purpose, however. You see, the film isn’t just framed as a throwback exploitation film, but also as one moralizing on the dangers of free-love, drugs and communism. Occasionally the film will pause for random, BLOOD FREAK-esque interjections from a basement-dwelling narrator, reinforcing some of the lessons being learned by the characters. It’s a ridiculous addition, but one that just adds to the anything-goes atmosphere that the creators revel in. The humor is far from sophisticated, but will delight fans who demand their entertainment be as low-brow as possible.
Another preposterous success from one of my favorite low-budget production companies, MUTANTIS builds to a frantic crescendo of sex,violence and gender-bending mutual incestuous masturbation. While Dire Wit Films have a history of spinning straw into gold, this might be a new height in their admirable ability to make limitations into assets, and other low-budget productions could learn a thing or two from their commitment to risk-taking. Reckless, offensive, and fucking nuts, MUTANTIS delivers the goods.
Two Nightmares out of Five =Shocking Success
One Nightmare – No-Budget Perfection, Two Nightmares – Shocking Success, Three Nightmares – Shows Potential, Four Nightmares – Not Much Fun, Five Nightmares – Please Kill Me
- [NO-BUDGET NIGHTMARES] PODCAST #80: PLAGA ZOMBIE (1997) - July 25, 2016