Unrated - Cinema of the Extreme

Add Andy Copp to that list of directors prepared to push the envelope of on-screen excess that would seek to exclude all but the most dedicated aficionados of hardcore horror. This feature length debut is by turn: intense, profound, disturbing, allegoric, visionary, and, compulsive viewing despite its on-screen presentation consisting of a heady combination of scratchy 8-mm and 16-mm that often jars the eyes. And it would appear that’s exactly Copp’s intention, for THE MUTILATION MAN, with its industrialised sound (courtesy of Duane Hutchinson and Don Maess), distorted vocals, and surreal depictions of extreme violence in a desolate landscape depict a Hell on earth that resemble the darkest cinematic transgressions of subversive experimentalists Roland Lethem, Otto Muehl, Donald Richie, M. Ogasawara and Y. Matsukawa.

We first encounter nomad Ivan (Terek Puckett) wandering the wastes of Dayton, Ohio, in what could be a futuristic nightmare. In a flashback we see Ivan as a boy (Robert Crellin) digging his own grave (read metaphor) lying in it and then emerging as a screaming adult, as memories of his abusive father (Jim Van Bebber) return to haunt him. Emerging naked, caked in dirt, and bearing horrendous scars (both mental and physical), we follow Ivan across the landscape as he attempts to seek absolution for the sins of his father via cathartic self-mutilation performed as side-show to a band of sadistic disciples, that see him as a dark messiah, and who worship their idol with rituals that include sadomasochistic torture and cannibalism.

As Ivan’s self-inflicted tortures are protracted his exorcism of personal demons take the form of hallucinatory visitations from his former girlfriend (Kristie Bowersock) who tends her crucified Messiah, Magdalene-like. But as this is Hell, her manifestation takes the form of Succubus; a raven-haired Goth, with multiple piercing, tattoos, bondage attire, and a penchant to masturbate at the sight of Ivan’s bloodied scarification.

Preferring purification via pain rather than pleasure, Ivan resists the demonic beauty’s sexual advances, and is immediately embraced by a white angel (Jolie Scott). With the black trinity recognized (father, dark son, and unholy ghost), Ivan is free to shed the fetters of his nightmare past and bring about an end to his tortured existence with a final act of ritualistic redemption.

This film really is bizarre, and operates on several levels of the consciousness. The film’s excessive visuals jolt, and include flesh eating, evisceration, extreme piercing, bondage degradation, rape, the defilement of a woman’s disembowelled corpse, and insert footage of authentic war atrocities. The film also becomes a richer experience upon successive viewing, heightened by Andy Copp’s insightful commentary into the filmmaking process. A plethora of extras including an alternative ending and several cut scenes, make this DVD from Sub Rosa indispensable for viewers of controversial cutting edge cinema.

Carl T. Ford

Directed by Andy Copp

English language
USA / 1999 / 80 minutes

Director’s Commentary
Behind the Scenes Featurette
Music Video
Film Premiere Footage and Introduction by Director Andy Copp
Deleted Scenes
Interview with Kristie Bowersock
Stills Gallery
Experimental Short
Theatrical Trailers

A Sub Rosa DVD Release
All Region / NTSC / Dolby Digital Mono / Widescreen 1.85:1 / 16/9


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