Shriek of the Mutilated Is My New Comfort Viewing

Posted: November 28, 2022 in Uncategorized

“Delightful” was not the word I expected to come to mind when finally watching Shriek of the Mutilated (1974), but here we are. Apart from having one of the Greatest Titles Ever, this offering from the notorious exploitation team of Michael and Roberta Findlay is about as perfect a bundle of drive-in/grindhouse schlock as one could wish for.

I first ran across the title some 30 years ago, and its spectacular luridness made my younger self rather frightened to think about the film that lurked behind that title. The reality is considerably more harmless than I had once imagined, and also a lot more fun.

The restored blu-ray is on offer from Vinegar Syndrome, incidentally, is a thing of beauty, but my first viewing came via a DVD sourced from a perfectly watchable but rather scratched and battered print (complete with an awkward reel change). I’m glad that was my first experience. It felt even more authentic, more true to how it likely would have looked had I actually caught in in 1974.

There’s a bit of everything here: cheesy gore effects, performances pitched to the back of the stadium, ranting monologues, and plenty of WTF. And the score! Oh, the score! Not only do we get Hot Butter’s version of “Popcorn,” but much of the latter part of the film uses classical library music that adds bizarre majesty to the silly goings on, especially once Berlioz and the “Dies Irae” kick in. And Roberta Findlay’s cinematography lends gives the film a wonderful autumnal atmosphere.

Some fairly well-known spoilers follow.

The plot has a group of students and their professor on the hunt for a Yeti (a seriously lost yeti, since it has managed to wander from the Himalayas to New York’s Hudson Valley). Mutilations and shrieks ensue. This would nominally place Shriek in the company of the likes of The Legend of Boggy Creek and other Yeti/Sasquatch films. And we get a (very slightly) better look at the monster than we do in many of those films.

However, the Yeti turns out to be a costume. So we get a boo-hiss Scooby-Do reveal and no monster.

However, the monster story was concocted not by some nefarious property developer or the like, but instead by a cannibalistic Satanic cult, going by the truly wonderful monicker of “les gens du doigt” (“People of the Finger”). This ending is telegraphed by the pre-credits moment of a mysterious, ritualistic decapitation and plenty of nudge-nudge moments about a “specialty” meat dish, so it doesn’t feel like a cheat. Hell, the poster gives the game away. (And its image is a perfect recreation of a moment from the film, making this one of the most truthful poster ever.)

And since what we get instead of a monster is something even darker, nastier, and bleaker (with a vicious streak of black humour), this is one case where I’ll allow the Scooby twist.

In case it wasn’t clear, I love this film.

It’s gone on the list of films I turn to when I want to feel cozy.


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