Not to be confused with yesterday’s review, Mutation on Mars, The Mutation is the latest film by prolific writer/director/producer Scott Jeffrey (Hatched, Bats). Just how prolific is he? This is the fourteenth film he’s directed since 2018. As a producer, he has enough credits that I could review nothing but his films for nearly the next three months. The result is a filmography that ranges from entertaining to abysmal, where does The Mutation fit in?
Peter (Nick Danan) is doing research in his lab out in the guest house. We can tell it’s serious research because there’s a container of uranium isotopes on his desk and a big furry thing (Derek Nelson, A Werewolf in England, Pandamonium) in a cage. A big furry thing that gets loose and kills him. Meanwhile, Allen (Ricardo Freitas, Medusa, Hellcat) is in the midst of getting dumped by his wife when he and his assistant Julie (Abi Casson Thompson, The Candy Witch) are called out by the police. They’ve found a body that looks like it’s been attacked by some kind of large animal.
The Mutation has a plot that is pure cheese as Allen is caught between Peter’s widow Linda (Amanda-Jade Tyler, Witches of Amityville Academy, Amityville Scarecrow) and the cops led by hardass Norton (Jamie Robertson, Conjuring the Genie) who warns him to think with the head on his shoulders. Meanwhile, the creature is thinking with its stomach, killing and eating people at an alarming pace.
Peter was injecting the rat with a mix of anabolic steroids and uranium isotopes resulting in a creature that looks more like a werewolf than a giant rodent. But it is a man in a suit rather than CGI for most of the film, and Derek Nelson does a good job of bringing it to life. In its final form, however, the mutation transforms into this giant, hairless thing that looks more like an entry-level kaiju than a mutant rat. It is CGI rendered and while still not looking particularly good is more convincing than Dinosaur Hotel. The gore on the other hand is almost all practical and for the most part, well done.
With loads of atmospherically lit night shots and a plot that never takes itself too seriously, The Mutation has the feel of some of Full Moon’s better 80’s and early 90’s films. The rat costume especially looks like it came from their costume department.
While many of Jeffrey’s films have a bit of action at the start and end with endless talk in between he avoids that trap here. The Mutation is peppered with attacks that keep the film from bogging down and viewers from hitting fast forward. He does save the best for last with the restaurant rampage which ends with a surprisingly graphic, for Jeffery, disembowelment and a climactic battle against the creature in both of its forms. Along with loads of action, The Mutation’s climax features an amusing use of one of the most common criticisms of films like this that made me smile.
An early appearance by a North American-style police car and speculation that Peter was killed by a bear did have me worried that The Mutation would be another film with British actors using bad US accents. But there’s never any mention of where it’s set or attempts at sounding anything but British. And you clearly see UK plates on the car during the attack at the garage.
The Mutation is the kind of enjoyably bloody monster movie we all love, but so rarely get. And after so many misfires it’s good to see Jeffery both as a director and a producer deliver good films on at least a semi-regular basis. Hopefully, that trend will continue.
The Mutation will be available on DVD and Digital October 5 from Uncork’d Entertainment. You can check their Facebook page for more information.