Between making a series of infamous sexploitation films with his wife Roberta and his death by decapitation in a helicopter accident Michael Findlay directed two notorious 70s grindhouse horror films, Snuff and Shriek of the Mutilated. And while everybody and their brother has written about Snuff, Shriek doesn’t get the attention it deserves, especially when you consider that it was written by Ed Adlum and Ed Kelleher. They wrote another 42nd Street favourite, Invasion of the Blood Farmers, and Keller would later write a couple of Roberta Findley’s horror films, Lurkers and Prime Evil.
Shriek of the Mutilated starts with a shot of a woman being decapitated and her head floating in a swimming pool followed by strange black and white footage of a Yeti rather literally choking the chicken accompanying the opening credits. It only gets weirder from there.
Dr. Ernst Prell (Alan Brock) is taking four of his students Keith (Michael Harris), Karen (Jennifer Stock, Bloodsucking Freaks, God’s Bloody Acre), Lynn (Darcy Brown, Diary of a Swinger, Bacchanale), and Tom (Jack Neubeck, Invasion of the Blood Farmers) on an expedition to Boot Island in search of the Yeti. The night before they leave they run into Spencer (Tom Grail) at a party. He tells them that he went on an expedition with Prell years ago and they were the only survivors, the rest were killed and eaten by the Yeti.
This does nothing to dampen their enthusiasm, though it might have if they knew that after the party Spencer went home and slit his wife’s throat. He does such a poor job that she’s able to drop a toaster in his bath by way of revenge. Like the opening decapitation, this seems to have been stuck in just to up the film’s body count.
Once on the island, our intrepid explorers meet their hosts Dr. Werner (Tawm Ellis) and his Native American servant Laughing Crow (Ivan Agar, Behind Locked Doors, La Contradicta). And not long after they begin to meet their bloody demise.
Actually, despite its reputation as a gore film, Shriek of the Mutilated takes a while to get down to business. The opening decapitation is actually bloodless and the death of Spencer and his wife settles for simply showing some red paint pretending to be blood. It’s nearly an hour into the film before we get anything that could be called gory. And that shot, along with the film’s title and plot were all it took in the pre internet and VHS era. There are some decent corpse makeups and a head in a bed, but even by the standards of its time, it’s a rather tame film.
As for the Yeti, why they insist on calling it that and not Sasquatch or Bigfoot is beyond me, it’s anything but scary. It looks like a sheepdog costume meant for a furry convention. Only walking on two feet and with dollar store fangs. They would have been better just using a gorilla costume. I do give the filmmakers credit for ingenuity when it comes to depicting a blizzard by printing the film in an extreme white tint. Despite being able to see the grass and leaves on the ground it’s still more effective than the spray painted sand dunes in Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell.
Plotwise, Shriek of the Mutilated isn’t anything special and spoiled its big reveal right on the original poster. Even if it hadn’t, you would be able to guess within the first fifteen or so minutes just where everything is heading. That’s just one of several legitimitly good ideas worked into the script, but the filmmakers lacked the budget and talent to properly execute them.
For lovers of these kinds of films, there is still quite a bit of fun to be found in Shriek of the Mutilated. From references to Scooby Doo, the van with its flower decals and Lynn’s oversized glasses, to the overripe dialogue. And wtf moments like when everyone acts as if Karen is crazy for not wanting to bait a trap with one of her friend’s body. As for the acting, there’s a reason this is the only credit for most of the cast. In particular, the obviously Caucasian Agar’s mugging as the mute Laughing Crow will either have you either laughing or offended.
This is a film that really deserves two ratings. Bad movie fans and those interested in the history of the grindhouses, I’m both, will enjoy this for its cheesiness, the filmmakers involved and its influence on more recent films such as Ditched and Hoax. Those with more conventional tastes will probably get more fun out of Shriek of the Mutilated by going all MST3K on it. I’m giving it three stars, you can adjust that suit your tastes.
Shriek of the Mutilated is available on Digital platforms including Tubi as well as in a restored version on Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome.