(a.k.a. Night Shadows) (1984)
Directed by John "Bud" Cardos

Artistic Value: * ½
Entertainment Value: * * ½

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Josh (Wings Hauser) and his younger brother Mike (Lee Montgomery) find themselves stranded in a small Southern town. Within a short time, Mike has disappeared and Josh, helped by an alcoholic sheriff (Bo Hopkins), a resident doctor (Jennifer Warren), and a sexy schoolteacher (Jody Medford), learns that many of the locals have been transformed by toxic waste into bloodsucking killer zombies.

John "Bud" Cardos' Mutant may be a bad movie, but it is never truly atrocious, and, while it does plagiarize George Romero's Night of the Living Dead and Dan O'Bannon's Return of the Living Dead, it still manages to be entertaining.


The story the director tells is largely predictable, but it is filled with so many eccentric details, including gangs of sadistic rednecks, a friendly old woman who is keeping something very nasty in her cellar, hordes of undead children, a completely pointless and awkward romance, and so on and so on, that it is able to retain the viewer's interest throughout its duration. What is more, as foreseeable as most of the story is, it is punctuated by a few wildly arbitrary occurrences. At one point, for example, when the sheriff saves the protagonists from being killed by knife wielding hillbillies, he merely verbally reprimands those assailants and then sends them home, thereby ensuring that they will be available for further shenanigans. Fortunately, such preposterous elements actually add the movie's weird appeal.

Mutant does not, however, generally descend to such depths that it is often entertaining because of the incompetence that went into the making of it. The acting is frequently stiff, but it is rarely so inept that it is painful to watch. The action sequences are more forgettable than anything else, although a few are enjoyable. In one, for instance, the viewer is provided with the opportunity to see Josh kicking at a group of zombie children, and, in another, he is treated to the sight of an army of local policemen slaughtering dozens of the reanimated villains.


Actually, these lumbering, murderous cadavers are themselves occasionally amusing. They may stagger about and clumsily assault their victims in the ways the zombies found in several other similar movies do, but their pleasant powder blue complexions, the quaint, stigmata-like cuts on their palms that ooze yellow pus-like blood, and the lumps that grow and recede under their skin, like mice frantically having sex under the cover of a sheet, give them a definite goofy charm. Although they are unlikely to make a deep impression on the moviegoer, they may make him smile from time to time.

There really is not much in Mutant for which it can complimented, but it is usually entertaining. It may be entirely unmemorable, but watching it is not a complete waste of time.

Review by Keith Allen

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