Intervision: Masked Mutilator (2019) - Reviewed

Masked Mutilator is another one of those incomplete movies ala The Other Side of the Wind or Gone with the Pope where recent efforts were made to take the surviving footage in the film cans from years prior and bring the picture towards some semblance of completion.  In the case of Masked Mutilator, an early combination of wrestling and the horror film featuring real professional wrestlers in the cast, the film began production on and off in 1994 as a 16mm project which was shut down, resurrected once more in 1996 before being abandoned with some elements being lost to time entirely. 

Circa 2019, some twenty-five years later, Severin Films and their subsidiary Intervision reunited with one of the film’s original stars and using new narrative bookends involving a modern day crime podcast have brought the unfinished wrestling horror film to the finish line.  The question at the end of all this effort is whether or not this proto wrestling-horror movie will live up to expectations of fans of this cobbled together genre hybrid or whether or not the dailies should have been left in the cans.

Directed by and starring Brick Bronsky (billed as Jeff Beltzner), the film flashes back to an infamous wrestling match featuring wrestler Vic (Jeff Sibbach) named the Masked Mutilator which left his opponent dead in the ring.  Years later, we find Vic working in a group home for juvenile delinquents, made up of the cannon fodder characters usually gathered together for a slasher horror flick.  Soon someone donning a wrestling mask begins murdering the residents of the group home with all suspicions pointing at Vic. 

Despite being billed as a wrestling horror movie, there’s not a whole lot in the way of the sports entertainment profession on display in this.  Save for the opening homicidal wrestling match, the film mostly serves up cool deaths and dismemberment of the wrestlers-turned-actors outside of the ring.  While we get some recognizable choke holds, body slams and some wild roundhouse kicks, actual wrestling as a horror element is rarely explored here.  The cast of character actors are a bit rusty but as such are secondary to the beefed up wrestlers in the cast.  Mostly this plays like Friday the 13th if Jason Voorhees wrestled on occasion.

Given the nature of this production, picture quality varies significantly in between shots with some newly shot scenes in crisp high-definition, gritty 16mm and even grittier surviving VHS footage of lost 16mm elements, Masked Mutilator is a bit of a smorgasbord visually.  The 16mm footage itself, while relatively well photographed by Scott Barkman, was clearly designed for fullscreen presentation before being cropped and reframed to conform with the newly shot footage, resulting in some awkward clipping and unnaturally tight headroom.

Sonically, much of what’s on the soundtrack consists of production audio which sounds mostly crisp but grows raspy and scratchy at other times with only the film’s newly rendered electronic soundtrack by Fabrizio Bondi sounding modern.  For the most part it sounds fine but by now if you’ve read this far, you should go into this knowing this production isn’t going to look or sound the best.  That said, the footage and audio is in far better shape than, say, the moldy prints used to make the Massacre Video release of The Devil.

An odd duck in the horror subgenre with even stranger loose connections to the wrestling profession, Masked Mutilator is not a particularly good movie but as such remains for fans of horror and wrestling a curious hybrid we’re unlikely to see manifest itself again anytime soon.  Its also very short, just barely running over seventy minutes.  Fans of old-school independent VHS or 16mm horror will find much to enjoy here while those looking to be scared or thrilled will likely come away bored and underwhelmed.  As for myself I enjoyed it but present this review as a warning to temper your expectations if you feel like trying this pair of bloodied wrestling boots on.

--Andrew Kotwicki