Horror And Sons is operated by just one person. All of the posts and interactions on our Facebook and Instagram accounts, as well as all (well, almost all) of the weekly (well, usually weekly) reviews that appear on our website are written by just one person.
As I am never very sure who actually reads this site, nor how many of you there are, I wanted to put that fact out there just in case anyone reading this was unsure. I mention this fact in the hopes of providing an explanation. You see, while I alone have full control over which topics to review, even I tend to miss themes or patterns in my own writing and/or selection process.
Maybe if I had an editor (a “full time” editor, that is) or some other set of eyes looking over my projects? Maybe then someone would have noticed that this was my third review of the year on a creature generally classified as a “cryptid”. This theme was explored in our earlier reviews for The Flatwoods Monster documentary and the Folktales of the Cryptids comic, both of which were projects that I had backed on Kickstarter.
All that said, our next review is for 1974’s Shriek of the Mutilated (aka Shriek of the Sasquatch or Mutilated), one of the more memorable entries in the smorgasbord of 1970’s “sasquatch run amuck” films. Yet, is it fair to call this a “sasquatch” movie when it is really so much more, and arguably a whole Hell of a lot less? No, it is not fair. Mostly because the creature in question is a yeti.
Professor Ernst Prell is preparing a group of grad students for an expedition to mysterious Boot Island in order to investigate a series of reported Yeti sightings. Not much is said about the island otherwise, nor does it really matter much. Prell advises his students to get some much needed rest as they will be leaving very early the following morning.
Naturally, the professor’s advise is ignored and the majority of the students instead attend a party filled with rock music and mind-altering substances. These substances aren’t really shown, but c’mon… we know that they are there. Not attending the party, however, is promising young student Keith Henshaw (Michael Harris). Keith has accepted an invitation to dine with the professor at a very exclusive restaurant. Prell treats Keith to an order of his favorite meal, a rare dish called “gin sung”. The dish is so rare that it is not actually on the menu and is only available for select clientele.
In a plot contrivance that just will not “fit” for me, one of the school’s greenskeepers and his wife are attending the same party as Prell’s students. The man learns of Prell’s yeti expedition the following morning and becomes visibly disturbed by the thought. He reveals that he was once a student of Prell’s and had accompanied the professor on a similar field trip 7 years prior.
Per his recounting of this fateful trip, the expedition was a success. Well, it was a success in the sense that the creature was indeed encountered. “Unsuccessful” when you consider that every other student involved was violently killed by the creature and the lone survivor left a mentally unstable alcoholic who was only given his current greenskeeping position out of sympathy for what had happened (and presumably a desire not to get sued).
The man is led out of the party and taken home by his embarrassed wife. He attempts to drown away the memories with another bottle of booze, but is stopped by a slap to the face from his wife, who has clearly had enough. Her concerns are repaid with a carving knife. Before finally meeting her end, she delivers one final “shock” to her damaged husband.
Morning arrives and the crew assemble for their journey. Keith’s girlfriend, Karen (Jennifer Stock – Bloodsucking Freaks, God’s Bloody Acre) is part of the team, as is her “cute, but nerdy” friend, Lynn. Rounding out the crew is a brash young man named “Tom” (Jack Neubeck, who also co-starred in 1972’s Invasion of the Blood Farmers). Tom is quite vocal in his belief that the “legend of the yeti” is built on a solid foundation of bullshit, and he uses this skepticism for his own (and occasionally other’s) amusement.
They soon arrive at the bridge separating Boot Island from the mainland. Unlike the bridges leading to most horror cinema locales, this is a solid “stone and iron” bridge in stable condition. However, the only hindrance to keep folks from crossing the bridge is a solitary chain with a “Private Property” sign strung across the entrance. Proving that this is indeed not a deterrent, the chain is quickly moved and Prell and his students drive across the bridge eventually reaching a large cabin located somewhere within this compound.
They are greeted by a colleague of Prell’s, an enigmatic man named Karl. “Karl”, the man, isn’t as much of a mystery as are his frequent ponytail and wide array of collar styles. Whether on not he has any true background in the field of cryptozoology is debatable, but Karl informs the crew that the Yeti is undoubtedly on the island with them.
The professor and his students set up shop at this house, claiming the bedrooms in which they will be staying. They are introduced to a large Indian named Laughing Crow who serves as a handyman around the property. This proves to be a fairly ironic name as the man is actually a mute. It’s also worth pointing out that besides the thin strip of cloth that he wears around his forehead, there’s not much that makes Laughing Crow look very “Indian”.
Karl admits to not having actually seen the creature, only finding its footprints and hearing its noctural howls. He immediately follows this up by telling them the tale of how he spotted the creature watching him from the cover of the woods early one evening. (Yes, you read that correctly.) This story is quite unspectacular as nothing of importance happens. Karl can describe the creature in stunning detail despite his claim to have “not really seen it”. The audience, on the other hand, can see the creature quite clearly and probably shouldn’t.
Prell’s obsession with the creature begins to steadily reveal itself. Karl’s tale has made him that much more determined to find and capture the beast. On film, that is.
Despite Karen hearing the creature’s howls coming from somewhere deep in the woods, the night is quite uneventful. They wake the following morning and begin their trek out into the woods in search of the elusive, and potentially dangerous, yeti. One of the students ventures off from the group and is attacked and killed by the monster. The only thing left behind is a severed leg.
Soon after, another of the crew is killed. Now seemingly hellbent on capturing the creature at all costs, Prell devises a plan to lure and trap the yeti with bait. Human bait. Dead human bait. I hope you see where I am going with this. Just in case you don’t…
Almost unsympathetic to the deaths surrounding him, Prell starts his plan using the severed leg to attract the creature. When that plan disastrously backfires, he then resorts to using whole bodies, much to the disgust and protestations of some of the survivors.
It soon becomes clear that Prell has not been entirely truthful with his students as to the intentions of this expedition. The man’s obsession with the yeti has clearly endangered the lives of those that trusted him, but to what end is he willing to go to validate himself? And does achieving such validation actually matter?
Where Shriek truly stands out from the myriad of sasquatch films produced during the 70’s (and arguably where quite a few start to come unglued) is in the third and final act. At this point, the film takes everything that you’ve seen and throws it out the window, quickly adopting another theme that was also quite popular during for 1970s horror. The film finally concludes with what would normally be a bit of a “downer”, but handles it with equal doses of humor, unease, and dread.
Directed by notorious sexploitation filmmaker Michael Findlay, Shriek of the Mutilated undeniably suffers from poor editing, severe over-acting, a shoddy creature costume, and (in retrospect) laughably out-dated fashions. However, the film somewhat successfully takes the expectations of the then-popular sasquatch sub-genre and turns them on their head, injecting elements and themes from other sub-genres of horror. The final product, while uneven, is impressively ambitious.
There may be a little too much focus on lesser aspects of the plot, such as Karen and Keith’s relationship, and not enough focus developing other characters, but Shriek of the Mutilated is still a fairly enjoyable time-killer.
Shriek of the Mutilated is available on Amazon as part of The Beast Collection.
Great stuff, I love this movie! The alcoholic character’s name is Spencer St. Claire. It’s no coincidence he’s at the party…after the film’s final twist becomes known, we can assume he was sent there by Dr. Prell. After all, if he was part of the earlier expedition, then he knows the truth about Boot Island, and is being left alive in order to perpetuate the legend of the Yeti. Dr. Prell alludes to this when he takes Keith to dinner early in the film, when he tells Keith about how he was ‘disappointed’ by a previous protege. He tried to induct Spencer, but Spencer couldn’t handle it and instead became an alcoholic.
I absolutely love this movie!!
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