Mutant Blast (2018)

For anyone who has seen Fernando Alle’s short films Papa Wrestling (2009) and Banana Motherfucker (2011) – both outrageously gory schlockfests – it should come as little surprise that his feature debut Mutant Blast has been produced by Troma Entertainment. It even has a cameo appearance from Troma co-founder (and director of The Toxic Avenger, 1984) Lloyd Kaufman as a zombie – although “They are not z***ies, damn it!”, as resistance fighter Maria (Maria Leite) insists, as the film’s very sountrack also censors the word with a bleeping sound. “Technically they are the result of an experiment to create supersoldiers.” The breakout of these infectious, flesh-eating creatures from their military lab at the beginning of Mutant Blast coincides with Maria’s rescue of the military’s only successful Test Subject, the musclebound 347 (Joaquim Guerreiro), and leads to an overnight collapse of society.

As Maria flees across a devastated Lisbon towards her group’s island base, picking up confused party guy Pedro (Pedro Barão Dias) along the way, worse will happen yet. An accidental retaliatory nuclear strike will cause absurd mutations (extra ears, eyes or arms, a hand being replaced with the head and upper torso of a killer rat, gigantism) in all survivors, human or otherwise – and ‘psychopathic’ failed Test Subject 504 (also played by Guerreiro) is sent in pursuit, bloodily mutilating and murdering anybody who gets in his way. What follows is a bizarre clash between human and (not) ‘z***ies’, between humans and enlarged animals, between humans and war machines, and between outsized romantic French lobster-in-a-tuxedo Jean-Pierre (João Vilas) and a ‘motherfucker’ katana-wielding dolphin in jeans and hoodie. 

Mutant Blast is silly, surreal and ridiculously violent, with dick gags and jokes about bodily functions sitting alongside outlandish mutations and acts of eye-popping corporeal destruction. The grotesque dismemberments and decapitations, the gushing geysers of blood and the cheaply (and practically) realised hybrid creatures are no less reminiscent of the Japanese splattercore genre associated with Yoshihiro Nishimura (Tokyo Gore Police, 2008; Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl, 2009) and Noboru Iguchi (The Machine Girl, 2008; Dead Sushi, 2012) than of Troma. 

“This is not a videogame for you to fulfil your post-apocalyptic fantasies,” Maria tells Pedro. “This is real. You could die, or worse.” In one sense, she seems mistaken – for this is exactly like a mannered videogame, with its dramatisations of the effects of nuclear strikes and nuclear fallout removed entirely from realism. Yet there is nonetheless a kind of reality underlying the absurdities of Mutant Blast. For every disaster here is caused by human error, and more specifically by the errors of the military mindset – even as genteel crustacean Jean-Pierre, who has evidently escaped a restaurant’s display tank, rails against the irreversible damage that humans, in their hubris, have wrought upon the world. When, near the end of the film, Pedro joins Maria and the multi-armed Carlos (Mário Oliveira) on the shore for a cigarette, Maria says, “You know this causes cancer, right?” – to which they all laugh, and continue smoking. That human drive towards self-destruction is the film’s principal theme, and is unequivocally reinforced by the bunkered mid-credits coda. It’s a blast alright, and you could die – laughing.

© Anton Bitel