Mark Rosman started his directing career with The House On Sorority Row before working with Hillary Duff on Lizzie McGuire and directing two of her films, A Cinderella Story and The Perfect Man. He was the original director of this film, before his vision clashed with producer Edward L. Montoro.
Yes, Edward L. Montoro, the man behind Film Ventures International, the same guy who brought you movies like Grizzly and Day of the Animals before taking a million dollars out of the company and disappearing forever.
Mutant is one of the reasons why Film Ventures International was failing, which is why Montiro bounced forever. No one even knows if he’s still alive.
Taking over the directing duties of this film would be John “Bud” Cardos, who broke in to Hollywood as a result of his father and uncle managing the Graumann’s Egyptian and Chinese theaters. He started as a child actor in Hal Roach’s 1940’s Our Gang shorts, was a rodeo rider and a bird handler on The Birds before he began appearing in biker and exploitation films like Hells Angels on Wheels, Psych-Out and Satan’s Sadists before directing his own films like Kingdom of the Spiders, The Day Time Ended and The Dark. Ironically, he was also a last-minute replacement on that movie, taking over for Tobe Hooper.
He’s kept working in Hollywood, even appearing in credits as a driver on films like Memento. You can see him in the recently reviewed Danger God.
When brothers Josh (Wings Hauser, looking and acting bonkers throughout) and Mike (Lee Montgomery, the full-grown star of Ben who is also in the made-for-TV blast The Midnight Hour) are run off the road by local rednecks — it’s Josh’s fault — and forced to spend the night in a small town.
Bo Hopkins — who has been in so much of our redneck favorites like White Lightning and What Comes Around, where he played lookalike Jerry Reed’s brother — plays the local sheriff.
Cary Guffey, the child actor from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, is also here, but unlike most movies that keep the kids safe, Mutant truly does not care. The scene where he’s taken over by mutated children is pretty harrowing and I’m glad I saw it as an adult.
Jennifer Warren, who played the wife of Paul Newman in Slap Shot, gets a special appearance credit. Man, Mutant looks like such a stain on her resume, considering other films she was in like Sam’s Song and Ice Castles.
Somehow, this movie has a score that was recorded by the National Philharmonic Orchestra. It was composed by Richard Band, the brother of Charles Band.
It’s pretty interesting to me that the fortunes of Montoro’s company rested on this film, which is probably why directors were replaced and the title was changed from Night Shadows.
To be perfectly blunt, this movie is a mess. It never even gets its footing before it starts killing off characters left and right, unsure if it wants to be a redneck movie or a zombie film. That’s OK. I kind of like it just the same.