Thursday, September 8, 2016

Shriek of the Mutilated (1974) - Part 2 of 3

We continue to follow the yeti expedition on Boot Island in Shriek of the Mutilated (1974). You can read Part 1 here. When we left Professor Prell and his students, they were getting some rest to prepare for their epic journey of discovery the next day.

At daybreak, the team sets off on their expedition to find the cave of the yeti. They climb off the well-established path through the thick, autumn-denuded forest. "All right, gang," says Prell, "let's take a breather." Lynn offers Tom a drink, but he doesn't appreciate her efforts.

Tom heads off with his rifle to look for some deer. He would prefer venison to ginsung, which was on the menu last night, described as an Indian dish as well as an Asian one. But instead of deer, Tom makes a startling discovery--an abandoned house. As he explores the ruins, he begins to hear a rapid heartbeat. Can the yeti be nearby?

The suspense is almost unbearable. Tom climbs into the wrecked house, then finds the source of the sound--not the yeti at all but a board banging against a wall.

Tom turns to leave, but a shaggy white monster leaps at him from the wreckage!

It shrieks. Tom is mutilated.

Five hours later, after searching in vain for Tom, the rest of the gang returns to Werner's house. Prell is certain that Tom--not just a fine singer and pianist but also an experienced woodsman--is fine in the forest alone, but Lynn isn't so sure.

They make plans to stand watch with a shotgun all night in case Tom returns. Having been mutilated, Tom does not in fact return, so a smaller party sets out the next morning. Lynn, Werner, and Laughing Crow stay behind at the house, while Prell, Keith, and Karen search for Tom.

At the house, Laughing Crow mimes the story behind his muteness, accompanied by Werner's narration. The Indian was attacked by a yeti and dragged to its cave to serve as food, but Laughing Crow managed to escape. His tribe, not believing in yetis, of course cut his tongue muscle and banished him to the wilderness.

The incident speaks to Laughing Crow’s character and honesty, and to the nobility and dignity of the Native American. If he had told his tribe a bear had attacked him, he would still have the use of his tongue, and he would be spared the degradation of Werner referring to him as "my Indian."

Out in the wilderness, Prell sends Karen off by herself to check out the ruins while Prell and Keith rest. Karen is shocked to find, first, Tom's rifle, which she quickly grabs, and, second, Tom's disembodied leg, which she does not.

Meanwhile, at Werner's house, Lynn goes outside to sweep the grass.

She makes her way to the unlocked greenhouse and lets out a huge scream. It is testimony to the filmmakers' skill that we view this all from outside the greenhouse--the suspense is ratcheted even higher, and our curiosity about what Lynn has seen is boundless. Lynn runs off into the forest. Unfortunately for Lynn, her glasses fall to the ground. She staggers blindly through the trees until she catches her foot between two rocks. The yeti is close behind.

Lynn shrieks. Then she is mutilated.

At the house, Karen is upset, quite reasonably, and demands the keys to the van. But Prell says that majority rules, and Keith backs Prell instead of his girlfriend. Karen runs upstairs to the bedroom, leaving the men to consider what to do with Tom's leg. They decide to leave it on the kitchen table next to a shelf of tchotchkes until they can call the police.

The film ratchets up the tension again. The phone doesn't work. Prell comes up with a plan. Tom's leg is of no use to him anymore, so why not use it as bait for a yeti trap?

When darkness falls, they set the trap, placing a hunk of Tom's leg onto a wolf trap. Then they wait.

But the plan fails. We do not see the yeti encounter. Instead, we see a disheveled Prell return to the house and tell the frightening tale. The beast snatched Tom's leg away from the trap and grabbed Prell's gun before he could do anything. Prell barely escaped alive. Now there is only one thing left to do: use Lynn's body as bait.

Karen won't hear of it. She races out of the house to the greenhouse, presumably to protect Lynn's body. But she stumbles onto the secret that made Lynn run screaming into the forest to meet her fate: Tom's body is in the greenhouse. Karen screams, then faints--

--only to return to consciousness with Laughing Crow's face staring at her. She screams again.

Werner leads the distraught and deeply insulted Laughing Crow away. Prell intimates that Karen must be crazy. She never went to the greenhouse. She didn't leave the house at all. Karen begins to question her own sanity.

With Karen out of the way, Prell and Keith put Plan B into motion by tying Lynn's lifeless body to a tree.

They rig an alarm system to Lynn's body so that the yeti will set off lights and a doorbell at some unspecified location, which should give them a chance to tranquilize the monster. And Karen, feeling a little better now, volunteers to photograph the beast.

But even this foolproof plan doesn't work. The yeti is too clever for its hunters. It lurches toward Karen, then runs back into the forest.

"Come back, you fool!" Prell yells at the yeti.

Later, while he explores the forest, Keith stumbles upon a loudspeaker attached to a tree. It is playing a loud heartbeat sound! What can this mean? Suddenly, music blares from the speaker, startling Keith. Then an unseen assailant smashes Keith over the head with a two-by-four, knocking him unconscious.

It is here that the film moves into its final shocking act, full of twists and turns.

This is a good breaking point, before the third act makes us question everything we have seen. Will the secret of the yeti be revealed? Who will shriek? Who will be mutilated? The answers will come in Part 3 of our expedition into the heart of darkness that is Shriek of the Mutilated. Read Part 3 here.