Mutants: A guide to some of cinema's most memorable freaks

The birth of
The Hills Have Eyes as an updated franchise has introduced moviegoers to a clutch of mutants whose hideous appearance is eclipsed only by their hideous proclivities. Of course, not all movie mutants are evil; some are rather good, as this top-ten demonstrates. As The Hills Have Eyes 2 (2007) is released on DVD we search out the ten unforgettable movie mutants, some of which are malevolent, some of which are benign.

1) The X-Men [X-Men (2000); X2: X-Men United (2003); X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)]

Whether it's the ladies' favourite, Hugh Jackman's Wolverine, or the boys', Halle Berry's Storm, few movie mutants measure up to the X-Men.

Now the stars of three blockbusting movies, these comic book superheroes are all mutants, being the next instalment in mankind's evolutionary development.

Not every mutant is goodly, though, and Professor Charles Xavier's nemesis, Magneto, has collected together his own army of mutants, featuring the likes of Mystique and Toad. The baddies, it seems, drew the short straw when it came to acquiring names!

2) The Hulk [Hulk (2003)]

Gamma radiation is a dangerous thing, as evidenced by its effect on poor Bruce Banner in Ang Lee's big-screen adaptation of the cult TV show and comics.

In Lee's imagining, Nick Nolte's David Banner, a genetics researcher who experiments on himself in a bid to improve human DNA, passes his mutated genes to his son, Eric Bana's Bruce, who, when he's angry, becomes rather big and green.

What Lee fails to explain, however, is why the mutation turned Bruce's hulking alter-ego bright green. And why his shorts still seem to fit, even though their owner has grown somewhat in size!

3) Spider-Man [Spider-Man (2002); Spider-Man 2 (2004); Spider-Man 3 (2007)]

Director Sam Raimi's blockbusting cinematic interpretation of one of the comic world's most memorable heroes hews close to its pulpy source, ascribing the web-slinger's powers to a bite he receives from some kind of super-spider.

The mutation in Peter Parker's genes bestows upon him all kinds of arachnid abilities, including those wall-hugging hands and feet and the ability to spin super-strong webs. Of course, Parker's also blessed with the spider's super strength, although, thankfully, he does not grow six extra legs and a cluster of eyes.

4) The Toxic Avenger [The Toxic Avenger (1985)]

The most famous of Troma Entertainment's slew of camp B-movies, The Toxic Avenger casts Mark Torgl as Melvin Junko, a small-size weakling who turns into something quite different after tumbling into a vat of toxic waste. Despite his new, unsavoury appearance, Toxie is a benevolent being, turning his new-found powers against those that deserve their comeuppance, chief among them being his former tormentors and the town's malevolent mayor, whose vital organs are ripped out as the unusual hero bids to discover whether he has "any guts".

The original movie was followed by a string of sequels - The Toxic Avenger Part II, The Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation Of Toxie and Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger Part IV - although fans were disappointed in the later films' lack of violence.

5) Killer Tomatoes [Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes (1978)]

Experimental government programmes can cause all sorts of problems, as those who come into contact with these mutant killer vegetables will attest.

Standing a full six-feet tall, these genetically modified edibles resist the best efforts of the US army, before finally falling victim to the odious teen ballad Puberty Love. Upon hearing the songs saccharine tones, the killer tomatoes are reduced to tiny, quivering wrecks, and can be turned into ketchup by the soles of the citizenry's shoes.

The cult flick has inspired three sequels, Return Of The Killer Tomatoes (1988), Killer Tomatoes Strike Back (1990) and Killer Tomatoes Eat France (1991), none of which is as juicy as the tomatoes' first escapade.

6) The freaks of Santa Flan [Freaked (1993)]

The likes of Randy Quaid and Brooke Shields, plus Mister T and an un-credited Keanu Reeves, star in this flick from Tom Stern and Alex Winter.

The film sees Quaid's evil freak show owner capture a trio of travellers who he dips into his vat of toxic fertiliser in a bid to boost his array of mutants, which includes Reeves as Dog Boy, Mr T as a bearded lady and Bobcat Goldthwait as Sockhead, a man who has a sock puppet for a head.

Alex Winter claims that the original producer of the film was fired by the studio for making too many weird movies. Erm, a case of 'pot calling the kettle', maybe...

7) Ninja Turtles [Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990); Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret Of The Ooze (1991); Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993); TMNT (2007)]

These shell-cased mutants, a foursome comprising the artistically named Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo, have now featured in four movies, the most recent being entirely computer animated.

Their origins are traced to a weird pink gloop (called mutagen) found in a New York sewer, which turns whatever touches it into the animal with which it has last been in contact. So when a kid drops his four pet turtles down the drain by accident and they land in the ooze, they morph into human-cum-turtles.

Their ninja skills are acquired by meeting Hamato, a Japanese ninja who happens to be living in the sewer. Where ninjas often live, of course.

8) Kuato [Total Recall (1990)]

Paul Verhoeven's camp but fun-packed interpretation of the Philip K. Dick short story sends Arnold Schwarzeneggar's character, Quaid, to Mars, where he meets the mutant leader of a bunch of rebels.

Named Kuato, this mutant looks rather like a baby, and he lives inside another human's stomach. Not much to look at - and presumably not too hot with the ladies - this mutant is, however, a goodly dude, telling Quaid that he must activate the planet's hidden oxygen-making machine so that his mutant kinsfolk (descendants of Martian colonists inadequately shielded against cosmic rays) can breathe freely. Good thinking for a baby.

9) Mutant frogmen [Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988)]

This B-movie is set in a post-apocalyptic future where amphibians rule. Following a nuclear war, very few fertile men and women exist and, as a result, Sam Hell (played by pro wrestler Roddy Piper) is recruited to infiltrate a city of frog-people and rescue a group of human survivors, who happen to be fertile women (who may or may not have had a frog in their throat). Piper's character has to wear a protective cod piece that will explode if he tries to abort his mission.

This film was followed by three sequels: Return to Frogtown (1993), Toad Warrior (1996) and Max Hell Frog Warrior (2002).

10) Violet [Ultraviolet (2006)]

Infected mutants don't come much prettier than Milla Jovovich's Violet who, living in the late 21st century, stands among a subculture of humans that have been genetically modified by a vampire disease called hemophagia, giving them enhanced speed, incredible stamina and acute intelligence.

As they are set apart from "normal, healthy" humans, the world is pushed to the brink of worldwide civil war.

With thanks to James Field at Substance

The Hill Have Eyes 2 (2007) is available to buy and rent on DVD from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment from 30 July 2007.

Click here to buy The Hills Have Eyes 2 (2007) on DVD for £12.98 (RRP: £19.99)


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