Offering a glimpse of where action movies were headed in the ’80s—less nuance, more ultraviolence—this borderline incompetent exploitation flick was the second directorial effort from shameless hack James Glickenhaus. Stealing the basic plot of Death Wish (1974) and juicing the material with a crass Vietnam-vet angle, Glickenhaus tells the ugly story of John Eastland, a former soldier who turns vigilante after Mafia thugs paralyze his best friend. Dubbed “The Exterminator” by reporters, John feeds a villain into an industrial meat grinder, and he leaves a pair of criminals tied up on a garbage heap so they can be eaten alive by rats. Yet the most horrific sequence is a prologue set in Vietnam, during which John and his best friend witness enemy soldiers committing atrocities including beheadings. The idea, presumably, is that “The Exterminator” became a monster because his overseas experience made him that way. But then again, ascribing psychological depth to this movie is unwise, because Glickenhaus—who also wrote the screenplay—seems unfamiliar with the human experience that the rest of us acknowledge as reality. In Glickenhaus’ skewed universe, violence justifies violence, so it’s okay that, for instance, the movie’s antihero murders a guard dog with an electric knife because he’s on a mission to steal money from mobsters. The Exterminator has a fever-dream quality, seeing as how many pieces seem to be missing; the story makes bizarre leaps forward, and it frequently appears Glickenhaus got only two-thirds of the shots needed for each scene. What’s more, whenever The Exterminator veers into a laughable subplot about a cop (Christopher George) romancing a doctor (Samantha Eggar), it’s as if pieces of another bad movie got spliced into Glickenhaus’ vile revenge fantasy. The Exterminator is brisk and eventful, but if this is your idea of a good time at the movies, seek help.
The Exterminator: LAME