The masters of horror Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre). Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger, A Nightmare On Elm Street Franchise) and Stephen King (based on his short story) join forces to bring you a shocking tale of terror.
After a series of grisly accidents, a cop (Ted Levine, The Silence Of The Lambs) investigates the mysterious owner and uncovers a deadly town secret that has been hidden for years – a terrifying beast that threatens to destroy everything in its path. With time running out and a young girl’s life in the balance, he races to destroy the beast before it’s too late
Prepare for the most frightening experience of your life. Prepare to meet The Mangler.
The Mangler 2.5
As mentioned in my blurb for ‘The Dark Half’, I think that Stephen King adaptations aren’t always superb.
Many would agree. For every really good one (The Shining 1980, Misery, Stand By Me, The Mist, The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, Carrie, Secret Window), there’s a real stinker (The Running Man, Maximum Overdrive, Salem’s Lot, Firestarter, The Shining 1997, The Langoliers, Graveyard Shift) and a bunch of pretty average ones (The Tommyknockers, The Stand, Needful Things, The Dead Zone, Cat’s Eye, Silver Bullet, The Lawnmower Man, Dolores Claiborne, Storm of the Century, Riding the Bullet, Desperation)
‘The Mangler’ is not one of the better ones. It’s hardly surprising, given the source material: not only was the original not King’s best in the first place, but it was also a short story. It’s pretty rare for a short story to survive full-feature conversion with some sense of dignity, and ‘The Mangler’ was, to put it mildly, utterly mangled.
It was helmed by Tobe Hooper, one of horror cinema’s most over-rated directors (of the ones I’ve seen, only the original ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ is worth mentioning), and it was written by Harry Alan Towers (mostly known for b-movies, it appears), Stephen David Brooks (who hadn’t written anything before!) and Hooper himself. Considering the pedigree of the core crew, then, it’s no wonder that this film ended being the monster it is.
But let’s start with the cast – this is something that should be uninfluenced by the writers and directors. Except that a good script would presumably draw a great cast. And a terrible script won’t.
The Mangler, somehow, managed to draw Robert Englund to the production. I’m not sure if it’s because the pay was good and/or if he had a difficult time getting choice parts after being so closely associated with the unforgettable Freddie Kruger, but there’s no real reason why he should be in this film. Having said this, he plays his part as best as possible, considering how limited it is: he chews the scenery ably and injects a minor amount of creepiness to his character.
The main actor, Ted Levine, however, is wholly unlikeable. Granted, the character is written to be imperfect, but add to it a lack of charisma, an inability to emote and a voice that sounds like Andre the Giant’s and you have a recipe for total disconnect between the viewer and the performer. To make matters worse, his friend and side-kick annoys with his cheap theatrics and terrible one-liners; it’s not entirely his fault, granted, but it makes for a truly painful pair.
The lead actress, as well, is achingly bad: half of the time, she looks like a deer caught in headlights – and, the rest of the time, she takes a sledgehammer to her lines. You almost have to wonder if she’s acted before (I guess what really matters is if she’s acted SINCE). Mind you, all of the actors give unrealistic portrayals – so, perhaps the filmmaker were vying for some sort of “style” that I’m not clueing in to.
As for the film itself, there’s not much to it: it all revolves around a possessed steam press in an industrial laundry facility. There is an attempt to weave a mystery around the affair, but it’s so pathetic (the “mystery” AND the attempt) that it’s not even worth noting. The “scary” scenes are all predictable and, from the characters’ perspective, entirely avoidable (i.e. they always find a way to get too close to the damn machine!!!). The humour is pedestrian at best and it sticks out like a sore thumb – it forces the characters to do wholesale moronic things (um… like asking a complete stranger if she’s a virgin!).
It all lumbers on painfully until the end, which, typically, is supposed to deliver the final punch. Sadly, this is as inept as the rest of the film (I don’t usually like to give spoilers, but I’m hoping that no one will want to see it anyway):
After landing in the hospital, the female lead is released and returns to work at the laundry. We get all of this from the male lead’s perspective, as he decides to go visit her. With sudden, inexplicable romantic intension in mind, he brings her a bouquet but finds out that she’s taken the place of Robert Englund’s sinister slavemaster; she’s changed and is imbued with some form of evil. So he turns to leave and tosses the flowers in a garbage on the way out, casually apathetic.
The fact is, in the scene prior to this, he was visiting her at the hospital. So, what immediately came to my mind was: didn’t he visit her afterwards, during the whole time that she was mending? If not, then what’s the deal with the romantic gesture? If so, then why was he surprised to find her at the laundry, completely changed? And why was she running the show anyway? And why was the diabolical press still being used? And why do I even care?
Sigh… it’s all so very VERY stupid.
By the time the film came to an end, I was relieved to be out of the clutches of ‘The Mangler’. I doubt very much that I will watch this again. Unlike the nincompoop characters in the film, I know better than to get too close to ‘The Mangler’ and I will avoid it at all costs. You should too.