One more demonstration of the perils of expanding Stephen King's short stories to feature length, this is an atmospheric but dramatically ineffective shocker.
"The Mangler" is the nickname of a giant industrial steam-iron and folding machine that dominates the Blue Ribbon Laundry, overseen by the aged, tyrannical William Gartley (Robert Englund). After Mrs. Frawley (Vera Blacker) is sucked into the machine, local police officer John Hunton (Ted Levine)
attempts an investigation but is stymied by Gartley, who seems to have town officials in his pocket and a strange connection to the Mangler. After a young boy suffocates inside an icebox that has had contact with the Mangler, Hunton's brother-in-law Mark Jackson (Daniel Matmor), an expert in the
supernatural, theorizes that demonic forces are driving both the machine and Gartley.
It soon transpires that Gartley has a long-standing pact with the Mangler that requires him to make sacrifices to it; the next in line is Gartley's own teenaged niece, Sherry (Vanessa Pike). Hunton and Jackson interrupt the sacrifice and rescue Sherry, while Gartley is chewed up by the machine
instead. Jackson attempts to exorcize the evil forces powering the Mangler, but the ritual is unsuccessful, and the mechanical monster slashes Jackson in two. It then takes off after Hunton and Sherry, who are able to defeat it after a long chase.
King's original short story "The Mangler," published in his Night Shift collection, stands as a testament to his abilities as a writer; in it, he takes one of the silliest premises imaginable and manages to make it scary. Conveying a sense of horror on screen is trickier business, however, and the
film version of King's tale overcomplicates the story with unconvincing twists and characters. In terms of adaptation, the best that can be said of THE MANGLER is that it hews closer to the basics of the author's original than some King films, but it is faithful to a fault. After coming up with
its own rationale for the Mangler's murderous activities, the script, by director Tobe Hooper, Stephen Brooks, and Peter Welbeck (a pseudonym for coexecutive producer Harry Alan Towers), for some reason also includes King's silly explanation that the machine receives extra powers from the
ingredients in antacid tablets that have been accidentally spilled into it.
The best part of the movie is the fetid, oppressive atmosphere Hooper works up inside the sweatshop that evocatively serves as an industrial hell. The Mangler itself is an imposing creation, and its gory activities (which are more so on an unrated video version) pack an occasional chill, but too
much of the movie is devoted to slack plotting and overstated acting. Though set in the US, THE MANGLER was filmed in South Africa. Towers and producer Anant Singh's next collaboration was the apartheid drama CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY. (Graphic violence, adult situations, extreme profanity.)
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- Released: 1995
- Rating: R
- Review: One more demonstration of the perils of expanding Stephen King's short stories to feature length, this is an atmospheric but dramatically ineffective shocker. "The Mangler" is the nickname of a giant industrial steam-iron and folding machine that dominate… (more)