Reviewed by Ned Daigle
Rating: 8.5 Beans
his film had quite the pedigree: Based on a short story from Stephen King, directed by Tobe Hooper ("The Texas Chainsaw Massacre", "Poltergeist") and starring Robert Englund (Freddie Krueger of "A Nightmare on Elm Street"). One would be led to assume that this movie would kick ass right? Wrong Wrong Wrong.
This ill-conceived mess is in the running for the worst Stephen King adaptation ever and that's no small statement considering the "Children of the Corn" series, "Pet Sematary 2" and "Lawnmower Man 2: Job's War".
As a short story, "The Mangler" is easily one of King's scariest; however, reading about a possessed laundry steam press and watching said steam press come to life on screen are two quite different experiences entirely. It just doesn't work. But that's not the only problem.
Robert Englund is the evil owner of the laundry company who has the ancient steam press that periodically sucks workers into its bowels, turning them into bloody cubes. No problem, work just continues. You'd figure after the second or third death the rest of the employees would quit or go on strike or something. But no. Ted Levine stars as the local sheriff who is called in to investigate the deaths and solve the mystery. Levine you may remember starred as the killer Buffalo Bill in "The Silence of the Lambs", and his performance in "The Mangler" is nearly identical. He acts weird, talks in this bizarre nasal slur, and you almost wait for him to call for his dog Precious.
Anyway, Levine discovers the steam press was possessed when a virgin cut her hand into it's gears causing it to come to life. And Englund wants to make his neice the next human sacrifice to unleash the evil.
This is just all so stupid, I don't think there was any way to make it work. The filmmakers obviously thought so too so the film is entrenched in a bizarre set design which can't decide if it's modern or gothic, and there is a strange underground labyrinth underneath the laundry itself that doesn't seem to have much of a purpose except to provide a neat-o place to stage the grand finale.
Oh did I mention there is a possessed refrigerator as well? Director Tobe Hooper has absolutely no grasp on pace in this flick, everything moves too slowly. A good rule would be that if you don't have much of a story you better punch up the action if you don't want the audience to notice. But notice it you will. Every painfully dull and stupid moment. With "The Mangler", Hooper has pretty much consigned himself to the heap of once-great has-been directors along with William Friedkin and Peter Bogdonovich.
Stephen King movies are a funny thing. For every one that is great ("Carrie", "The Dead Zone") there are two that are crap ("Children of the Corn", "Sleepwalkers", "Graveyard Shift" etc.) It seems weird that his work is so hard to make into excellent films.
If you are tempted to rent "The Mangler", just shake it off and go rent "The Shining" or "Christine" instead. You'll thank me for it.
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