Years after seeing this stinker in the theater I still remember it fairly well, so it must've had something going for it, since so many films wash through me unremembered. The "monster" of the piece is totally cool.
The enormous steam iron is the titular "character," The Mangler, looming at the center of a big sweatshop laundry service. The design of the Mangler has a touch of the gothic, a touch of the Iron Horse, & to look at the part where the clothing is inserted to be ironed, it is no wonder that a thing like that eats laundresses.
That the steam iron is demon-possessed is a redundancy. This machine would be dangerous, possessed or not.
Scripted by director Tobe Hooper from a short story by Stephen King, all it really needed was a better ending. But by the time the climax comes around & the demon gets loose from the Mangler & there's a chase scene on a totally cartoony CGI stairway to hell, this movie has become so stupid that the badly animated climax spoils whatever was effective leading up to that pisspoor conclusion.
Plus I always have a little trouble getting past the fact that Robert Englund can't act. He's so good as Freddy in the Elmstreet franchise, it's like he was born to play Freddy. So I keep expecting him to be good in other things, but he always just stinks in everything else he's in. He was the worst-ever Phantom of the Opera (1989). He has failed to be the saving grace of bad movie after bad movie, though I never quite get over wanting him to be the inheritor of the mantle of Vincent Price.
He's no better than his low average as Crippled Loony Man in Mangler, despite his antic over-the-top struggle to turn in an exciting performance, & despite the charmingly goofy cripple-costuming that defines the character.
Still, a horror fan has to get used to the fact that many of even the best-known actors aren't very talented, so I didn't hate Robert in this. If not for that total failure of a climax, I liked the film overall. Compared to the pathetic pretend-sequel, it's a gem.
With no relationship whatsoever to the first Mangler movie, one wonders why it would pretend to be a sequel.
It's the story of a school that has been turned over to a computerized security system that acquires an Artificial Intelligence because of a computer virus called Mangler. It then sets out to kill a cast so boring one is sorry that any of them survive.
Even the supporting performance from the generally exciting Lance Hendrickson, as the pointlessly meanspirited school principle, doesn't spice up any scene until after the computer grabs him and hooks into his brain. For about three minutes the film has a spark of life while Lance pretends to be a sexually aroused artificial intelligence.
As big intelligent computer villains go, this one's spectacularly easy to trick. Being given an equation to resolve -- calculating snowflakes -- the AI is instantly destroyed. That's the sort of sorry excuse for a plot climax that even a taped-glasses sci-fan nurd in a seventh-grade uncreative writing course wouldn't resort to.
There is really only one good moment in the film, & that's when Lance as aroused Artificial Intelligence thanks the hacker babe for the snowflakes. That's a grand total of two seconds of effective filmmaking in the whole damned show. This is another three-raspberry stinker.
The second Mangler movie was so bad that when The Mangler: Reborn (2005) appeared, my first instinct was not to bother with it. The first Mangler though certainly a flawed film nevertheless entertained me, & I loved the monstrous gothiness of the antique iron laundry machine people-muncher. The sequel didn't actually have the mangler in it & it was a fraud sequel, so the third film was the actual sequel, promising the rebirth of that big hunk of commercial laundry equipment.
I figured this couldn't possibly be as bad as the second film if it had the original iron mangler as its central image. On the premise that it'd likely be worse than the first but better than the second, I decided to view it.
Well, should've stuck to my first instinct. The the original Mangler does not return in this version. Instead, there's a boxy gizmo seemingly made out of kitchen knives, an enormous cookie tin, & some plastic milk bottles. It's a completely crappy uninteresting prob. Bodies are fed into it & stabbed a lot, then discarded down a laundry schute to the basement.
The lying premise is that some handyman bought the dismantled killer Mangler & began to put it back together in his attic, & never mind that the original Mangler was the size of a factory & wouldn't fit in anyone's attic. The loony built an automatic ginzu knife box with nothing in the design referenced the excellent art design of the original film's Mangler; there's no evidene of even one part from the original Mangler incorporated in this goofy gizmo.
Disappointedly, I tried hard to forget about the original movie & imagine that this one was actually titled Automatic Ginzu Knife Box. As such, it was an ultra lowbudget slasher with so-so gore FX, with the primary victims trapped in the repairman's house until he finds the time to put them in the ginzu box.
The chap who plays the repairman Hadley (Weston Blakesley) is the closest the film has to anything good in it. He rarey registers emotion of any kind after the ginzu box possesses him. He continues to take calls for appliance repairs & goes kidnapping women from their homes, always batting them on the head with a big rubber mallet. They come to trapped in his house & eventually he feeds them screaming to the box.
With his rubber mallet, he's kind of a joke psycho, yet it is true that horror & comedy are frequently close cousins, & with each "Bonk!" he gives on someone's head, he manages to be effectively creepy. Too bad the ginzu knife box was such a bad prop, as a garden woodchipper straight from Home Depot would've been much scarier.
Blakesley's performance as the machine-possessed Hadley is the film's one & only asset. There's a sequence of him alone in his kitchen eating victim's blood like tomato soup from a bowl with a spoon, slowly, without emotion of any kind. He has such presence sitting there that it's just spooky as all shit, & had it been a black & white film it would've been spookier. It says a lot about how stupid the rest of the film is that it's most effective scene is when everything else in the movie is removed for a minute & we just see the psycho eating; that was one scary mofo moment.
But then it's back to the action & gore & the silly looking ginzu box. You may need toothpicks propping your eyes open not to fall asleep.
A father & son burglar team break into the house so that not all the victims will be cute young scream queens & the filmmakers can pretend they're not just woman-hating dorks. The fact that both men have actual personalities & the young women don't says everything you need to know about the creative level of the team.
Assuming you'll know better now than to waste time on this film, or you already unfortunately did, I'll provide the *SPOILER ALERT* by revealing that in the climax the repairman accidentally feeds himself to his machine & that's supposed to be amazing I guess.
But as the credits begin we see he's actually perfectly al right & on his way to another suburban home to snatch more women for his machine. There's no hint of an explanation for why getting cut up into big chunks didn't even leave a scar. This ending so so idiotic that it erases whatever pleasure Blakesley's performance as a nutsack might otherwise have had in the midst of an otherwise awful film.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl