The Mangler (1994)
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as Bill Gartley
as John Hunton
as Mark Jackson
as Sherry Ouelette
as Doctor Ramos
as Lin Sue
as Mrs. Frawley
as Annette Gillian
as Herb Diment
as Roger Martin
as Derrick Gates
as Aaron Rodriguez
as Mrs. Ellenshaw
as Mr. Ellenshaw
as Judge Bishop
as Sheriff Hughes
as Mrs. Smith
as Ginny Jason
as Officer Steele
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Probably Tobe Hooper's goriest film... and his most bizarre too! Having a demonically possessed clothes-presser is a unique sight to behold. I thought it was good fun - ridiculous, but enjoyable. Robert Englund and Ted Levine are always good to watch.
"And did the Countenance Divine Shine forth upon our clouded hills? And was Jerusalem builded here Among these dark Satanic mills? "
William Blake, "Jerusalem", 1795
"We all have to make sacrifices!" --from the Mangler-screenplay, 1995
Coming from Stephen King's 1978 collection of shorts, "Night Shift", Tobe Hooper brings us his very different-take: a parable of 19th Century, proprietary-capitalism and the nightmare of the American-workplace. This film is what labor-conditions were 100-years-ago, and what they could easily become again if we aren't too-careful. Since the discovery of a slave-sweatshop in El Monte, California a few-years after the release of this film, it isn't so fantastic. Maybe some of us were too-comfortable to "get" this film in the Clinton-era. Most people don't get this film at-all, even just watching it on its surface-levels. It's a real hoot! Yep, you can watch it with a beer, and you can watch it with an open-mind thinking about its deeper-meanings, or you can do both. And--shocker!--ALL of them are FUN.
Tobe Hooper has said for-decades he wanted to do comedy, and he comes close here, which helps this film from being too-oppressive. Ithink Hooper understood the story better than Stephen King--it seems King worked in a clothes-pressing plant like this one in the 1960s, which gave-rise to it, but Hooper has always struck me as politically-radical in his approach-to-horror. The best horror usually has a real subversive-edge, and this is what makes this a good one. Sure, it's hokey, but it has its tongue firmly-planted in its cheek, it is jokey. It also has some sub-themes in the lines, "There's a piece of me in that machine--and a piece of it in me." It speaks well of how people are spiritually-contaminated by our system. The disease is greed.
If it wasn't for Ted Levine ("Buffalo Bill" in Silence of the Lambs) as the bedraggled town-cop John Hunton, Robert Englund would literally steal-the-show here. Tobe uses some great low-shots and wide-angle lens compositions (ala "Citizen Kane") that lend the film a great comic-book look, and make Englund shine as a despicable-villain. The irony is, mill-owner Gartley is also a victim of the machine, even robbing him of the ability to walk. He's also half-blind, which makes-sense. The characters are pretty well-drawn, and we learn that Detective Hunton has some baggage left-behind from the death of his wife in a car-accident, years-earlier. The town is run like a virtual-dictatorship by Gartley, who basically represents the "robber-barons" of the 19th century (as well as today), completely-uncaring about the safety and welfare of his employees. A man who has lost his humanity. Sound familiar?
Eventually, an accident occurs where the niece of Englund's character spills her own blood on the "Mangler", a clothes-press that must be 100-years-old. Another shop-employee spills her belladonna-laced antacids into the guts of the machine, and it begins taking-victims...and parts. Oddly, all the people Bill Gartley "owns" (the Mayor, the Police Chief, Doctors, etc.) have missing-fingers. Of course, the premise of a demoniacally-possessed machine is fantasy, which is what makes the story a parable, but it's fun. Over-time, Detective Hunton finds that the Gartley dynasty has been-sacrificing their own young to the infernal-machine for a century, and now they're "spreading-the-love". Don't all employers? Some require the blood of a virgin!
So, people have been wrong about this one. It's a minor-classic of a bad-decade for horror. The genre has its fallow-periods where interest isn't as-high, and 1995 wasn't exactly a banner-year for horror-buffs. And quit-comparing every film a director does to their most well-known ones, it's emotionally-retarded. This is a solid horror-film, and if it had been presented in the proper-context, would have been better-appreciated. The short-story is good, but this is better, and Stephen King sure isn't Edgar Allan Poe or Lovecraft ferchrissakes. The New Line DVD is great, it has a perfect widescreen-transfer, and even includes the gore that was cut with split-screen comparisons to the theatrical-version. A great horror-film, and a respectable one for Tobe Hooper. Now you can all go and rewatch the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre"--just don't touch-yourself so-much this time. We all have to make sacrifices, after-all. Ignore the other reviews, those people are snobs.
One of those Stephen King adaptations which is weak and wretched to watch. Even Robert Englund (Freddy from Nightmare on Elm Street) as a cruel machine shop foreman couldn't save this movie from the blockbuster bin of forgotten horror flicks. There are some nasty gore moments, but nothing to get too worked up over.
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