Here’s what would theoretically be quite a potent formula for any horror fan. Take a short story by Stephen King, toss in one veteran actor named Robert Englund (horror icon Freddy Krueger), and add director Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Poltergeist). Stir gently and garnish with the studio backing of New Line Cinema. What you get is a strange hybrid that exists somewhere between ‘campy fun’ and ‘absurd and unnecessary.’
*Minor spoilers follow – they ruin the story but the fun is to be had in watching this film*
The short story was printed in King’s 1978 collection ‘Night Shift’ and is about an industrial-sized laundry dryer that gets a taste of human blood and gets a hunger for more. It was a quick story that revolves around an investigator trying to understand how the machine keeps hurting people even though all of its safeguards are in place and the staff works in numbers – meaning there’s always someone to supervise and press the emergency button when need be. However, many people still fall victim and it leaves the investigator puzzled. The story concludes by informing us that the machine is possessed by a demon and eventually it breaks free from the laundry on a quest for revenge and blood.
Most of the effects are practical, the blood is plentiful, and the direction is fantastic. The introductory death is plenty disturbing and viscerally displayed. It’s a story that is equal parts silly and equal parts serious. While the film unfolds like a police investigation, we come to learn many things through the eyes of our protagonist. He is a skeptic, but at a certain point in the film he is completely in belief of what is going on. His brother-in-law serves as his one good friend (after his wife had passed), who also has background knowledge on the occult and otherworldly entities. He is the one who proposes the idea that the machine is demonic. What we do come to learn is that the owner of the laundry (an over-the-top dramatic but well-played Robert Englund) sold his daughter’s soul to the press in order to attain spiritual gains. His niece now works for the laundry and she is up next for the sacrifice (although she herself doesn’t know this until we do).
The film has fun and has plenty of gore, all the way until the ending where the machine literally spouts eyes and arms and breaks free from the place. From here it goes on a rampage through the sewers on its way to destroy our protagonists. However, the ending is where it gets to the point where it becomes completely ridiculous. Fans of Tobe Hooper will be more likely to digest this because he is a man who has a great black sense of humor, whereas people who are here for the horror of the film may get turned off here.
I had fun watching this, and I would even watch it again. It’s not a serious film in its entirety but it’s also not something to be shrugged off. What should have been a perfect dream team delivers mixed results. But in my opinion, it could have been much much worse.
The Mangler is available online on Blu-Ray, DVD, and VOD.
Till Next Time,