Consider, for a second, what you might honestly expect from a movie called "The Mangler." Well, it doesn't even aim that high.
This cheapo horror flick lacks a whit of sense--narrative coherence is mangled more than anything else. Otherwise, it's a glum, lackluster affair. Its ostensible selling points--it's based on a story from the Stephen King factory, directed by Tobe Hooper, the best friend a Texas chain saw ever had, and stars Robert Englund, whose performance here makes his work as Freddy Krueger seem positively subtle--don't add up to much.
It concerns the grisly fates that befall those at an industrial laundry in rural Maine, apparently just outside OSHA's jurisdiction. Seems there's an elephantine steam iron and speed folder that routinely gobbles up the help and clankily cranks them into pulpy squares.
This doesn't stop most characters in the movie, however, from turning their backs to this eviscerating eyesore and resting their hands before its menacingly gaping maw. Nor does the laundry's crazed owner (Englund) seem too put off by the inefficient nature of his prized monstrosity: All that blood would to be hard to get out of the sheets it stains.
In town is a dyspeptic cop (Ted Levine) who sputters profanity apoplectically if a truck slows down traffic--you can imagine how he reacts to a string of deaths. He and a New-Age nitwit (Daniel Matmor) swap lines of dialogue most actors wouldn't dare touch ("I don't suppose you know anything about industrial laundries"; "You know, I used to work in an industrial laundry"), then decide the machine is possessed.
Levine finally reveals why he is so grouchy throughout this movie: He knew he would have to shoot a monumentally stupid scene in which he tries to perform an exorcism on a bucket of bolts that looks like a reject from Fritz Lang's "Metropolis."
This might have been mildly interesting if someone had put an ounce of effort into the script and if Hooper had set the story far in the past. As is, he and the design team are seeking an eerily Gothic look.
Hooper could have also made at least a token attempt to create one interesting or sympathetic character and shot more than one take per scene--even by horror standards, the acting here is lame. Call it "The Bungler."
* MPAA-rating: R, for "gory horror violence and language." Times guidelines: It includes lots of scenes of, well, mangling.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
Robert Englund: Gartley
Ted Levine: Hunton
Daniel Matmor: Mark
An Anant Singh production in association with Distant Horizon and Allied Film Productions, released by New Line Cinema. Director Tobe Hooper. Producer Anant Singh. Executive producers Harry Alan Towers, Sudhir Pragjee, Sanjeev Singh, Helena Spring. Screenplay by Tobe Hooper, Stephen Brooks, Peter Welbeck. Cinematographer Amnon Salomon. Editor David Heitner. Music Barrington Pheloung. Production design David Barkham. Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes.
In general release throughout Southern California.