You don’t need to know much to dive straight into one of the most underrated horror movies of the nineties. The Mangler is a horror movie based on a short story written by Stephen King, directed by Tobe Hooper, and starring Robert Englund. Well, I think that’s it, I think I convinced you to watch this movie. Three masters of horror joined forces to bring forth this unholy abomination with a particularly nasty atmosphere. The story itself is quite bizarre and incredibly creative, just what you would expect from prime Stephen King. It takes place in a laundry service where one imposing laundry press starts to malfunction. You might even say that it has a mind of its own.
The Mangler could be one of the best horror movie titles I have ever heard of. And once you see this humongous laundry press you’ll start to realize that the nickname is spot on. There’s something so horrifying about these machines that can rip off your arm or chop off your fingers. These accidents always seem so brutal in real life, showing us not only the power of the machines but also the frailty of the human body. Tobe Hooper used this to generate tension, so almost every scene with “The Mangler” is suspenseful and intense. You wonder if this girl going to lose her finger, her arm or if the machine is just going to eat her whole.
This reminds me of The Machinist, a surrealist thriller about a worker in a metal-processing factory. If you’re expecting a regular horror movie you’ll be sorely disappointed because The Mangler leans into the craziness of its basic premise. I mean, how could you take seriously a movie where a pressing machine is skulking around the building and looking for its prey? I mean, seriously now guys? This is a movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously and neither should you. That way you can have the most fun with it. Honestly, I don’t know why I love it so much. I know I shouldn’t but perhaps I’m nostalgic about that first viewing, who knows?
It was an ordinary word day at Blue Ribbon Laundry service when one of the workers cut herself on a huge pressing machine. She thought nothing of it and just continued on working not knowing that she set in motion a force that will claim many lives. First of which was her coworkers mere minutes after her accident. An experienced detective arrives quickly at the scene, suspecting that there might be more to this machine than it appears at a first glance. And he’s right…
As you can imagine this is quite a gory movie. The Mangler will proceed to dismember, mutilate and kill people in its vicinity in the most gruesome ways. The CGI is not that good as it is of that early kind. However, from this time distance, it feels kind of charming. Especially if you’re a horror movie fan. The majority of the effects here are of the practical nature with just one CGI scene.
I remember watching this movie for the first time in the late nineties and being scared as shit. I was just a teenager and it really left a mark on me. However, as I got older, it stopped being that scary and became more fun and aloof. A definition of a guilty pleasure that’s dangerously close to the so bad that it’s good section. Although that thick atmosphere is still there.
Finally, if you’re looking for similar movies, I suggest you check out Graveyard Shift. It features a similar atmosphere which is not surprising since it’s also based on one of Stephen King’s short stories. You should also know that The Mangler spawned two sequels, The Mangler 2 and The Mangler Reborn. The latter might be an interesting viewing as it returns to continue the story of the press while the direct sequel is about a computer virus.
Director: Tobe Hooper
Writers: Tobe Hooper, Stephen David Brooks, Harry Alan Towers, Stephen King
Cast: Robert Englund, Ted Levine, Daniel Matmor, Jeremy Crutchley, Vanessa Pike, Lisa Morris
Fun Facts: The Mangler was shot in England and South Africa but the story takes place in Maine. Maine is usually the place where shit goes down in Stephen King novels.