The Mangler Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Written by Tobe Hooper, Stephen Brooks and Peter Wellbeck. Based on a short story by Stephen King.
1995, 106 minutes, Rated R
Released on December 11th, 2018
Robert Englund as Bill Gartley
Ted Levine as John Hunton
Daniel Matmor as Mark Jackson
Jeremy Crutchley as Pictureman
Vanessa Pike as Sherry
Lisa Morris as Lin Sue
Demetre Phillips as Stanner
The small town of Rikers Valley is home to Gartley’s Blue Ribbon industrial laundry, a sweatshop run by the ancient bastard Bill Gartley. The laundry is the site of a horrific accident when one of his workers is sucked into the large speed iron and killed in a brutal manner. Det. John Hunton is on the case and is freaked out by what he sees. The woman’s body is unrecognizable and was “folded like a sheet”. He seeks the solace of his brother-in-law/ neighbor Mark, a spiritual new-age guy who is a good listener. The next day there is another accident at the laundry involving the speed iron and more workers are injured. There is a brief safety inspection, but the machine is soon operational once again.
The laundry is a family business and Gartley currently employees his young ward, Sherry. She was witness to the fatal accident and is in shock when approached by the detective. Hunton confronts Gartley but leaves in frustration, as the old man enjoys a moderate amount of power in the town and has no interest in cooperating with the investigation. Mark suggests that the machine may be haunted or possessed. Hunton laughs it off but is soon a believer that such things are possible in the wake of further incidents that cannot be explained. Knowing their suspicions will be laughed off by the authorities, Hunton and Mark take matters into their own hands and confront the evil machine after hours.
The Mangler is a dumb movie that came during the horror drought of the early 1990s. Based on a short story by Stephen King, the tale of a possessed folding machine may make for an entertaining read for a few pages but isn’t strong enough to carry a feature-length presentation. Clocking in at a bloated hour and forty-six minutes, the movie overstays its welcome by at least fifteen minutes. The film is competently directed by genre legend Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2), who brings a stylistic touch to the material and keeps things moving at a steady pace. Hooper co-wrote the script with Stephen Brooks and Peter Wellbeck, but their efforts are pretty weak, as the central concept is ludicrous. In case it wasn’t hard enough to sell the idea of a haunted folding machine, they throw in a subplot involving a possessed refrigerator (don’t ask). There are traces of Hooper’s dark sense of humor throughout, but there is a lot of goofy stuff in here too, particularly in the finale.
Ted Levine (Silence of the Lambs) stars as John Hunton, an average man who is burnt out on his job and has few friends. He pushes through each scene with a dedication that is admirable given the general silliness. Robert Englund (Urban Legend) co-stars as Bill Gartley, the wealthy hard ass who overworks his employees. Gartley is quite the character with his leg braces, blind eye and advanced age, and Englund relishes every moment of his screen time chewing scenery at every opportunity. Filling the role of trusty sidekick is Daniel Matmor (Night Terrors) as Mark, the spiritualist. He delivers a lot of the religious mumbo-jumbo dialogue in a somewhat convincing manner, but doesn’t have a lot to work with. Together they face down the killer machine for an over-the-top exorcism that has to be seen to be believed. Poor guys, poor Tobe, poor Stephen King – poor audience. Feel free to skip this one.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio featuring an all-new 4K scan of the original camera negative, the results are quite pleasing. There is a lot of detail that was absent from the previous DVD release and colors are a lot brighter too.
A DTS-HD MA 5.1 provides a very satisfying mix that balances dialogue and music cues without issue. The laundry is a very noisy location and really comes to life here with plenty of activity for the rear channels. There is also a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track, but I recommend the expanded mix.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
Scream Factory presents The Mangler in its original uncut version that includes additional gore throughout the picture that was originally trimmed to receive an R rating upon theatrical release.
Co-writer Stephen David Brooks provides an audio commentary moderated by Nathaniel Thompson (Mondo Digital) that is full of laughs and lots of good stories. Brooks not only wrote the script but also worked on the visual effects and served as the film’s second unit director. The track is laid back and conversational and moves at a steady clip without any periods of extended silence.
Actor Robert Englund sits down for the all-new interview Gartley’s Gambit (23 minutes) in which he reflects on this production and working once again with his old friend Tobe Hooper. He talks about the difficulties of the make-up and the long hours of the shoot and shares stories of working with the cast and crew in South Africa.
A collection of rare behind-the-scenes footage (13 minutes) shows Hooper directing and it is a pleasure to watch him work. We also get to see him play with some of the special effects, which is a nice addition.
The original theatrical trailer has been included along with a TV spot.