The Mangler part 2 begins with an intruder in a large office building, clad in black and a ski mask obviously up to no good… They carry a CD-ROM – it was right around 2000 so I suppose this is meant to look high tech. The computer itself doesn’t even have the drive built-in, she slides it into an external and uploads a virus.This sets off the alarms in the building and she’s quickly captured by security. It turns out the Intruder is the daughter of the company president and he’s about to ship her back off to her awful Prep School.
We get shots of kids in uniform – Prep School tie and skirts, wandering a stone campus overlaid by early 2000s pop punk
The headmaster is a haggard-looking Lance Henriksen (in a role originally meant for Malcolm McDowell), who controls the school through computers and mechanization, provided by the father you saw in the pre-credits sequence. A field trip has been scheduled to conveniently empty the school of all but our main cast.
They are tasked with trying to figure out who tampered with school website – a prank to embarrass the Headmaster. If they fail there will be no senior activities including prom… oh, so we have our premise. Jo, our outcast hacker girl from the beginning is the Chief suspect. Whether she did it or not, she’s going to be blamed anyhow – so she decides on some mischief of her own.While browsing the dark web (did they even have a dark web in 2002?) she discovers a virus called “The Mangler” when she downloads to deploy at the school. It immediately overcomes the server and takes over every camera in the school.
The janitor is the first one to get it, murdered by a pair of hedge clippers attached to wires that have grown out of the wall. This is one impressive virus…
Over at the pool, our left behind kids throw a luau party. This provides us with some long overdue getting-to-know-you schtick as well as stripping the main cast down into swimsuits to satisfy the purely voyeuristic requirements. Jo announces here that she’s impacted the computer system with The Mangler and expects the school to be shut down within the next day. They realize the virus can be traced back to them, since they’re the only ones left at school and go off to try and figure out a way to hide that fact.
Elsewhere, The Mangler takes out the crippled gym teacher by using the wheelchair lift the throw him down the stairs and then wrapping one of its prehensile wires around an axe to go after him. It’s also after the school chef trapping him in the freezer and turining up the cold. This is definitely the kind of action I was more expecting from this film rather than disembodied wires wreaking havoc.
Two of the kids get stoned and head to the kitchen. Ominous wires follow them. Meanwhile one of the other teachers gets ready to do laundry, but she’s brought her flask – time to let her hair down and cop a snootful. Of course, being drunk with a basket full of thongs, in a prep school haunted by a evil computer virus definitely gets you a big case of death by washing machine.
Back in the kitchen, the stoners discover the chef, frozen in the walk-in, and manage to rescue him. He explains to them he’s certain that it’s the computer behind everything, and man is that computer angry! I’m kind of rooting for the grumpy old dude, at this point he seems like the only character in this movie with any sense.
The Mangler is starting to get bolder. It taunts its next victim on a computer chat before releasing acid through the fire sprinklers. The gang knows they’re in trouble now, and they meet up with the chef to try and figure out how to get out of the school. Sinister prehensile wires snake their way towards them, blocking the door. Meanwhile, the cameras watch their every move. They make a break for the roof, where there are no cameras. At least, they think there’s no cameras up there. Turns out there’s plenty of cameras to spy on them on the roof and this is just an elaborate scheme to pad the runtime.
The stalking continues with one of them crushed in between the remote control bleachers. This murder keeps The Mangler occupied long enough for the rest of our group to escape outside. They clear the building, but are still trapped on the campus by electric fences that surround the grounds. Their only hope of escaping for good is to shut down the server hosting a Mangler, so back to the dorms they go.
While Jo attempts to figure out a way to shut down program, The Mangler reaches out to contact her through her computer. It tries to convince her to join it rather than fight, but shes seen too many people die already. It’s at that moment that the Headmaster shows up, none too pleased about what’s going on. One of the kids clocks him and once again the chase is on. It’s okay, The Mangler isn’t paying attention to them , it has the principal to deal with. Wires wrap around Lance and drag the body away.
As they pass through the computer lab, the webcams on top of the monitors turn to follow their every move while the screens pulse red with the words “you’ve been mangled”. They pass through the bloody laundry room and a wire slides out from the ceiling, yanking one of the kids away. Finally back outside they ram a car through the electrical fence, shorting it out oh, but not for long. The Mangler claims its next victim – well, at least the chef got out. He tosses Jo his knife and she heads back into the school, determined to end this.
Inside, a deep electronic voice announces “I’m in the basement Jo.” She makes her way down into the depths of the school unchallenged. All around her, wires cover the walls and the floors and the stairs. The Mangler has taken over, full force. Electronic music scores her descent.
Down in The Mangler’s lair it has wired up Lance Henriksen and is using him as an avatar. Jo finds herself face to face with the living embodiment of the virus. It’s a great visual and this should be the crown jewel of the movie, except he’s wearing sunglasses because the Matrix was cool and literally quotes the Spice Girls. Jo tricks the avatar into downloading a program that will ultimately crash it, and while the application dismantles the virus she goes to work on the body with the knife.
Ultimately, this is a sequel in name only. After the box office failure of the original Mangler film 7 years prior, this one attempted a structure that was much closer to the fashion of this era. Using the scream model, they cast a bunch of young attractive 18 year olds from the local CW shows, and attempted a reasonably bloodless cyber-thriller. While it’s got some interesting moments and at least one good set-piece at the end, it’s largely unremarkable and it’s treatment of technology is infuriatingly fictional. The movie could stand alone outside the franchise and works if you’re a fan of stuff like Hackers or Arcade or The 13th floor, but feels completely out of place as a part of this series.