The Mangler Reborn
Right off the bat, I’m glad to see that this film wants to be a proper sequel, unlike the sequel in name only that we got from the Mangler 2. The problem is, I’m not convinced that the filmmakers ever saw the actual original film. I’m not sure what kind of device they think the Mangler is (other than being referred to as “an antique”) but for this film, they have transformed it into a big boxy conveyor belt with stabby CGI knives that pounce on you from above. This isn’t a laundry device, it’s just a killing machine…and it wants blood.
The video quality is better than consumer grade, but not as high as I’d expect from professional production. It feels like an Asylum movie and I was actually a bit surprised to discover it wasn’t one. The addition of Reggie Bannister is a definite plus though, making sure that the movie still had some horror star cred, just like it’s predecessors.
We start off with a man, Hadley, and his wife arguing. She wants him to get a job and stop tinkering with that machine in the attic. It ends predictably and we pretty much know the score before the title credits roll.
Hadley does service on washing machines and uses that as an excuse to kidnap victims for the Mangler. We get a brief sequence of him abducting ingénue Jaime and then switch over to Reggie Bannister and his son Mike, casing Hadley’s house. They’re thieves and have been planning to knock over the place for a while. Reggie sneaks in, but to his surprise he doesn’t have to pick the lock – the door is open. Inside, the windows are bricked up behind tacky curtains and Reg discovers that the locks are actually on the inside of the doors. He’s going to have to pick his way OUT, not in.
Things get weirder when he discovers a drawer full of old wallets – all of which have money in them. He suspects the mark may be a thief himself and after grabbing the cash figures it’s time to start getting out. Back in the van, Mike is getting worried and nags Reg over his wallkie talkie to get movie. Reg is almost to the stairs when he sees the bloody handprints on the wall and hears the whimpers of a woman locked in the bedroom across the hall. He decides he’s going to do the right thing “For once in my life!” and grabs his lock pick tools to try and free her. It’s too late, Hadley arrives home, with Jaimie in a sack slung over his shoulder.
Things go poorly for Reg and Mike sneaks in after him. The girl that Reg tried to free gets fed to the machine, but Mike does better than his father, getting Jaimie out before buying it himself. Turns out that Jaimie is the actual main character here. I wasn’t sure, because she vanished for a good 20 -30 minute stretch in the middle of the film while we focus on Reggie.
Bannister for his part, is well used in this film. While he couldn’t have worked more than a couple of days on set, his scenes are shot judiciously, mostly alone. There’s shots of him talking on the Walkie, or hiding in the closet – stuff where you can insert the other actors later without immediately worrying about shooting their coverage when time’s at a premium. As a result, Reg has a significant amount of screen time here. It’s more than a cameo, but less than a full supporting role. If there a weakness, it may be that he’s too likable. Bannister is obviously trying to play a sort of scummy deadbeat dad type. Perhaps I just have too close an association with him from other movies, but you take one look at that skullet ponytail that only Reggie Bannister can pull off, and you just feel like he’s you cool uncle. He’s impossible not to root for.
The house too, is a little underdeveloped. There’s some good ideas here – the house is a trap. Once you’re in, you can’t get out. But it needs to be better highlighted and the spook factor increased. The entire place is lit in a flat white light. Some gloom here to really creep up the look as well as some grime to add more repulsion would go a long way towards making this a truly scary set. The bricked up windows are treated as an afterthought. People come in, glance behind the curtins and then move on. Treated as a revelation, with proper lighting this could have been unnerving. As it is, it’s just…odd.
All in all, the greatest sin here is that it feels cheap. The movie has good intentions, but it’s ambition outweighs it’s reach and the entire affair comes off as a misfire. It’s worth watching as a companion if you really love the Mangler, but the film could have been so much more.