Recap #2 – The Mangler (1995)

mangler

Title: The Mangler

Directed by: Tobe Hooper

Released: 1995

Description (from Netflix because I found it absolutely fucking hilarious): Machines aren’t made to rise up against humans, but in this sci-fi thriller, one does. But why? Police detective John Hunton (Ted Levine) is on the case, as he begins to unravel the strange mystery of a folding machine that seems to yearn not for clothing but for flesh. What’s behind this lust for blood, and just who is responsible for turning it into a mangling creature? The answer may lie with the gadget’s owner, Bill Gartley (Robert Englund).

Tagline: There is a fate worse than death.

Note: For another perspective on this movie, I’ve provided a link to Sean and Joe at The Horror Show podcast, episode three of their Tobe Hooper series. I don’t share their weird hate-on for Ted Levine (hell, I like the guy), but they’re funny as fuck. Check ’em out!

Nostalgia Time!


Wow, that description, though. “But why?” is what I was asking throughout this entire movie. Also, the fate worse than death mentioned in the tagline? Pretty sure it’s referring to watching this movie. So, The Mangler came out in 1995, and I’m pretty sure I saw it when it was fairly new on VHS (kids, ask your parents), so I was maybe 15 or 16? I remember renting it when I was at the height of my Robert Englund/Freddy Krueger kick, so maybe more like 16 or 17. Whatever. Moving on. I don’t remember hating it back then. I didn’t remember much about it at all, really, except that I didn’t love it, didn’t hate it . . . and I always thought it was going to be a bit ridiculous, because if you’ve read the original Stephen King story, you have to know it’s not going to translate well to the screen. It’s just not. I mean, it’s a possessed laundry machine that at the end of the story comes to life and becomes mobile, ripping itself off its moorings and killing people (spoilers?), so of course that was never going to play well on screen! So I never really had nostalgia glasses on with this one, since upon rewatching it I realized I barely remembered anything about it from my first viewing. Now I’m pretty sure that was my brain trying to protect me by blocking it out so that I didn’t have to spend the rest of my days obsessing over how magnificently awful it was. Like I’ve been doing ever since I rewatched it, after I asked myself, “It couldn’t have been that bad, could it?”

Spoiler alert: yes. Yes, it could.

Recap


First off, Stephen King’s short story, The Mangler, is a fairly straightforward, effective story about a possessed speed ironing and folding machine in an industrial laundry. The movie version is . . . none of those things. Not even straightforward, as there’s now this whole town conspiracy going on, and everything is convoluted as all fuck – be glad this isn’t a podcast, folks. It would just be an hour of me sighing despondently and muttering “I hate this movie” over and over. Also, word of warning: I’m doing this recap pretty much from memory because I rewatched this movie about a month ago, didn’t take notes, but just can’t bring myself to rewatch it again for this recap. I’ll try to hit as many high notes (ha!) as I can remember. (Note from Future Me: look at Present Me, so wide-eyed and innocent, full of hopes and dreams. I had to watch the damn thing again after all, and now I’m ruined.)

Let’s go ahead and meet the main cast. I guarantee that Robert Englund and Ted Levine are the only people in this thing that you’ve ever heard of.

Robot Roll Call:

Bill Gartley, played by Robert Englund. (I will probably just refer to him as Robert Englund throughout this recap.) Owner of the Blue Ribbon Laundry, which just makes me think of Pabst Blue Ribbon, which just makes me realize how badly I would like to be drunk while writing this recap. Uncle of Sherry Ouelette. Is for some reason about a million years old. Seriously, the old man makeup they’ve got Englund in is fucking disturbing. I just . . . whyyyyy?

John Hunton, played by Ted Levine. (I will probably refer to him as Ted Levine throughout this recap.) Police detective, widower, has a real bromance going on with his dead wife’s brother, Mark Jackson. When he’s not drinking beer (seriously dude, toss me one? or twelve?), he’s chewing antacids. Huh. Wonder if the two things could be related.

Mark Jackson, played by Daniel Matmor. As mentioned above, Hunton’s brother-in-law. Obviously the Stephen King stand-in, knows about demon possession and worked in an industrial laundry. Deus ex mangler, anyone?

Sherry Oulette, played by Vanessa Pike. I keep wanting to call her Shelly, and her last name keeps making me think of the oubliette scene from Labyrinth. (Which I couldn’t actually find a video of, so here, enjoy this Disney mashup instead.) Gartley’s niece, works in the Blue Ribbon Laundry, and is supposed to be sixteen years old. Wait, what? *checks my nonexistent notes* Oh, fuck me. All right. Sixteen. Whatever you say, movie.

Lin Sue, played by Lisa Morris. Also works in the Blue Ribbon. Totally being creeped on by million-year-old Robert Englund. None of the other women like her, because girls all hate each other, amirite?!

We open in the Blue Ribbon Laundry, with Sherry, Lin Sue, Annette, and Mrs. Frawley working and talking. Hey, this movie passes the Bechdel test in its first scene! And then never again through the rest of its run time! Oh. Welp. Okay, then. So, Sherry and her friend Annette are talking about Lin Sue and wondering where Robert Englund found her. Um. What? Like, I assume she filled out a job application? Or are we supposed to believe that the Blue Ribbon Laundry is out headhunting laundresses? Or is it that Old Man Englund is just lurching down the street, pointing at random women and saying, “There, I want to fuck that one, have her brought to the laundry!”

God, this fucking movie. I may resort to bullet points early. Give me strength.

For some reason there are a couple of fucking idiots moving an old-fashioned icebox through the work area, right past the ironing/folding machine that I’m going to be forced to call the mangler about a hundred times in this recap. Shelly Sherry goes to tighten a clamp, cuts her hand, and fucking flings blood all over the sheets currently being fed into  fucking shit motherfuck I’m going to have to call this fucking thing the mangler. Like, deliberately. Do you all fling blood fucking everywhere when you cut yourselves? Because I sure as shit don’t. Fuck you, Tobe Hooper. Fuck you and your blood-flinging bullshit.

Anyway, Sherry flings blood all over everything, and the two dipshits carrying the icebox fall over and ram it into the mangler. There’s a lot of really shitty electricity/lightning effects, and I’m just wondering where this electricity is supposed to be coming from? It doesn’t look like the icebox hit anything on the mangler except for the outer casing area, so someone here doesn’t understand how electricity works. Although that was probably supposed to be the demon transferring itself from . . . the mangler to the icebox? the icebox to the mangler? I’m so confused about what the fuck is actually happening with the possession. But it’s here that we get our first glimpse of Robert Englund/Bill Gartley, and . . . Oh. My. God. Why. He’s got the most medieval looking leg braces in the world, an eye patch over one lens of his glasses, and the worst old man makeup ever. I’m honestly baffled. Why?! Look, Robert Englund was in his late forties when this movie was made; that’s a perfectly acceptable age to be running an industrial laundry and have a thirty-year-old sixteen-year-old niece, so why not just let him be the age that he was? Why make him a thousand years old? It doesn’t make sense! (I would be tempted to think that it was Englund’s idea, because it seems like it might be, except there’s another actor in old man makeup . . . well, we’ll get to that.) Englund/Gartley comes out of his office on the top floor overlooking the work area, yelling and cussing at everyone, and there is no more scenery to be had, for Robert Englund has chewed every last bit of it. It’s super cringey, but also morbidly fascinating. I have trouble looking away from it, no matter how much I would like to.

We follow the Icebox Boys into the town of . . . fuck, I forgot the name of it. Riker’s something. Riker’s Island? Is it a prison? Because this movie belongs in jail. (Note from Future Me: it’s Riker’s Valley.) Anyway, as these jokers are barreling down the road looking for the address they’re supposed to deliver the icebox to, we meet John Hunton/Ted Levine, coming out of his house looking totally hungover and drinking . . . well, I thought it was a beer (I’m obviously projecting) but upon closer inspection it’s actually like a knockoff Starbucks cup, so, coffee? In my mind that venti motherfucker is filled to the brim with Jack Daniels, but again, I’m probably just projecting here. He takes his mail from the mailman and immediately begins flinging the junk mail onto the ground, even though he is standing literally inches away from his trashcans. Goddammit, you lazy asshole! Please arrest yourself for littering, kthanx.

Ted Levine/Hunton and the Icebox Boys nearly collide with each other on a blind curve, there’s some yelling, Ted follows them to their delivery address and starts to write them a ticket for driving like assholes, they promptly drop the fucking icebox on him, breaking his watch. Uh, whoops? This allows the audience to see the bloody hand print on the back of the icebox, dun-dun-dunnnnnn! Anyway, when they’re done being yelled at by Ted Levine, the Icebox Boys just . . . leave the fucking thing on the lawn at what they think is the right address? What kind of delivery service is this? How do these guys still have jobs? Why is every character in this movie so bad at everything?

Back at the Blue Ribbon, Mrs. Frawley drops her antacids into the machine that must not be named the mangler and gets sucked into it when she reaches for them. There’s a lot of screaming and panic, and more scenery-chewing by Robert Englund, and I just don’t care. We’re only about ten minutes into the movie at this point, FML. Ted Levine gets the call to go investigate at the laundry, because I guess police detectives investigate industrial accidents. Sure. Whatever. Ted chews some bootleg TUMS before setting out, and for a second I thought he was popping Vicodin or something (partly because while they’re talking you can hear the dispatcher ask, “How many did you take this time?” but I guess she wasn’t talking to him? I’m so confused.). That would have been so much more interesting, but not conducive to the plot later on, so fuck more interesting characterizations.

At the Blue Ribbon, Ted pops some more antacids, and has an antagonistic exchange with a photographer. Two things here. First of all, the photographer’s name is Pictureman. Let that sink in for a minute. The. Photographer’s. Name. Is. Pictureman. Really ruminate on that one, because that’s the level of wit we’re dealing with in this movie. (His full name is J.J.J. Pictureman, and I wonder if that’s supposed to be a nod to J. Jonah Jameson? My spidey sense says fuck off, movie.) The second thing is, this is the second actor in this thing to be in old man makeup. He’s actually a pretty young guy, as it’s plain to see when we see him as the mortician, without any old man makeup. Why, Tobe, why?! Was there not enough money to hire two different actors? Why are you so obsessed with the old man makeup, Hooper? Is it a fetish? Is this your kink?

Upon seeing what’s left of Mrs. Frawley’s body, Ted barfs, because movie makers still think we all want to see people puking, then runs out of the building. Annette follows him out and hands him a bottle of Mrs. Frawley’s antacids because she thinks they’ll “help.” Is . . . is this really just a 105-minute antacid commercial? I was really hoping they were Vicodin this time. While Ted/John is sitting in his car, the sheriff shows up with the safety inspector, and what’s left of Mrs. Frawley is carried out of the building in a literal laundry basket and loaded into the back of an ambulance. I’m not sure that’s actually how the coroner would handle this situation, but whatever. The bit about being carried out in a basket was in the original story, so this one is on Stephen King. Ted follows the safety inspector and sheriff back inside and watches them start the mangler up and lift the safety bar, which stops the machine. Oh, now it’s working like it’s supposed to, which makes the accident even more suspicious? It’s fine, inquest closed, get back to work! The look on Ted’s face is basically “WTF dude, are ya fuckin kidding me with this shit?!” which is pretty much how I feel about it, too, so I feel ya there, my dude.

Later that night, Ted is having dinner at Mark Jackson’s house, at some sort of outside patio/picnic table-like setup. They live kind of next door/behind each other, but there’s a little bridge and waterwheel all lit up with Christmas lights and shit that they have to walk across between the houses, and it’s actually really nice. It’s the one thing in this movie that actually looks good, so I just want to take a second to appreciate it. Ted recaps the movie so far for Mark, and they talk about Ted’s dead wife for a minute, but it’s in such vague terms that you’re not really sure who anyone is to anyone else yet. In my mind, their relationship plays better if they’re lovers, so I’ve created this entire head canon where Mark and Ted turned to each other in their grief over losing the wife/sister, Ted discovered and began to earnestly explore his bisexuality, and now they’re a couple. It’s a beautiful and poignant backstory, more so than anything this movie is actually going to give us. We find out that Mark used to work in an industrial laundry when he was an undergrad at Berkeley (convenient! and name-droppy! also, I see you, Stephen King, writing what you know!), and that the machine is nicknamed the “mangle.” However, much like me, Ted is going to continue calling it the mangler through the rest of this movie, despite being corrected twice. There’s not much else to take away from this scene other than we find out Mark is kind of a health nut, asking Ted if the granola he has is organic or if his yogurt is whole wheat. Wait. What? Whole wheat yogurt?! I’m not confident that Mark knows what yogurt is. And to think I actually liked this scene up til then. Goddammit, Mark.

Meanwhile at the Blue Ribbon, there’s another accident with the mangler, this time a steam line lets go, burning several women including Annette. Robert Englund yells some more, then invites Lin Sue into his office to creep on her comfort her creep on her. Wait, this is an office? But it has a huge bed and a full bathroom with an old claw-foot tub in it! I’m not convinced Tobe Hooper knows what offices look like, y’all. Anyway, this whole scene is super gross, with Englund calling himself “Uncle Billy” (I just threw up in my mouth a little, don’t mind me) and telling Lin Sue how there’s no such thing as a free lunch and this is better than being on the streets. So, wait, did he literally see her on the streets and have her brought to the laundry to fuck work? I mean, the implication is that she was a sex worker, so if he wanted to fuck, why not just employ her services in that capacity instead of bringing her in to work for minimum wage at Satan’s BDSM torture dungeon? Look guys, here’s a picture of the mangler from the movie:

mangler-movie
Ooh, scary!

And here’s a picture of a modern day mangle:

Modern_mangle
I want a movie where Ted Levine fights this thing.

What I’m saying is, I think I’d take my chances on the streets rather than fuck work for someone who thinks the latter machine needs to look like the former. Also, clearly there’s no HR department at the Blue Ribbon, since “Uncle Billy” (gag) is treating it like his own personal sex offender fuckapalooza.

Mark and Ted are hanging out on Ted’s porch when he gets the call about the new accident and heads to the hospital to talk to Annette. Mark goes with him cuz Mark’s a fucking weirdo, although he’s my favorite character in this thing, so I’ll give him a pass. Get down with your weird self, Mark. The doctor giving Annette pain medication (can I get some? I’m gonna need it to power through the rest of this movie) is missing the ring finger on his right hand. This becomes important later, and is actually shown really subtly here as opposed to later on, when it becomes as subtle as a fucking sledgehammer, so points to you, movie. You did something right! Annette rambles some about how Shelly Sherry is Gartley’s niece, and he raised her and keeps her all locked up in the house, no boyfriends, and she just graduated from high school. Wait. We learn later on that it’s her sixteenth birthday, but she’s already out of high school? I mean, sure, if she was in accelerated classes and skipped a couple of grades, maybe, but this just makes me think that Tobe Hooper doesn’t understand normal school systems. Annette talks about how all the accidents started when Sherry cut her hand, and Mark practically creams himself asking if Sherry bled into the machine. Oh God, Mark, you’re really gonna go down the old Virgin Blood Lane, aren’t you? Then Annette says something about it being like the machine got a taste of blood and wanted more, and then. And then! says “We women get funny ideas sometimes, don’t we?” And I just want to set the world on fire. Haha, silly little woman with her silly little ideas, there there, you silly little thing, get back in the kitchen and leave the thinking to the menfolk! Look, this line is taken directly from the original short story, but Stephen King published that story in 1972. There’s no need to include casual internalized misogyny in the 1995 movie. Of all the things for this piece of shit to stay true to . . . So, to his credit, at least Ted/John doesn’t agree, just tries to leave as gracefully as possible, but Mark runs back to pull a Columbo (even though Ted is the one in the Columbo trenchcoat) and do the whole “one last question” thing, but Ted is all, “Mark, NO! Bad Mark! No cookie for you!” so we don’t get to hear Mark ask Annette if Shelly is a virgin.

Ted and Mark drive home, see Mrs. something-or-other in the street calling for her son, then Mark insists Ted come over to his place because he wants to show him something. Oh? Is that so? Bow chicka wow wow! All Ted wants is a six-pack (you and me both, bud) or, barring that, to just go to bed, but Mark insists. This is where we get the world’s clunkiest dialog informing us that they’re brothers-in-law. Nope. Lovers. It is asserted that Ted would follow Mark to the ends of the earth, and that is exactly the type of shit I would say to my boyfriend if I were a much sappier bitch than I am. So, Mark starts showing Ted all these occult books and asking him if he’s considered that the machine might be haunted. Ted responds like any normal person would, with snark and sarcasm, and I kind of love him for it. Then Mark amends “haunted” to “possessed” because he apparently thinks that’s somehow more rational? Buddy, pal, my dude, that is not better. At all. Ted doesn’t think so, either. He tells Mark that “first there’s God, then country, then the law, and all the rest is just bullshit.” Wait, is this movie some sort of conservative propaganda? Well, damn. Ten points from Gryffindor. The house cup goes to Slytherin.

Back at the Blue Ribbon (dear God, is this all taking place in the same night?!) it’s end of shift but Lin Sue is still there and gets pulled into the mangler while Robert Englund looks on. The foreman pulls her out, but not before the mangler takes her right ring finger. How this monstrosity has the precision to only sever one specific finger is beyond me. I’m not sure what the significance of that finger is, but I don’t care enough to look it up. (Future Me here again. I got curious and looked it up. Apparently the ring finger is associated with the sun and your authentic self, which maybe makes sense in this context, but I mostly just think Tobe Hooper was bullshitting his way through this.) Million-year-old Robert Englund insists that Lin Sue be brought to him instead of taken to a doctor, and then we cut back to Ted and Mark talking more occult and possessed laundry equipment. There’s a book with diagrams of hands and fingers, but nothing relating to just the ring finger. What a bullshit tease. Anyway, we get to hear about all the things that could cause demon possession of a laundry machine, including belladonna, aka deadly nightshade, aka the hand of glory (which can also refer to the actual hand of a dead person, but this movie isn’t going to tell you that); and, wait for it . . . the blood of a virgin! Are you shocked by this turn of events? I know I am! . . . said no one ever. Mark suggests that the way Annette described Sherry makes her sound like a virgin (actually, it made it sound to me like Uncle Billy is probably diddling her himself, but that’s a whole other movie), and Ted gives what I feel is the proper response by devolving into disbelieving laughter for a solid minute, then sarcastically presenting a scenario in which he asks Shelly Sherry if she’s a virgin. Mark apparently has no context for sarcasm, because that’s exactly what he insists they run off to do.

Now, fun fact: all the talk you hear about virgin blood is bullshit. Virgin blood doesn’t actually refer to blood from a person who has never fucked. It literally refers to blood that has never been used in any other ritual. “Virgin” refers to the blood itself, not the person it came from. But that would ruin too many horror stories, wouldn’t it?

Ted and Mark go to the Gartley mansion, and the talk with Sherry goes about as well as you would expect. They’re about to leave when Mark (who has promised to keep his mouth shut, haha oh Mark) gets all up in Sherry’s grill like a wild-eyed perv and basically screams “Are you a virgin?!” at her. Oh, Mark. Mark, Mark, Mark, lol whut r u doin bro?! She screams at them to get out, and Mark takes this as confirmation that she is indeed a virgin. Oh, Mark. No, honey. If some dude had gotten up in my face like that when I was thirty I mean there’s no way this girl is only sixteen, I would have screamed at him to get the fuck out too, and guess who still has both ring fingers and wasn’t a virgin at sixteen? On the drive home, Ted asks Mark like wtf bro, are you some kind of pervert, and I can’t stop laughing. Maybe I’ve succumbed to exposure therapy with this movie, because I’m not totally hating it right now. Don’t worry, I’m sure that will change.

Hey, remember that icebox that got left on some random person’s lawn? It totally ate a kid, om nom nom! I mean, the boy that the lady was standing in the street yelling for earlier (Jesus Christ, this is all taking place in the same night, kill me) got stuck in the icebox. Are y’all reading this old enough to have had your parents tell you not to play in abandoned refrigerators when you were a kid? I always wondered where my mom thought all these abandoned fridges were coming from, but I guess now we know. The Icebox Boys drop them off in your front yard after Ted Levine writes them a traffic ticket for driving like assholes and breaking his watch.

The photographer (Pictureman. Pictureman!) shows up for no reason, Mark and Ted realize that this is the same icebox from the Blue Ribbon, the icebox tries to eat Mark’s arm (lol), and Ted beats it to death with a sledgehammer. This sort of tornado of energy spirals up out of it, Pictureman snaps a few photos (have I talked about his camera yet? he obviously stole it from Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window), and Ted is super rattled and disheveled, as is normal after sledgehammering a demon out of an icebox. Mark tells a uniformed cop to “burn it and bury it” and Ted adds “and drive a stake through its heart” and guys. Guys. Maybe I’m overly caffeinated right now, but I can’t stop laughing. Please send help.

Our intrepid heroes decide to take care of the possessed mangler themselves, but we’re only halfway through the movie, so they have to fuck around with some pointless bullshit first. Ted goes to the morgue and runs into Pictureman masquerading as the mortician without his old man makeup, then steals some more of dead Mrs. Frawley’s antacids out of her purse. Seriously, is there a shortage of TUMS in this universe? You have to loot a dead old lady for antacids? Damn, dude. Good news though – while Ted was looting the dead lady, it gave the mortician time to change back into his old man makeup and reappear as Pictureman! Oh happy day! They chat about some cryptic bullshit, about Ted/John needing to forgive himself, Pictureman is apparently dying (cancer, we’re led to believe), and the photos of the icebox will be developed later that night. How the fuck long is this night? Does this take place in the same universe as 30 Days of Night? Because I feel like we must be about two minutes away from sunrise and yet people keep talking about “later on tonight.” Did time freeze when Ted’s watch broke? I don’t think Tobe Hooper understands how time works.

Ted goes and breaks into the Blue Ribbon, and almost gets sucked into the mangler by his trenchcoat. That shit never would have happened to Columbo. There’s some antagonistic threatening and posturing between Ted and Robert Englund, Robert starts talking about how there’s a little of him in the mangler and a little of it in him (kinky!), and some shit about everyone having to make sacrifices, and it’s around this point that I start thinking that the only way I can get through the rest of this movie is if I imagine this is actually Freddy Krueger facing off against Buffalo Bill.

FreddyvsBill
Trust me, this would be the better movie

After Ted leaves, Robert starts talking to the foreman, George (wait, George foreman? Goddammit.), telling him about how his daddy bought the mangler, and no one’s going to shut it down, and George tells us that Robert’s/Gartley’s daughter was killed by the mangler when she was sixteen. This is basically all filler. Robert gets Ted suspended, then creeps on Lin Sue some more, shows her a contract he made with the “beast in the machine” that also shows us he’s missing his right ring finger, then tells Lin Sue she’s changing and feeling weird because she’s joining the club. I guess telling her this accelerates the process because she does a complete 180 and is like totally on board with being evil now. Sure, why not. Get it, girl.

Back at Mark’s place, he and Ted are preparing for the showdown with the mangler, and he’s sure that it’s a demon conjured by the virgin blood because if it was one conjured by belladonna, they’re fucked. Okay bro, that’s some rock solid reasoning right there. At least Ted isn’t so convinced, not that it’s going to do anyone any good. Oh, what’s that? There’s still 35 minutes left, so we have to drag this thing out with some more pointless padding? Okay, let’s go see Pictureman! (Pictureman! Then we’re going to go get some doughnuts from Bakerman, and I’m gonna buy a fifth of Jack from Whiskeyman!)

Foreman George (whose last name is actually Stanner) tries to shut down the mangler and Sherry shows up just in time to uselessly stand around and scream as he gets sucked into it. Robert and Lin Sue come out of the office to watch, and Old Man Englund actually dances a jig, leg braces and all, while another worker gets an ax and cuts George’s arm off to free him from the machine, but it’s all in vain. RIP Foreman George. Sherry runs away, and Robert says something about how he used to have all the time in the world but not anymore, dammit Sherry! Um. Okay?

Mark and Ted get to the . . . police station? city hall? I have no fucking idea what this building is, but it apparently contains both the morgue and Pictureman’s office, so . . . yeah. Anyway, they get there just as Pictureman is being wheeled out on a gurney. He dies very dramatically after telling Ted that he needs to exorcise his demon and not let it possess his soul. It’s also made pretty obvious that Pictureman is missing his right ring finger. Down in the office, Pictureman has like a serial-killer wall with newspaper clippings on it, and this is where we find out that Ted/John’s wife died in a car accident and he was driving. Now Pictureman’s cryptic bullshit makes sense for anyone who has never seen a movie before and had no idea that this was coming. They find a scrapbook full of more newspaper clippings and discover that all the rich and powerful men in town sacrificed their daughters to the mangler on the girls’ sixteenth birthdays. This leads them to jump to the conclusion that Sherry is in danger, despite the fact that Gartley already sacrificed his own daughter back in the day, so why the fuck does he need to sacrifice his niece as well? This movie makes no sense. Ugh, whatever. Ted calls Sherry and finds out that today (this never-fucking-ending day) is her sixteenth birthday, and I can’t stop laughing because there is no way in hell this girl would ever be mistaken for sixteen. Also, I know that Robert Englund is all conspiratorial with and paying off the safety inspector, but there is no fucking way a fifteen-almost-sixteen-year-old is working in an industrial laundry around dangerous equipment like that. I worked in a grocery store for almost nine years, and believe me, OSHA won’t even let you use a fucking ladder if you’re under eighteen. You can’t even walk into the walk-in cooler area if you’re under eighteen, and you want me to believe a fifteen-year-old was running something called the mangler? No. No no no no. Bullshit, Tobe. Bullshit.

Only twenty minutes of this train wreck left. Deep breath. We can make it.

Robert Englund and Lin Sue show up and snatch Sherry. Robert tells her that he has to choose between her and himself, and I’m still so confused. Is there an expiration date on the sacrifice to the laundry demon? Has he used up all the time that he gained by sacrificing his daughter however long ago? I’m assuming that’s it, but this movie makes no attempt to make anything make sense. Whatever. Apparently Lin Sue is full on evil and totally into fucking million-year-old Robert Englund now, so the mangler obviously works in mysterious ways.

Mark and Ted show up at the Blue Ribbon in time to save Sherry from being sacrificed, Lin Sue ends up getting thrown into the mangler instead, and Robert ends up in the folding part, and I call bullshit on how long he stays alive and conscious while being folded up like a sheet, but fine. He’s a trooper.

Oh, hey. Laundry exorcism. I’m not sure they’re doing it right, but the machine seems to calm down after Ted screams at it and throws vials of holy water into the rollers. Cool. He breathes a sigh of relief and munches on some more antacids. Mark sees Ted chowing down on the antacids, then asks for some, saying he doesn’t take drugs but he really needs these. Um. Mark, buddy, they’re fucking antacids. I don’t think that really qualifies as taking drugs, at least not in the colloquial sense, but . . . sure. I understand we now need you to ask what’s in them, look at the label, realize there’s a derivative of belladonna in them, find out Ted jacked them off a dead lady, and figure out that she spilled them into the mangler at some point. Honey, I understand plot contrivance. What I don’t understand is what this has to do with anything. The mangler has clearly been possessed for at least a generation, since all the rich and powerful dudes in town have been sacrificing their daughters to it in exchange for wealth and power, so belladonna and virgin blood really have fuck-all to do with anything when it comes to this thing being possessed. It was already possessed! The whole time! Unless you’re trying to suggest that there are now multiple demons inhabiting it, in which case I’m even more done with this movie than I thought I was. Please, can there just be one thing, anything, in this movie that has any sort of logic to it?

The mangler apparently watches movies, because it waits until Mark says “We may be fucked” before coming to life again. Really, this machine has a great sense of dramatic timing. It sort of explodes and throws off its outer casings, and . . . I don’t even know any more. It pulls itself up off its moorings and starts chasing our three heroes through the building, and I can’t figure out what the fuck is going on with this building. I think there actually may be a labyrinth and an oubliette in there somewhere. It kills Mark (aww, RIP buddy, you were my favorite), and chases Ted and Shelly Sherry into a . . . sewer? It looks like a sewer. Why is there open sewage in this building? Why is there a spiral staircase to hell in this building? Ah, never mind. Stupid question. It gets a hold of Sherry, but very strategically only severs her right ring finger, throws some fireballs at them, then goes away. Okay then. And yes, that is definitely a sewer Ted and Sherry climb out of.

At the hospital, Ted isn’t allowed to see Sherry, and the doctor makes a point of waving with his right hand so the movie can beat us over the head to point out that his ring finger is missing.

Jesus Christ, it’s finally morning! The never ending night is over! There’s sunlight outside as Ted leaves the hospital! Guys, I just don’t even know what’s real any more.

When he gets home, there’s a letter from Pictureman (Ted Levine pronounces it like “Picture – maaaan” and I’m just, what? My last name has a “man” in it, too, and I would smack someone who pronounced it like that, but whatevs. You do you, Ted.) that basically tells us everything we’ve already figured out about people with missing fingers being evil, so thanks for nothing there, Picture-maaan.

Some time later, I have no idea how long, Ted shows up at the Blue Ribbon with a bouquet of . . . violets? I think they’re violets. I dunno, I’m not really good with flowers. They look like he just picked them by the side of the road, but they’re still kinda pretty. But I have to wonder why he’s trying to bring Sherry flowers? I mean, in the hospital, sure, but a grown-ass man coming to a sixteen-year-old girl’s place of work to bring her flowers he picked himself? Um. That seems questionable. Don’t be a perv like Mark, Ted. Anyway, the mangler is up and running again, and Sherry is now the boss (no way a fucking sixteen-year-old is running an industrial laundry, but I’ve come to the conclusion that Tobe Hooper doesn’t understand anything about aging and the different stages of life, which is why he has middle-aged guys playing thousand-year-olds and thirty-year-olds as teenagers and thinks kids normally graduate high school at fifteen and assumes all sixteen-year-olds are virgins), and she’s apparently learned how to mimic Robert Englund’s scenery-chewing performance to show us how evil she is now. She sees Ted, sneers at him, and makes damn sure to wave at him with her right hand so we get a good long look at her missing finger. You know, just to really drive home how stupid and lacking in the ability to process subtlety Tobe Hooper thinks his audience is.

Ted realizes that Sherry is evil now, throws the flowers away (waste of perfectly good flowers he could have put on Mark’s grave), and nopes right the fuck outta there, driving off into the sunset. Presumably to go film Heat, which is a much better use of his time than this garbage. Roll credits.

Final Thoughts


I had hoped this could make it onto my list of favorite bad movies, but nope. It’s just bad, no favorite about it. Peace, bitches.

5 thoughts on “Recap #2 – The Mangler (1995)

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