Escape before it rips you apart.
Once upon a time Stephen King wrote a pretty decent little short story called "The Mangler," which was a about a laundry press that gets possessed by a demon and begins claiming lives. This was made into a low budget film with good intentions but completely missed the mark. If you remember The Mangler (Hey! Who doesn't?), then you'll remember that basically the entire cast gets messily wiped out in the end by the demonic machine. Naturally, this lends itself well to a sequel. (I think I'm abusing sarcasm here.)
Honestly, why isn't there a decent set of rules for when you can and can't do a sequel? I really can't understand why a film that nobody saw would get a sequel to begin with, much less one that completely diverts itself away from the original source material. If we can do sequels when all of the characters in the first movie die, what's to stop me from doing "Hamlet 2: Where the Hell Is Everybody?" (Hmmm…note to self…)
Facts of the Case
Jo Newton (Chelsea Swain, The Virgin Suicides) is a typical rebellious teen who breaks into her father's high-tech research facilities and plants computer viruses for reasons we're not really privy to. This is just a lame way to establish that she's some kind of hacker grrrl, but bear with me. When she's caught by her father, her punishment is to be whisked away to a private school with a brand new computer security system, but not before her bodyguard slips her a security card that will allow her to get anywhere on the campus. When Headmaster Badian (Lance Henriksen, Aliens) rounds up the usual suspects after the school's web site is defaced, Jo takes exception to being implicated and downloads a virulent program called The Mangler 2.0. (If you can't see where this plot is going, stop reading this review and go out and buy it, because it will totally shock you.)
Without any effort, the virus crawls into the school's mainframe and all sorts of mechanical gadgets, like freezers, washing machines, security locks, and the various cameras all begin to go haywire and kill people. Jo's friends get killed off one by one and Headmaster Badian gets a really nasty facial from the computers. Can Jo shut down the virus in time to save the world or before the audience falls asleep?
Everything in this movie—every plot device, pieces of dialogue, and even the music were basically ripped off from other sources. I've never sat through a 90-minute movie saying to myself, "Seen it…seen it…seen it…" over and over again. The plot is basically a combination of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Lawnmower Man, Virus, and the "Ghost In the Machine" episode of The X-Files, as well as countless other sources. Normally I'd make a joke here and say something like "I liked this movie a whole lot better when it was called Virus," but the problem is Virus really kind of stunk, too, so I'll just leave it be.
I'll point out that writer/director Michael Hamilton-Wright didn't even take the more intelligent points from the above movies. The script to The Mangler 2 has more holes than a sponge, and I would hazard a guess that Hamilton-Wright knows next to nothing about computers and electronics. The characters spit out all sorts of terms like "firewall" and other hacking jargon that makes absolutely no sense in the context that they're using it. Additionally, once the mainframe is infected (never minding, of course, that Jo never actually uploaded it from her system, despite the fact that she said she did), it takes control of every piece of mechanics in the entire school, which includes wires, doors, washing machine lids and everything else, not even stopping to consider that these things are not electronic. The Mangler Virus is also able to make boiling hot super-heated water come out of the fire sprinkler system, and it was at about this point in the film that I reached for the hard liquor. At least in Virus we got a decent explanation (there was a robotics lab aboard the ship), but here things happen just because they're written that way. On top of that, Jo's bodyguard (played by a guy who makes Anthony Sabato, Jr. look suave) returns to the school once he discovers she's using the security pass that he gave to her. He should be hours away and yet manages to return within 20 minutes to save the day. This makes the script look either rather amateurish or like a student paper, take your pick on whichever analogy you like best.
On top of all of this there's an indiscriminate amount of time actually missing from this movie. When the layer change on the DVD occurs, all of the characters are in the gymnasium in the pitch black trying to walk down the bleachers. The layer change occurs and suddenly everybody (less one character) is outside and mourning the loss of said character. If you're thinking, "How'd that happen?" you aren't the only one. Since the plot is about as predictable as counting to ten, I realize that this character probably got crushed and mauled under the gymnasium steps (they stole this bit from The Faculty). At first I thought this was a technical glitch with the DVD, so I reversed and replayed the sequence over again three or four times, and there was no skipping and the time display on my player didn't skip at all. I did some checking around on line and apparently I wasn't the only person confused by this with one person referencing the Audio Commentary. I flipped over to the audio commentary on this scene and it turns out that I was right about what happens and they make references to "page 80" of the script, but they never explain why they didn't seem to include page 80 in the film. This wasn't a technical glitch after all! The horror!
The musical score is exactly like the score from Run Lola Run, only different. There's this incessant need to use a constant techno-style to this film, never minding the fact that it doesn't work with horror movies. I'll also point out that part of the soundtrack actually sounded like it was ripped out of Run Lola Run and combined with indistinguishable lyrics that were painfully similar in cadence to Rob Zombie's "Dragula."
When you watch a horror movie, especially one with a title like The Mangler 2, there are certain expectations that you have. For example, there should be plenty of gore, but there was next to none. At first most of the deaths were done off screen, which is pretty standard for horror movies. The payoffs and the real bloodletting generally come later in the film. Only it never happened. There was no money shot at any point in this regard. This was one thing The Mangler actually got right, and the sequel completely missed the boat. Apparently, the production budget didn't allow for red syrup, but it did allow them to buy used computerized graphics from the production of The Lawnmower Man. My mind is reeling at this one.
When you watch a horror movie, there should be women removing their clothing. This is one of the principle rules from Scream. The obvious choice for this role would have been Jo's friend Emily (Daniella Evangelista), but once again, The Mangler 2 disappoints.
And how about the unintentional comedy factor? There was none.
Michael Hamilton-Wright's directing skills are about as amateurish as his writing skills, as he uses just about every cliché in the book to make his film look hip and interesting. There's the "funky angle" approach so he can try to be like Tarantino, and I'll point out that he completely and utterly misuses the technique, which is sloppy. (One shot in particular shows a bottle of champagne being poured upside down, then the camera slowly rights itself. Dumb!) On top of that, Hamilton-Wright tries to make The Mangler 2 look like some sort of big action movie by editing together three or four angles of the same shot in quick succession. This is something that directors like John Woo do for the big payoff 'splosion towards the end of the film. In this case, we didn't get an explosion. Instead, we got a car ramming through an electrical fence. If I hadn't already been seething at this movie, I would have been in hysterics.
The acting is about as abysmal as you would imagine it to be in a movie like The Mangler 2, with only two characters standing out. The first is Phillipe Bergeron's (Godzilla) portrayal of Lecours, the angry and bitter French chef who toils away in the school's kitchen. His dialogue is occasionally humorous and he plays it up with gusto. The other standout is Lance Henriksen, who I'd swear is aging in dog years. To be honest, I'm not sure how or why Henriksen is appearing in this movie. He couldn't possibly have needed the work this badly, could he? Either way, he was also unable to elevate his role beyond the wretched script, and it hardly mattered because at the end his voice gets replaced by the computer's voice. [Editor's Note: I think for a better film that might've been considered a spoiler…]
The Mangler 2 is presented in an anamorphic transfer and I have to admit that Artisan actually did a nice job on this one. The colors are well represented and there was no noticeable edge enhancement. There were occasional and hardly noticeable issues with graininess, but other than that, this is the nicest video transfer I've seen from Artisan in quite some time. Ditto for the audio treatment, which manages a nicely done 5.1 presentation. With the annoying techno beat running throughout the film, The Mangler 2 at the very least takes advantage of the technology. The special features are pretty run-of-the-mill. There's a "making of" featurette that shows what you were thinking all along, that the production budget was about $500 and change. There are two super bad music videos featuring the two original songs from the soundtrack, a photo gallery, cast member biographies and filmographies (such as they are), an unwatchable outtakes reel, and an audio commentary. I have to admit that the only part of the commentary I listened to dealt with the "page 80" incident I mentioned above, and that was more than enough. There is absolutely no amount of cajoling, begging, threatening, or bribing that could make me sit through this piece of trash called The Mangler 2 again.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I'd be remiss if I didn't think of something nice to say about The Mangler 2 so…um…lemme see…um…
Daniella Evangelista wears a bikini throughout most of the film and she's rather easy on the eyes. She can't act, but I really didn't care. Please keep in mind that this in no way excuses the watching of this film under any circumstances, including but not limited to reviewing it.
I just thought I'd point out that if you type the word "mangler" into Amazon.com's search engine that Barbra Streisand's Funny Girl is the top choice. Hilarious!
Oh, and if you're thinking about watching this movie, you'd be better off jabbing a pencil into your eye, because a trip to the emergency room is a whole lot more fun. This is easily one of the worst movies I've seen in my entire life, but at least it was better than Motorama.
Guilty of being vastly unoriginal, insipid, boring, and just downright horrible! In fact, this is an open request for Stephen King to get the license back on this before The Mangler 3 gets made. Come on, Mr. King! You don't need the money that badly!
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a screenplay to write.
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Scales of Justice
• Audio Commentary with Michael Hamilton-Wright, Glen Tedham, and Philippe Bergeron
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