Starring Reggie Bannister, Aimee Brooks, Weston Blakesley, Scott Speiser
Directed by Matt Cunningham & Eric Gardner
Some franchises boggle the mind, no more so than in the Stephen King universe. Why is it that the author’s worst screen adaptations continue to spawn the most sequels? Just the fact that we don’t have a single Dark Tower film, yet seven – count’ em seven – Children of the Corn films is enough to make one projectile vomit.
Tobe Hooper’s The Mangler (based on a short story about a possessed laundry machine) remains one of the biggest King bastardizations to date and for reasons unknown, we were subjected to a direct-to-video sequel even worse than its predecessor. As if to appease those eight Mangler fans on the planet, we’ve now been graced with a second follow-up: The Mangler Reborn. While we needed another sequel about as much as we need an outbreak of SARS, the end result is a watchable enough film in its own right.
Ten years after the original massacre, the spirit of the Mangler possesses fix-it man Hadley (Weston Blakesley) who runs around like a psycho version of the Maytag repairman, abducting sexy young clients and feeding them into his elaborately-constructed death machine. Things get even more complicated when a father/son burglar team (Reggie Bannister, Scott Speiser) picks his house as their next heist and unwittingly stumble into his abode of carnage.
Shot in a mere 10 days on a price tag smaller than a used Ford Taurus, the result is the best installment in the Mangler series, even if that is faint praise. Directing team Matt Cunningham and Erik Gardner clearly have a budding talent for horror and show a good eye when it comes to crafting spooky visuals. Despite its slasher premise, The Mangler Reborn puts more of an emphasis on mood, with photography reminiscent of Japanese horror and an ambient score from Session 9 composers Climax Golden Twins.
Sadly, the attempt at deliberate pacing backfires, resulting in a lot of scenes that plod rather than build. Since the majority of the film takes place inside the abandoned house, it becomes tedious watching characters explore the same empty rooms over and over again. On the other hand, Reborn is a blast during its visceral moments, which display quite a bit of raw energy, gleeful bloodshed, and black humor. Nothing’s more fun than watching the big bad antagonist go mallet-happy on the entire cast and the filmmakers more than meet their head bashing quota.
However, as demonstrated several times now, the Mangler concept just doesn’t have enough going for it to fill a feature and Reborn ends up feeling way too padded. Still, it’s a credit that two indie filmmakers with a microbudget can churn out a much better film than Tobe Hooper could on a multi-million dollar Hollywood movie. Here’s hoping these guys get the chance to move onto bigger and better projects.
2 ½ out of 5
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