The Mangler Reborn (December 3/05)
Given the sheer awfulness of The Mangler and its sequel (seriously, they're both among the worst movies ever made), it's virtually impossible to sit down and watch The Mangler Reborn without some exceedingly low expectations. And while there's absolutely no denying that the film comes off as a masterpiece when compared with its predecessors, The Mangler Reborn ultimately just doesn't work (despite a promising first act that is, alone, more coherent and engaging than anything in the first two installments).
As the movie opens, a portly and dim-witted repairman named Hadley (Weston Blakesley) has just finished restoring an antique machine in the spare bedroom of his house. What Hadley doesn't realize is that he is actually under the control of said machine, which is demonically possessed and now in the process of merging itself with the hapless sap. In a twist straight out of Little Shop of Horrors, Hadley is forced to serve up living victims to the machine after discovering that it requires human sacrifices to keep operating.
Much of The Mangler Reborn follows three characters - a woman having a really bad day (Aimee Brooks) and two inept house burglers (Reggie Bannister and Scott Speiser) - as they attempt to escape from Hadley's lair before he can feed them to the Mangler, with the end result a series of overlong sequences featuring one or more of these people skulking about the house in search of an exit. While directors Erik Gardner and Matt Cunningham deserve kudos for employing a decidedly old-school sense of style - ie there's no rapid-fire, MTV-esque editing or ostentatious camerawork - it becomes increasingly difficult to overlook the film's complete lack of a storyline. The filmmakers are clearly going for an atmosphere of suspense and tension, but the movie instead comes off as tedious and dull (although, admittedly, it's hard not to find some merit in most of their directorial choices).
The slow pace is exacerbated by the low-rent production values (the film rarely leaves Hadley's house), a vibe that's mirrored in the almost uniformly amateurish performances. Still, Gardner and Cunningham display enough promise to ensure that The Mangler Reborn never becomes even remotely as excrutiating as one might've expected; the two are undoubtedly destined for bigger and better things.