Tag Machines

Killdozer (1974)

Killdozer (1974)

Everyone Knows a Machine Cannot Kill. Except the Machine.

A mysterious alien force takes control of a massive bulldozer and proceeds to kill off the crew of a remote construction site on a small island off the coast of Africa.

 

That’s about all the plot you’re going to get from a hokey film like Killdozer. Made-for-TV in 1974, this is now virtually forgotten about – never released on DVD to date in the UK, never shown on television as far as I can recall and what few copies there were on VHS have been well worn over the years. Sometimes there are reasons for such obscurity.  I managed to watch this via a Youtube upload which has since been pulled so those wanting to check it out will be disappointed.

Despite the title, which is something a modern studio like The Asylum would love to have devised for one of their outlandish social media frenzies, Killdozer is sluggishly boring and never once lives up to any sort of throwaway potential the novelty value of a killer bulldozer may have had. At a slender seventy-four minutes, the material that is presented barely manages to extend that far and will have you reaching for the fast forward button before the first quarter is over. It’s just dull. There’s only so many adjectives I could use to describe it so the simplest one will do. It’s dull. Slow. Not a lot happens. No excitement. Dull.

For a start, the idea to locate this monstrous machine in the middle of nowhere with only a handful of construction workers to kill off amidst a few tents is daft as it takes away half of the fun of a bulldozer going on a rampage. Where are the buildings being smashed down? The cars and buses being taken out? A city or even small town location would have been the perfect place to unleash the bulldozer but keeping it confined to a small island without roads and any real buildings is a big cop out. I understand the budget not stretching that far but the idea was more less dead-on-arrival and the location doesn’t help matters one bit. It’s bland, pretty lifeless and looks to have been shot entirely in a quarry somewhere.

Forgive me if I’m wrong but aren’t bulldozers supposed to be really noisy, chugging lumps of metal which you could hear driving up on you? Not the Killdozer! This is a stealth vehicle, capable of smashing its way out of trees and bushes to spring out on unsuspecting victims at a moment’s notice. It’s not like it needs much prompting either with the few characters in the film displaying a sense of stupidity that wouldn’t even wash in the 80s teen slasher films. Who thinks it is a good idea to hide from a twenty-tonne bulldozer inside the metal pipe it has just you crawl into? Despite the best efforts of everyone involved, the bulldozer never once manages to appear alive and the film falls flat as a result. There’s hardly any tension or excitement due to its slowness and you could easily outrun it if you put your mind to it. Even the prospect of a bulldozer versus digger showdown can’t liven things up.

The guys that sparsely populate this film consist of a few stock characters including the recovering alcoholic asshole foreman, the token black guy, the nervous one who breaks down and the popular guy. That’s pushing it for individual features as they’re so non-descript that it’s impossible to tell them apart at times. They do a lot of standing around talking and never really seem to ‘get’ the situation that they are faced with especially given their aforementioned stupidity. When the bulldozer is the smartest thing on show, you’ve got issues with your script.

 

Killdozer is dreadful fare which should have been left to rust on the seventies scrap heap. It’s hard trying to find positives to say about it. Even its short running time drags out for an eternity.

 

 ☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Mangler, The (1995)

The Mangler (1995)

There is a fate worse than death

A cop investigates a brutal death at the local laundry company and finds that the big press machine nicknamed ‘The Mangler’ is actually possessed by an evil spirit that needs blood to keep its owner immortal.

 

A horror film about a killer laundry-folding machine? That’s what The Mangler is about! Adapted from a short story by legendary horror writer Stephen King, brought to the big screen by Tobe Hooper, the man behind The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and starring Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund, how could this fail? Well, let me repeat myself – it’s a horror film about a killer laundry-folding machine! That’s how it could fail.

Despite the best efforts of the production designers and the cinematographer to give the laundry machine a distinctly evil appearance, at the end of the day it’s still a big lump of metal and it presses cloth for a living which doesn’t really get the goose bumps growing, does it? But then nothing in The Mangler has been conceived well, a messy melting pot of ideas which never clicks in any shape or form and its one glaring problem is the only reason why people will watch it – the idea of a killer laundry-folding machine! It’s stupid to think that anyone could have believed that this would make for a decent film but everyone involved here has an arrogant self-belief that they can make it work. Their blinkered devotion to the cause gives the hare-brained material an even sillier edge.

The first half of The Mangler isn’t too bad it has to be said. There’s a pretty gruesome death when a woman is crushed inside the machine and the plot, as it stands at this early point in the film, is reasonably believable. The idea of feeding people to a possessed machine to make its owner immortal wasn’t that far-fetched by any stretch of the imagination considering the lengths that other horror films have gone to provide a story. But instead of keeping this idea as grounded as possible, The Mangler loses its steady footing.

This semi-interesting plot is lost beneath a torrent of unnecessary sub-plots and strands which go nowhere and only pose more questions such as why do the townspeople have to sacrifice their first born to the machine? The film gets increasingly silly and more ridiculous, with refrigerators coming to life and attacking people, the attempts to exorcise the machine and then in the film’s finale, the machine itself starts to move around. Now I haven’t read the original short story so can’t really compare how well it has been adapted. But all I can say is that sometimes what works well on paper doesn’t work well with full blown visuals and the idea that this laundry machine can actually move would have been better left on the page (if it did move in the story). The sight of this machine chasing people around the building is a total joke and the special effects are atrocious. Watching a laundry machine chase people through dark tunnels really needed some cash behind it to work so this idea should have been binned and the story re-written if it needed to be.

Though the sight of this machine chasing people around proves to be an unintentional comic highlight, the film sadly lags whenever it is not doing anything remotely evil….which is unfortunately quite a lot of the time. At a brutal 106 minutes long, The Mangler outstays its welcome long before the end credits roll.  Hooper has no grasp of pace and seems content to pad out the film with as much as possible. A more efficient director could easily have skimmed twenty minutes or more from this without major alterations to the narrative – not that it could have been disjointed any more than it was.

At least the film features a couple of solid hands in lead roles. Robert Englund has an overplayed hoot under layers of prosthetics as the disfigured and crazy laundry owner, complete with eye-patch and leg braces. Ted Levine, fresh off success as Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs, plays the detective charged with solving the case. It’s hardly both actors’ best work but they’re not bad and at least give the film some level of competency that it doesn’t really warrant.

 

The Mangler may be worth a brief look for people who are curious to see how bad it really is but believe me when I say it, it is every bit as awful as you’ve been led to believe. The Mangler is further evidence of just how far Tobe Hooper has fallen from his 1974 genre-busting classic heyday– or is further proof that it was a fluke? What is more depressing is that this has since spawned a couple of non-related sequels. The mind boggles.

 

 ★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Mangler Reborn, The (2005)

The Mangler Reborn (2005)

The Massacre Continues…

A fix-it man has got hold of what was left of the notorious Mangler laundry machine and spends most of his time tinkering with it and trying to repair it. Things go wrong for him when he becomes possessed by it and he begins to kill people to feed it’s thirst for blood.

 

From a killer laundry machine in the original to a killer school computer and now just a plain old killer machine, The Mangler series is one weird and meaningless series of horror flicks featuring bottom-of-the-rung effects, a lack of story and all round sense of ‘why bother?’ Stephen King’s weak short story was turned into a ridiculous horror film with Robert Englund back in 1995. Not content with leaving it there, someone thought it would be a good idea to churn out a sequel in 2001. What then came was one of the worst sequels ever made – a sequel that instantly turned the original into horror’s equivalent of The Godfather.

Now here we are again, another four years later and ten years after the original with the second sequel. On an ever-diminishing budget which screams that they blew their money on acquiring the rights to the Mangler name (that must have been really expensive) and with increasing desperation to milk every last penny out of the name, The Mangler Reborn will bore the pants off you in no time and make you wander just what the producers were smoking when they green lit this.

The story of the film is simple: people wander into a house and then they’re killed and fed to the machine. And that’s the entire film in a nutshell! The majority of the scenes are shot inside the house so the film consists of the small-in-numbers cast stumbling around the empty house, looking in the same empty rooms and making the same mistakes in their futile attempts to escape. One trip around the house is enough but the more the characters search around trying to escape, the more your eyes begin to hurt and the more you wish they’d just go straight into the room with the Mangler or the mallet-wielding repairman. Let me make this perfectly clear – that’s all that happens in this film. It’s so light on plot, characters and any form of development that it’s almost impossible to sit through.

To make things worse not only is the film extremely monotonous but it’s badly drawn out. The pacing is dreadful and scenes just drag on for much longer than needed. I can understand some scenes need to be dragged out to create a bit of suspense or atmosphere but when guys are talking to each other in a car for five minutes about nothing, it smacks of padding the running time. At least they did the wise thing by ignoring the first sequel ever existed and instead use events from the original to attach itself into Mangler history. Things do pick up somewhat in the last twenty minutes or so when blood begins to fly off the screen, the repairman starts bashing people with his mallet and the Mangler starts, well mangling people. But it’s too little, too late.

About the only notable thing in the entire film is the casting of Reggie Bannister as one of the burglars who makes the horrible decision to break into the single worst house on the planet. Horror fans will know Bannister from his work in the Phantasm series of films and the film’s best moment comes when he realises he’s actually stealing from a serial killer. We could have done with a lot more of this guy in the film, cracking some one-liners and livening things up. Also popping up in a cameo is Jeff Buff, a director who’s made plenty of low budget flicks in his time. Weston Blakesley may look the part of a fat repairman but he’s definitely not the serial killer type and taking him seriously as some psychopath will take a lot of imagination on your behalf.

 

The Mangler Reborn is a pointless film that serves absolutely no purpose in life whatsoever. It’s still better then the first sequel which says something about how truly shocking this series really is. I never want to see a machine come to life ever again unless it’s in a Terminator film.

 

 ★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆