One of horror author Stephen King’s worst movie adaptations gets an honest defense from its star. The list of successful horror films made from the works of best-selling writer King includes such classics as Carrie, The Shining, The Dead Zone, Christine and many more. But King’s books and short stories have also received some notoriously terrible movie versions over the years, resulting in a list of turkeys that includes titles like Children of the Corn, Maximum Overdrive, The Lawnmower Man, Dreamcatcher and Cell.
But another film that is often listed among the worst King adaptations, 1995’s The Mangler, has now received a little unexpected love via its own star Robert Englund. Speaking to /film ahead of the release of the new documentary Hollywood Dreams & Nightmares: The Robert Englund Story, the Freddy Krueger actor insisted that despite its reputation as a huge disaster, The Mangler may deserve a little reappraisal. Asked to share which of his roles he wishes received more attention, Englund replied:
Renowned horror directors have made great movies out of King’s works – George Romero with Creepshow, David Cronenberg with The Dead Zone and John Carpenter with Christine being some top examples. Things didn’t work out so well when famed Texas Chain Saw Massacre auteur Tobe Hooper tackled The Mangler, an adaptation of King’s creepy Night Shift story about a possessed industrial ironing machine. King seems to have little love for The Mangler himself, slamming it in his book Stephen King Goes to the Movies:
Tobe Hooper, who directed it, is something of a genius…The Texas Chain Saw Massacre proves that beyond doubt. But when genius goes wrong, brother, watch out. The film version of ‘The Mangler’ is energetic and colorful, but it’s also a mess with Robert (Freddy Krueger) Englund stalking through it for reasons which remain unclear to me even now. … The movie’s visuals are surreal and the sets are eye-popping, but somewhere along the way (maybe in the copious amounts of steam generated by the film’s mechanical star), the story got lost.
But though The Mangler holds just a 27% score on Rotten Tomatoes, it does have its champions, who view the film as an underappreciated comic horror movie with a cool visual style. Perhaps King might now consider a revisit of The Mangler himself, in light of Englund’s positive assessment of the film, and the seeming upward trend in its reputation. King at least seems to agree that Hooper’s direction of The Mangler is visually interesting, though he is not as positive about the film’s storytelling. When it comes to honest defenses of movies with bad critical reputations, The Mangler may indeed deserve the treatment, but it’s harder to say the same about its sequels The Mangler 2 and The Mangler Reborn, both of which are even more maligned than the original.