This is a pretty entertaining film, and reason enough for any B-movie horror lover to check out. It’s written by Michael Hamilton Wright who also directs and Stephen King (What in the hell?!) who is un-credited as second writer. When a strict school dean (Lance Henriksen) installs an advanced super-computer for school security, a rebellious young girl name Jo (Chelse Swain) injects a computer virus into the system and accidentally awakens an evil computer entity that traps her and a bunch of friends in school killing them off one by one. The plot, though incredibly contrived, doesn’t have the same plot the original does and actually becomes a lot more interesting in the process.
Chelse Swain (equally hot sister of actress Dominique Swain) chews the scenery in this film often being able to pull off the emotional scenes well and handles the dialogue with as much gusto as possible, and looks pretty good doing it. Often times it was fun watching this computer killing off the people one by one. The atmosphere for the film is rather apt for the plot of the film; the director manages to inject rare authentic creeps at certain points of the film, and even though certain parts are laughable, it’s entertaining nonetheless. I’ve never seen the original “The Mangler” and after watching this, I’m pretty sure I’m not missing much. Ah yes, “far-fetched” is the word of the day, folks, and this film has large gaps of plot-holes, lapses in logic and far-fetched concepts that are entirely hard to ignore. My first gripe within the confines of the film is why would a dean install a super-computer, high voltage electric fences, and cameras for a boarding school unless it housed something valuable?
Why would a school system allow a dean to install potentially deadly equipment where it could kill kids? The fact that writer/director Michael Hamilton Wright insults our intelligence with such a far-fetched concept seems illogical and disturbing. But, I guess its possible for the set-up of the film. As always in these horror films, every character but the character Jo and her potential love interest is disposable and as one-dimensional as a cardboard cutout. There’s your usual array of disposable characters: from your sex-crazed school slut, to the drug-induced bonehead, to the token minority who spouts bad slang at every corner, this has it all; even a French chef who’s played by Philippe Bergeron whose French accent mysteriously appears and disappears on every other word in his sentences. Lance Henriksen, king of the B-movies appears in a paltry role as Dean Dabreen who serves as antagonist to the cast as your typical militant authority figure.
The computer virus incidentally called “The Mangler” is installed into the school computer and blood soaked anarchy ensues. Amazing how the catalyst to the homicidal computer virus would be the same name as the movie. Anyways, the fact that a big virus affecting and somehow mixing into a creepy breed and coming alive also becomes incredible hard to believe. Aside from the fact that we never learn where the computer came from, it’s impossible for a virus to merge with a computer and become an entirely new program. It soon begins killing everyone by booby-trapping mechanisms in the school. While many of the killings are suggestive and off-screen, many of the killings are also hard to buy: For example when the girl’s head is pulled through a compression machine by her hair, which was extremely far-fetched because the machine wouldn’t and couldn’t fit the head into the seams of the compression unit.
Instead, it would get jammed and keep pulling or (if powerful enough) inevitably pull the scalp right off. As always the female lead becomes increasingly whiny throughout the course of the film and evolves into a tough as nails heroine who takes on the computer one last time, but at the end of the film, I was angered by one question that plagued my mind: Shouldn’t Jo have gone to jail for installing the virus that killed her friends? Wouldn’t she be held responsible? She put the virus into the computer causing it to become a killer, so technically she would be a murderer, it’s daunting and annoying to discover there’s a happy ending that doesn’t involve she getting the electric chair. Not completely awful and mildly entertaining, the true downfall is the sub-par script, and it’s the complete leaps of logic that bring this film down to the ground, along with its cast of bad actors with exception to Chelse Swain.