Saturday, August 26, 2006

Ghost in the Machine Twofer: The Ring Two (2005) and The Mangler (1995)

Moviemakers have an obsession with evil machines. According to them, a see-saw is dangerous. Let's look at some examples. You've got Skynet, which nukes the world in the Terminator series. There's the Matrix. Or robots, which are in about a million movies. And who can forget HAL?

But let's take these two movies: The Ring Two and The Mangler. One is that your VCR can kill you. The other is a bedsheet speed folding machine at a laundry plant.

I don't know about you, but the latter is certainly a more likely killer than the former. That's the kind of thing that can suck your hand in and smash it to bits. If the thing is fast enough and big enough, I guess it could suck your head in and crush your skull, which -- i don't think I'm giving much away here -- is exactly what happens in the movie The Mangler.

The Mangler is based on a short story by Stephen King. The story was really stupid, but the movie at least appoaches the material with a sense of humor. In the deft hands of Tobe Hooper (Poltergeist), The Mangler was actually pretty entertaining. I think everyone in the movie was drunk when the made it. The lead guy in the movie is supposed to be a drunk cop, acting not unlike Joe Don Baker's excellent drunk cop portrayal in Mitchell (1975), where Baker always had a pack of Schlitz on him. In The Mangler, the drunk cop guy (Johnny) actually is never witnessed drinking alcohol, but he slurs his lines so much you have to wonder if they were trying to keep alcohol away from the actor. Yes, this guy might have been an actual fall-down drunk. If not, the guy's just a hell of an actor.

Of course, both VHS tapes and speed folding machines are possessed by demons in these two movies. The Mangler was entertaining in that the machine weighs about 5 tons. So how is it that someone can be so stupid to stand close enough to the machine to get their hand/clothing/shoelace stuck in the machine. It's like when Tanya Roberts gets kidnapped by that blimp in A View To a Kill. Seriously, people can't just stay away from the fucking possessed machine? Are they that stupid? That's one of the more entertaining things about the movie -- guessing how will they get caught in the machine next?

Now, onto The Ring Two. This movie sucks compared to The Mangler. It's directed by the Japanese guy who originally directed Ringu, the Japanese flick which The Ring was based on. Just on that fact alone you can probably guess he takes himself too seriously for the good of the movie.

What's really scary is that it took me 15 minutes into The Ring Two to realize that I had actually seen it before. It was so boring that I turned it off again.

Let's face it: The Ring is really stupid. People watch a videotape and then they die in 7 days -- unless they make a copy and make someone else watch it. You'd think by the timeframe of the sequel (a year or so after the original), advertisers would have totally gotten into this videotape. Can you imagine how marketers around the country would clambor to get their product advertised on this tape, since it has to be copied and shown to someone else or else you die? It's like the ultimate chain letter advertising gimmick. The Ring Tape -- Drink Pepsi... NOW!

The problem with machine movies is that they're easy to beat. Here's how you defeat these machines: The Ring Tape... either someone decides to be a martyr so no one else has to watch it, or just everyone keeps copying it forever and ever so no one dies. It becomes a government program of tape copying and required viewing. The Mangler... just stay the hell away from it. It weighs like 5 tons.

This works for like every machines take over movie. Skynet... don't arm it with nuclear missles. The Matrix... clue machines into nuclear power as a source of energy, rather than the spectacularly inefficent human Duracell concept. HAL... well we saw how Dave defeated HAL.

Basically the bottom line is just don't give the machines too much responsibility and we'll all be ok. The machines don't run much right now, right?! Riiiight?!!!

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