I was a huge Stephen King reader in my early teens, which coincided with his rise to mass popularity and numerous movie adaptations within a matter of years. Of course once the movie studios had tapped some of his best (Salem’s Lot, Carrie, Cujo, The Shining, Pet Sematary), they became desperate, even stretching short stories into full-length movies. Which is basically how we ended up with this motley duo, both of which focus on the horrors of working in a factory.
GRAVEYARD SHIFT (1990)
This Stephen King short story is turned into a full-length feature you watch just to see unlikable characters torn apart with super gory practical effects by a nasty, deformed, giant bat/rat hybrid.
These characters are a bunch of mentally ill lowlifes working down in a rat-infested textile mill. A new guy comes onboard and quickly creates bad blood with the boss.
As a sort of punishment, the boss makes him and a bunch of other workers clean the place over the Fourth of July weekend. And that’s when this one kicks into high gear as a gory splatterfest in the slimiest possible underground caverns.
Not much depth or dimension here, just a good old creature feature starring the likes of Andrew Divoff and Brad Dourif. And in the best product placement ever, a certain soda saves the day.
THE MANGLER (1995)
Tobe Hooper seems to have realized just how ridiculous horror had become in the first half of the 1990s, so he adapted a rather goofy Stephen King story into a shitty movie. The only downside of this piece of crap is that it runs too long at 105 minutes. If it had been trimmed to 90 minutes it would have been a camp classic!
Hobbling around on crutches with artificial legs, Robert Englund looks and sounds like a pirate version of Popeye as the crabby owner of laundry factory.
The major machine in his facility doesn’t hesitate in gobbling someone down after it gets a taste of an employee’s blood following a minor accident.
A detective steps in to solve the case of multiple murders once the machine continues to devour workers. His comic sidekick believes the machine is possessed and is obsessed with finding out if its victims are virgins.
This is where the film really begins to drag. There are kills thrown in every now and then (why are people still allowed near the machine?), and it all culminates in an exorcism…and a chase through the factory by the machine, which breaks free and becomes a mobile monster.
And would you believe the reason it comes to life is directly related to some old lady’s antacid pills?
I can see now why Hooper’s next film was the campy croc film Crocodile.
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