“You are what they eat.”
In 1964 Herschell Gordon Lewis brought us the classic gore-fest Two Thousand Maniacs. It was pretty much like all of his films. It was generous on the naked babes and the blood. Lewis was one of the pioneers of the slasher film and was producing low-budget gore films long before they were popular in the mainstream. The man continues to be a legend in the genre. It’s been a long time since an original Lewis film has been released, but his influence can be felt everywhere in the genre. So, when I first heard about a “sequel”, of sorts, being prepared by Tim Sullivan, I was intrigued, to say the least. This could either be a ton of fun or a complete disaster.
Fortunately, for genre fans, the film really is a ton of fun. You just have to approach it in the same spirit you would have approached a Herschell Gordon Lewis film in the good old days. Lewis never pretended to be doing anything but providing fun. For many it is a kind of guilty pleasure, but it’s all about having a blast watching the movie. If Sullivan tried to take himself too seriously, it was going to be a disaster. If you try to take the film too seriously, it will still feel like a disaster. This is not the kind of film you watch with the head too fully engaged. If you’re looking for any of it to make sense, turn on the History Channel and leave this one on the shelf for someone who knows how to have a little bit of fun. Sullivan was also smart enough to get Robert Englund and Kane Hodder to join in on his romp. It gives the film immediate street cred for the fans and allows them to open the door to this off-kilter world, where the only thing that matters is: “Are you having fun yet?”
A group of college kids are heading to Daytona Beach for the traditional Spring Break activities. There are three separate groups here that did not know each other before they all took a detour announced by a curiously crude sign blocking the road. Yeah, they were taking the inevitable shortcut. The new path leads them directly onto Main Street of Pleasant Valley. There they are greeted by the entire town with Mayor Buckman (Englund) at the vanguard. He’s a General Lee-looking geezer with a confederate-flag eye patch. It seems our honored guests have arrived just in time for the “Guts & Glory Festival”. They are to be treated to some old fashioned Southern hospitality. From the beginning they are treated like royalty and honored guests. The kids are impressed and reluctant to turn down a free feast…and plenty of innocent-looking, but well-endowed, young ladies. Of course, we know there’s more to this than meets the unpatched eye. If you’ve ever seen the classic Twilight Zone episode To Serve Man, you get an idea that these guys are going to be a very important part of the special feast. One by one the kids are lured off by the locals to be butchered in more and more bizarre ways.
The acting is completely over the top. If you think Englund was campy as Freddy, you haven’t seen anything yet. Buckman is a completely manic character with good ol’ Southern sensibilities. This is exactly what the character and the film need. You understand exactly what kind of film you’re watching the moment you meet the honorable Mayor. Englund’s offering you an obvious wink and a nod. He’s a circus clown here to entertain you. Nothing more. Nothing less. All you have to do is accept the invitation. He’s thrown off by the arrival of a black and an Asian student, but all the more variety for the feast. If you’re one of those politically correct crusaders, this film is not going to be your cup of tea. There are racial jokes as well as hard-core Southern stereotypes throughout the film. There is plenty of nudity and gore. The gore effects are actually pretty good for such a tongue-in-cheek movie. But, then again, that’s exactly what you would have expected from a Herschell Gordon Lewis film back in the day. He was never tight with the blood flow. These aren’t going to be the best effects you’ve seen. They are all practical and make the point. The kills are ingenious at times. One of the ladies is drawn and quartered by a team of horses. Another young lad gets force-fed a moonshine mix of acid. The pretty lady leans over the huge smoldering hole in his stomach, and the bed, and mutters, “I prefer a non-smoker”. This is the kind of humor you can expect throughout the film. There are also two guitar and dobro players who roam the film providing short little country ditties relevant to something happening on the film. One of the guys looks like a ZZ Top escapee, which is mentioned in the film.
2001 Maniacs is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC/MPEG-4 codec at an average of about 20 mbps. While it’s nice to see this kind of film get the high-definition treatment, this is not a movie that’s really going to shine in HD. The movie was filmed to look like an older 70’s film. There’s a ton of grain and a softness to the picture that are all part of an intended style here. That means colors are not really going to wow you anywhere in the film. Some of the detail actually works against the movie by revealing some of the effects shots. After the quartering, it’s painfully obvious that the torso of a woman remaining is a dummy. There aren’t any CG things going on as far as I can tell, so much of that kind of issue is inevitable. Black levels are only average. The detail comes into play on the close-up shots, particularly Englund. Here the detail of high definition makes its best case.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 doesn’t really win you over with technical dynamics here. This is a low-budget film that does the best it can with limited sound design. You’ll hear the dialog just fine. There are also enough bone-crunching and squishy sounds to nail home the point during the kill scenes. Not too aggressive in the surrounds, the audio presentation does enough to make the point.
There is an Audio Commentary by Robert Englund and Tim Sullivan. These guys are loud and talk over each other. There’s a ton of enthusiasm throughout the presentation. I completely enjoyed the banter. These guys were having a blast watching the movie. It’s great. Plenty of jokes to go with the insight.
The extras are in Standard Definition.
Inside The Asylum: (42:26) This is a detailed behind-the-scenes feature made when the film was in production. The quality of the image and sound are, unfortunately, really bad here. The cast and crew all participate, and much of it is informal and candid. You’ll see how many of the kills were created.
Additional Footage: (37:13) There’s a ton of deleted scenes here, 27 in all. Much of it could have made for a nice extended edition of the film. There’s also an alternate opening that features John Landis in a cameo role.
Audition Reel: (6:36)
I know someone out there is going to watch this film and be completely confused how I could speak so highly of it. You just have to roll with it, is my reply ahead of time. There’s nothing wrong with art that is merely entertaining with no redeeming social value or purpose. I can enjoy both kinds of films. I’m a huge student of the films that incorporate all of those classical elements of style, texture, symbolism, and cinematography. I can also just enjoy a romp. Just because you love steak, doesn’t mean that you can’t really enjoy a burger from time to time. Be warned. This movie will offend some of you. Too bad. More bad news for you. 2001 Maniacs: Field Of Screams is coming soon. “The South will rise again.”