2001 Maniacs (2005)

Tim Sullivan

STARRINGRobert Englund - Mayor Buckman
Lin Shaye - Granny Boone
Guiseppe Andrews - Harper Alexander
Jay Gillespie - Anderson Lee
Marla Malcolm - Joey

Year - 2005

Score - 3 Howls Outta 4

If you ever been in school [and I hope ALL of you have], you know all about the United States Civil War. We got brother versus brother. We got Abraham Lincoln abolishing slavery for blacks and giving them rights to vote. We got Union General Ulysses S. Grant versus Confederate General Robert E. Lee. And we got the Confederate South getting their asses whopped by the Yankee North. The U.S. Civil War was a pivotal time in U.S. history, creating a new era for many citizens in both good and not-so-good ways.

Apparently some Southerners aren't too pleased about the outcome of the Civil War. They refuse to accept the fact that the North won the war. They want things back the way they used to be before they seceded from the Union. 

Apparently, the South will rise again!

But what if these Southern sore losers had the opportunity to get revenge on the North for something that happened almost 150 years ago? Would the South actually be able to make things their way again? Have you seen DELTA FARCE? LARRY THE CABLE GUY: HEALTH INSPECTOR? That Blue Collar bastard has been getting revenge on the North for years now! At least Eli Roth's [yeah, the dude who directed CABIN FEVER and both HOSTEL films] produced 2001 MANIACS gives us a look at what could happen if a situation like the one I mentioned before actually took place. It's not a pretty sight, that's for sure.

PLOTA few college students head to Florida for Spring Break. While driving on the road, they take a detour that gets them lost and leads them to this small Southern town called Pleasant Valley. These young adults get ready to leave until the residents of the town burst into celebration upon their arrival. Mayor Buckman (Robert Englund) treats the outsiders as kings and queens of their town, making them the honorable guests for their annual Guts and Glory Festival, making them a stay in the town a bit. Since this is a horror film, this group of college students end up missing one by one. This causes the survivors to question what's really going on with Pleasant Valley, until they figure out the answer - not only are they guests of the town, but they're now the festival's main course.

REVIEW2001 MANIACS is actually a remake of TWO THOUSAND MANIACS, a 1960's splatter film by Herschell Gordon Lewis. I've never seen that film, so I can't compare the two, but I really dug this film. There are a lot of reasons for that.

a) It doesn't take itself seriously at all. This film is so not politically correct that it's actually refreshing. The South has been turned into nothing but wacky rednecks who have no manners, screw animals, have bad hygiene, and hold every other stereotype you can think of for this group. I couldn't help but laugh at how they were portrayed. I'm sure Southerners would be extremely offended by it, but it was funny to watch rednecks chase after sheep, kiss their cousins, and do square dances for whatever reason. I also laughed at how they reacted to the token black tough guy who was very independent and not at all subservient. And they also couldn't comprehend homosexuality, looking at it as if it were a disease they wanted none part of. No one was safe in this film. Not even the animals. It's just so wacky that you can't but smile when these kind of serious themes are turned over on its head.

b) There was an actual story here. I know, a modern horror gore fest that actually has some sort of a purpose - shocking! Naive horny kids go to a town who want them dead to get revenge on Northerners over their loss during the American Civil War. Simple and to the point. Was it perfectly told visually and verbally? It could have used some work. Plus the film wasn't really original in how it went about it. But there was at least an effort to make it work, showing a sign of intelligence behind this remake that's lacking in most.

c) The direction by Tim Sullivan [and by Eli Roth who directed some of the gorier scenes] is really well-done. 2001 MANIACS is visually beautiful and quickly paced, never leaving you bored and always making you want to know what's gonna happen next. He doesn't do anything that's unique or impressive, like quick edits or the shaky-cam that's popular these days. He shoots at what he wants to you to see and shoots it well. The gore scenes in particular are extremely well done. Sullivan creates a bit of tension before the blood begins to spill. It's never scary but it's definitely cringe-worthy. Some of the murder scenes in the film are really out there, like the kills you'd see in any FINAL DESTINATION film. Just really bold and in-your-face, which makes these scenes all the more effective. The gore actually helps the story and move it along. Plus you can't help but chuckle at how these people die. Most of them are so ironic that they're cleverly done. There's one shot in particular where we see this big hole in one of the character's headless torso, with said head being shown through the hole that's being held by one of the rednecks. And the final action scene between Robert Englund and Jay Gillespie was just awesome to watch. You rarely see a final confrontation like that in horror films these days and I enjoyed watching the two go at it. A lot of atmosphere that really boosts the film higher than it ought to be, Sullivan does a really good job.

d) The acting was also surprisingly good for a modern horror film. Okay, so none of the protagonists are really charismatic, but I thought they decently delivered their lines and did what they needed to do. The two leads on the good side of things [Jay Gillespie and Marla Malcolm] were good actors that didn't really rely their good looks as a way to get by through the film. They were totally believable in their dialogue, chemistry, and delivery. The other protagonists did a good job too, but Gillespie and Malcolm were the ones who kept up with the more veteran actors.

Speaking of veteran actors, Robert Englund is just insane in this film. I mean that in a good way. He had a lot of fun in this role [you can definitely tell] as the whackjob of a mayor who enjoys watching and taking part of torturing these innocent naive teens. He hams it up every chance he gets, yet it works because none of these rednecks can be taken seriously until they begin doing really horrible things. He had a good Southern accent on and he had a great final confrontation scene with Gillespie. The man who's mostly known as Freddy Kruger really carried this film whenever he was on-screen. The man is just magnetic, in my opinion. Humorous with a sinister edge, Englund is the star of this film hands down. He shows how it's done.

Props must also go to character actress Lin Shaye, who's pretty much the Yin to Englund's Yang. She plays Englund's creepy and insane wife who still believes she's a young Southern belle when we can tell she's no spring chicken. I actually believe she helps elevate Englund's performance in the film. The two really worked well together. I actually believed Shaye was a crazy delusional lady. Good job!

And Giuseppe Andrews was again playing a quirky character in Harper, the token Southern gentleman who's not quite so gentle at all. Just a really weird, eerie guy. Why the girls were interested in him anyway, I'll never know.

I did have problems with the film though. Just like in many horror films, the protagonists were barely as developed as the villains. I actually enjoyed watching the residents of Pleasant Valley more than the outsiders. I didn't hate the protagonists, but I didn't really care for them either. Only Gillespie and Malcolm were the only ones with some kind of depth. The other characters were just sort-of-interesting cannon fodder. There's a problem when you want the villains to succeed over the heroes.

And I didn't dig the last act too much. Besides the final confrontation scene and the "twist" at the end, it was probably the most boring part of the film. Many of the protagonists just walked around to find a way out of the town without anything really happening in a span of 5 minutes. Instead of feeling as if it was moving the story, it felt more like time filler. Not good. And the very end was just unnecessary. I won't say what it is if you haven't seen the film, but I just rolled my eyes and thought it was ridiculous. The "twist" I could live with. But what happened after it...whatever.

2001 MANIACS actually surprised me with how good it was. I was entertained from beginning to end [even with that tackiness of the final sequence]. It had a semblance of a story, good acting, good direction, and a humorous and wacky atmosphere that will either make you laugh or creep you out. While not scary at all [not many modern horror films are scary to begin with], at least 2001 MANIACS is entertaining, funny, and bloody as hell. If you like really gory horror, this film is definitely for you. I say rent this one. Just don't eat meat before watching. Who knows what kind of species it is...

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