2000 Maniacs

Dir: H.G.Lewis
Starring: Thomas Allen, Connie Mason, Jeffrey Allen, Ben Moore

Following the massive success of Blood Feast, Lewis and producer David Friedman were quick to cash in. With three times the budget, the help of the town of St. Cloud in Florida (now buried beneath Disneyworld!), and some inspiration from Brigadoon, they made probably Lewis's best film. A century after a Civil War massacre, the residents of Pleasant Valley divert six Yankees for a little fun, involving dismemberment, spiked barrels, barbecues and so on.

Although the effects now look amateur, it's a good storyline, efficiently told, and the torment before the actual violence still has surprising impact. One victim is tied beneath a teetering boulder, while locals casually hurl softballs to knock it down, and this remains grimly hypnotic. The music also anticipates O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and I remembered far too many lyrics to the catchy theme, despite it likely being a decade since last hearing it. Apart from Thomas Allen, the acting is "broad" (and that's being kind) but somehow fits the OTT carnage and fun-house attitude - if all the town's inhabitants wore evil clown make-up, it wouldn't seem out of place.

Perhaps the best tribute is this year's Wrong Turn, which has a remarkably similar basic premise. Yet, unlike Maniacs, I severely doubt we'll be watching that one with any degree of fondness, forty years down the line.


Original review [TC 0]: Eventually the censor got wise and started to crack down on nudity in films, but this didn't bother Herschell; he just switched to violence and went right on making movies. His first such film, Blood Feast, is still on the banned list today, thanks to (among other things) a tongue being ripped out - 2000 Maniacs was the follow up. As far as I know, it's the only one of his films still commercially available in this country, albeit in a heavily cut version.

In the Civil War, the Southern town of Pleasant Valley was attacked by a group of renegade Union soldiers, who slaughtered many of the inhabitants. Now, 100 years later, the town is out for revenge, and hi-jack two groups of Yankees, by pretending it is a nicer celebration. One is dismembered with an axe and barbecued, one is torn apart by horses, one is rolled down a hill in a spiked barrel and one is crushed under a boulder. The other two escape only to find out that the town ceased to exist a long time ago.

This is a gory film, again for the time. The effects are not bad, and there is a certain nasty air about the whole thing that is disturbing. Most of the actors playing the 'maniacs' are suitably O.T.T. and the entire film is pretty surreal, with some truly weird dialogue. However, there are only four gore-scenes in it, which isn't enough if you're used to the semi-continuous splatter we get now. No matter. It remains a charming period piece, although it isn't frightening at all, and the hyper acting will keep you interested between the bloody bits. Be warned that very little is visible on the video version, with the axe murder and the 'horse race' being particularly heavily butchered.

Yee-haw! The South's gonna rise again...

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