“2001 Maniacs” is a 2005 Comedy Horror, directed and written by Tim Sullivan (with Chris Kobin also writing too), with a runtime of 87 minutes. This film is based on, and a kind of remake of, “Two Thousand Maniacs!” which was written and directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis in 1963. The premise is the same; Yankee tourists are lured to Pleasant Valley by redneck hell-billys and are then tortured and killed. Both films work on the caricature of the North versus South divide, depicting Southerners as backwards rednecks. Both films are Grindhouse style films which mix horror with violence and gore, with “2001 Maniacs” definitely falling into the more splatstick area of comedy horror.
A group of friends travelling to Florida for Spring Break take a detour and end up in an old Southern town called Pleasant Valley. They are not alone; other people seem to have taken the detour too, so in total the detour has rounded up 8 people; the group of friends, 3 other friends on their way to a Spring Break, and a black biker and his Asian girlfriend. They are all welcomed to the town by Mayor Buckman, who suggests that the group stay for the impending ‘Guts and Glory Jubilee’ which will be happening soon – a celebration to honour the American Civil War. The group are offered free accommodation and food courtesy of Granny Boone’s hotel for the duration of their stay. The southern hosts seem backwards when it comes to modern mentality and values, they don’t like certain behaviours within the group and also take exception to the biker and his girlfriend on racial grounds. Periodically and systematically the group are separated by villagers and are killed in gruesome ways.
This is a tricky film for me, and leaves my opinion divided, and I am sure I am not the only one. On the surface if you are fan of the B-Movie triple -B concept (Blood, Babes, and Boobs) then you will enjoy this film. It is vulgar, it is completely un-PC, it uses sadistic humour and gore to drive itself forward. But it does not really have much depth to its plot, just a lot of gore. The film also comes across as dumb in places, as the some of the characters depicted in it.
Robert Englung (Freddy Krueger) stars as Mayor George W. Buckman and is undoubtedly the headline draw from the cast. Doing just as well in acting stakes though, Lin Shaye plays Granny Boone great, at times sweet and kooky, then other times being a sadistic b1tc4. There are not many bad performances from the cast, in a comedy horror all kinds of performances are acceptable, and in this nobody really comes across too wooden or stale. I enjoyed the pace of the film, which was helped by the musical narration provided by Johnny Legend and his sidekick Scott Spiegel. Using some of the music from the 1963 film, it was updated and then performed in a style to support the film. It flows in a similar comedic style to “There’s something about Mary”. I also didn’t mind the twist at the end of the film which suggested that the village wasn’t real (I won’t say too much more about it so not to spoil too much).
My main criticisms of this film is that it seems to be trying really hard to be cool and cute. Yes, it is slick with decent effects, but it seems to think it can get away with not having much depth, by using visuals as an escape. The way that Huck breaks the fourth wall at the end of the film is probably a good way to summarise this, the film is almost winking at the audience saying it doesn’t have to have much intelligence because it’s cute and looks good. It is a cheap way of doing horror films – the best comedy horror films still have depth to them – take “Evil Dead”, “Re-Animator”, “An American Werewolf in London” or “Braindead” as examples, they are more than just splatter films. Intelligence is something that was lacking from the film, and again the winking at the audience approach seemed to be adopted to cover this too. Apparently, it is okay to be racist, sexist, and homophobic, as long as you poke fun at the southerners from being backwards rednecks too. It is the film winking at the audience saying that it can get away with that, because it is poking fun at everybody and sending itself up too. I am afraid that for me it did not work.
While looking good and being a modern adaption of HG Lewis’s “Two Thousand Maniacs”, this film looks better than it is. It is trashy fun that does not require a brain to watch it, just the ability to throw away any intelligence and sense of correctness that you may have. It will not be liked by everyone and it is certainly not a film for the entire family to watch.