Eli Roth and his production company (Raw Nerve) recently remade this little horror gem (with Tim Sullivan pulling the directing duties) from the 1960s, adding one more maniac to the cast (probably Robert Englund or Eli himself who has a small role) and calling it “2001 Maniacs”. I’m looking forward to seeing it but one really should see the original that inspired the remake or reinterpretation, depending on how “2001 Maniacs” is presented.
The plot is simple yet clever – the small Southern town of Pleasant Valley (shot in St. Cloud, Florida), which was decimated by the Yankees during the Civil War, is about to celebrate the centennial of that very event and must therefore lure some “Yankees” to town to exact their revenge. Six unwary (and not too bright) tourists are easily detoured off their planned travels to Pleasant Valley to “help” the nice, easy-going, VERY friendly Southerners celebrate what they think is the town’s centennial. At first, the six are just a tad wary of all the goings-on in the town and why they were “lucky” enough to be chosen to help celebrate. But as a few hours pass and everyone has had a chance to settle in their hotel room and relax, it looks like everything will be just fine. What, of course, none of the six know is what is being planned by Lester McDonnell (Ben Moore), the Program Chairman and Rufus Tate (Gary Bakeman), the Head Chairman of the festival. One by one, over the course of a day and night, four of the “guests” are lured away from their companions to be drawn and quartered, squashed by a huge boulder, rolled down a hill in a barrel with hundreds of long nails driven into it and getting chopped up to be the festival’s barbeque. Now, there are two remaining visitors and it is schoolteacher Tom White (William Kerwin) – thank God someone with an education! – who has caught on to the gruesome fates of his fellow travelers and realizes it is now up to him to escape with the only other survivor, pretty Terry Adams (Connie Mason – a Playboy Playmate, no less!) who had given him a ride in the first place when he had car trouble. To give away more would ruin the plot twist at the end but “2000 Maniacs” isn’t a bad 83 minutes to spend some Saturday afternoon.
“2000 Maniacs” is actually the second in Herschell Gordon Lewis’ “Blood Trilogy” films, the first being “Blood Feast” and the third being “Color Me Blood Red”. And that has been one of the complaints about “2000 Maniacs” – that it just isn’t gory enough. Sure, four of the “Yankees” meet grisly deaths but they are more implied than seen in all the technicolor glory Lewis showed in “Blood Feast”. With the bad acting, the lame special effects and the hilariously awful dialogue (same as with “Blood Feast”), the LEAST Lewis could have done was pour on the Heinz like he did in the previous film. But at least he made the Yankees as dumb as the Southerners, which is a switch.
I hear the “remake” won’t make that same mistake – after all, Eli Roth is involved so you know there will be PLENTY of blood, boobs and perversity for all. Jezebel the sheep anyone…?