The work of H.G. Lewis is among the most important in the annals of horror film history. Starting off as a director of “nudie-cuties” in the 60s, he ventured into unknown territory in 1963 with Blood Feast, which is considered by most to be the first gore film. Taking into consideration the violent and bizarre nature of the film, his subsequent projects from then on out were catered to the drive-in theatre market and he soon became an underground legend. And out of all the great films that we would grow to love, few stand out like Two Thousand Maniacs, about vengeful Confederate spirits who lure Yankees into the town of Pleasant Valley to dismember and, in some instances, devour them. Essentially, it’s a campy, gory variation on the musical Brigadoon, with some catchy tunes thrown in for good measure.
In 2005, producer and horror journalist Tim Sullivan released 2001 Maniacs, his love letter to the splatter films of yore and, more accurately, H.G. Lewis’ filmography. At times, the film really excels at achieving a balance between gore and comedy, especially when Giuseppe Andrews is chewing the scenery like a rabid dog. But more often than not, it becomes a little too self-aware of itself and unfortunately plays for really cheap laughs of the lowest form.
After the extremely dismissible Driftwood and Hood of Horrors, Sullivan has returned to the denizens of Pleasant Valley to chronicle their further misadventures in 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams, a film which makes absolutely no sense, has no real plot, and is peppered with jokes that seem to be going for being merely crude and offensive rather than funny.
The sequel picks up – assumedly – shortly after the events of the remake, with Mayor Buckman (Bill Moseley, replacing Robert Englund) and his fellow Pleasant Valley residents deciding to take their Guts ‘N Glory Jamboree on the road after this year’s round of unsuspecting Yankee victims don’t show up. Now, I don’t have my doctorate in ghostology but I find it kind of odd that these spirits, flesh-eating or not, can simply get up and leave their resting place – Pleasant Valley is, after all, nothing but a cemetery that turns into a town but once a year – whenever the mood strikes them. Also, they use a modern-day school bus to tote themselves around in – Um, where did they get the bus? Shouldn’t they be driving around in a horse and buggy or something? – but that’s the least of the film’s problems. There is one goodie in store for viewers in the first few minutes: the barrel-roll death from the original, which many complained about when omitted from the remake, opens the film.
We’re then introduced to our victims, the stars and crew of the reality road show, “Road Rascals.” The stars, Tina and Rome Sheraton (Asa Hope and Katy Marie Johnson), are clearly a parody of Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie and their show The Simple Life, which would make that joke approximately a decade too late. Regardless, the Pleasant Valley folk and our hapless heroes cross paths and a decision to include the jamboree in the Sheratons’ TV show is made. Soon after, a bunch of characters you can’t possibly like or sympathize with are killed one-by-one in over-the-top ways, with only one of them being moderately impressive.
Moseley does an adequate job of replacing Englund, but it’s Skinny Puppy’s singer Ogre that does a rather unremarkable job as Harper Alexander, a role Andrews excelled at so well in the previous film. His comedic timing is off and can’t find the proper medium between being menacing and campy. The humor – which is only comprised of Jew, black, Asian, gay and sex jokes – never really hits the right notes, managing to only be crude and possibly offensive rather than actually funny. Oh, and as far as the nudity goes, yes, it’s chock-full of topless women, but a good horror film that does not make.
The DVD itself is extremely uneven, having a problematic audio and visual presentation. Most of the dialogue is out of sync and most of it appears to have been looped in post-production, while the video quality varies in almost every shot. Shadowing and lighting issues plague most of the film, which is more than likely the result of an extremely low-budget shoot, but is none the less very distracting. The extras are comprised of a fairly lengthy slide-show, a montage of cast and crew interviews (which of course features loads and loads of back-patting), and a commentary track featuring Sullivan and select members of the cast. If you hated the film, the commentary will add fuel to the fire when you hear Sullivan admit that the film really had no point.
In a somewhat recent interview, Sullivan commented that 2001 Maniacs had a lot of cooks in the kitchen and that Field of Screams was entirely his vision, for better or worse. Considering his very apparent appreciation and understanding of the genre, it’s a shame that it had to be the latter.