2001 Maniacs

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When three groups of people on their way to some spring break madness take a hand painted detour sign, they quickly find themselves the guests of honor for a small, old fashioned, Southern town. Unbeknownst to the group of party hungry kids, this town has a very dark history, and it’s a history that these “Damn Yankees” are about to learn firsthand.

I would like to thank the lovely Bridget for ruining my nearly infallible feelings of superiority. I happen to walk into a Family Video in Collinsville, IL to rent this amazing movie and the woman has the audacity to walk up to a zombie and ask him if he knows the movie he’s renting is actually based on a 60’s flick called 2000 Maniacs. I had the sad confession of saying that I did not in fact know there was another, earlier installment of the series. Yes, your zombie horror expert was outdone by a video store clerk, so thank you Bridget for bringing me down a notch you…no, I’m not going to go there. You know why I won’t go there, because this is why I’ll miss them when video stores go the way of the Dodo, the ability to mingle with other movie lovers. From this zombie you get much love Bridget, thanks for schooling an arrogant undead asshole like myself.

Our Southern trip to hell begins with three college slackers trying to figure out exactly where they want to go for spring break while driving nowhere in particular for the time being. On their trip they come across a strange detour that leads them to what seems like a quaint little Southern town stuck 150 years in the past. At first the town looks to be eerily abandoned as not a soul is to be seen. That illusion is quickly dispelled when 2001 people come pouring out to welcome their guests for the town’s annual celebration. Maybe it’s just me, but if a ton of people came pouring out of nowhere to welcome me to some weird celebration like I was the second coming of Christ (seriously, these people are beyond enthusiastic) I would take off running in the exact opposite direction. Then again, I’m not in a horror movie, so I can still use logic. Our three friends are soon joined by three more people they just happened to meet a few miles back as well as a motorcycle carrying an Asian chick and a black guy, something that takes the people of this small town a second to absorb. Probably one of the funnier scenes in the movie is when the two of them take off their helmets and the whole town freezes in shock. The town is overjoyed to have so many guests for their celebration (swallowed racism aside), but it quickly becomes apparent that things are not as they seem when the guests start disappearing one by one, and when I say disappearing I mean being murdered in ways that would Jack the Ripper vomit.

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{And they look like such a happy bunch}

This movie is absolutely perfect is so many ways and I’m not sure how this didn’t become an instant classic. The first thing I have to mention are the deaths. The ways people die in this movie are fantastic and better yet, the deaths are amazingly well done. It’s been a while since I’ve seen such macabre deaths done this well. People die in some really fucked up ways, and I mean REALLY fucked up ways, someone put some serious thought and a lot of bad acid trips into coming up with these deaths. I have to admit to cringing myslef at a few of the more memorable murders that, in all good conscious, I cannot tell you about in detail because I sincerely hope you watch this flick, and I don’t want to ruin it for you. We’ve all learned enough times by now that even with some good ideas for some great deaths, terrible effects can absolutely ruin it. I am overjoyed to report that this is not the case here. The makeup effects are top notch, and the few times CGI is used it’s done very well. This film is the perfect example of why practical makeup effects can work so much better than their digital, bastard step children. They don’t lean solely on CGI and therefore use really great effects with just standard props. Seriously, the effects were better in this movie than in the Nightmare on Elm Street remake. When these people die it looks like they’re actually dying and it is wonderfully, fantastically, disgusting. Thank you Mr. Sullivan for giving me a gore fest with amazingly well done bloody death, you have forever earned a place in my unbeating heart (though you will sadly lose a bit of it with this movie’s sequel).

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{That lady looks way too happy}

After reading that last paragraph, you might think that the gore in this movie is my favorite thing about it, but that wouldn’t be true. The characters in 2001 Maniacs were actually what made this a favorite of mine (though the gore definitely helped). The town’s fated to die guests are good, but it’s the town’s residents that really make this movie what it is. In this humble zombie’s opinion, this is Robert Englund’s best film portrayal ever, his role is even better than his much loved Freddy Krueger portrayal. I loved him as the town mayor; every scene he was in was amazing and just kept getting better; he truly was the star of this film. It wasn’t just him though, Giuseppe Andrews does an amazing job as the town’s heart throb Harper. When he switches from poetic, lover boy to homicidal maniac, the transition is perfect and creeps you the hell out. Lin Shaye does great as kindly old Granny Boone, a nice old lady with a penchant for fresh pies and skinning girls alive. The people of Pleasant Valley do a great job with their characters and to them this movie truly owes its success. I have to say my favorite characters (Robert Englund aside) would be the southern musicians constantly following the group, one of whom happens to be Rockabilly star Johnny Legend. The one addition I can’t fathom, and maybe it’s because I can’t stand the guy, is Eli Roth. There is no reason for him to be in this movie as he seems out of place for his scenes. He needs to stick to his feast of Tarantino ball cheese and leave great movies alone.

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{This would be Harper’s more homicidal side}

I was also surprised by how good a story this movie had. I was pretty sure it was just going to be some lazily written, poorly edited, no deviation from standards type of horror flick, but it turned out to be really good. I liked the Civil War theme, and I liked that it was acknowledged that Union Troops did some pretty nasty things to the “disgusting” confederates.   I thought it was nice that this movie was unafraid to go places most films would have stayed away from, such as the various Union atrocities against the South while still acknowledging that the South was little more than a group of racist, lazy bums, unwilling to pay their workers. It was an interesting movie that had both a great historic text and a great horror movie story.

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In the end, there is nothing that I can really say was wrong with this movie (with the exception of Eli Roth). It was perfect in every way, and a film that made me really love being a horror reviewer. It’s a shame that this movie’s sequel would end up being so terrible. Despite its awful follow up movie, 2001 Maniacs is something no fan of horror should end up missing.

 

The Undead Review

 

Directed By: Tim Sullivan (Driftwood, 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams)

Starring: Robert Englund (Freddy Kruger himself), Lin Shaye (The Hillside Strangler, There’s something about Mary), Giuseppe Andrews (Cabin Fever, Detroit Rock City), Jay Gillespie (Moby Dick: 2010, Hellraiser: Revelations), and Eli Roth (Quentin Tarantino’s Ball Sack)

Released By: Lions Gate Films and Raw Nerve

Release Year: 2005

Release Type: Straight to Video

MPAA Rating: Rated R

About The Undead Review

When I was alive I was an asshole and after I died remained pretty much the same, if not a little worse. You’d think becoming a member of the walking dead would mellow a person out, no more worrying about awkward small talk with people, no more having to be politically correct, and the entire world is your upright, bipedal buffet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun as hell to be a zombie, just somewhat irritating at times, especially those times you have to watch a lame movie or read a lame book. Thankfully, when I am forced to watch these films or read those books, I’ve got places like The Undead Review to bitch and moan to my heart’s content. {When he’s not devouring the living or sinking his teeth into a good film The Undead Review (Andy Taylor) spends his time writing his own stories or hunting down the paranormal. Oh, and did we mention his blind dog once saved the world?)
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2 Responses to 2001 Maniacs

  1. rarehorror says:

    Love this movie. Very underrated, and I agree the sequel was horrible.

    Like

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