A remake of the Herschell Gordon Lewis gore-fest, this is low on outlandish gore yet high on elaborate death sequences, high on cult performers but low on good acting, with plenty of indecency and campy one-liners, stupid moments that border on embarrassing, and horror without any scares.
The plot will be familiar to anyone who has watched any horror film in the past fifty years – a group of friends on a road trip become stranded in a strange town with stranger inhabitants and have to fight for their survival. It opens like any number of 90s, early 2000s films introducing a group of detestable caricatures on their last day of University before heading off for Spring Break. On the way the meet more annoying stereotypes before taking a detour and ending up in Pleasant Valley, a town which is apparently stranded in Southern Civil War era cartoonishness. We have buxom milkmaids, inbred hicks, Huckleberry Finn-alikes, good old boys, howdee y’all housewives, and all the rest of it. Rather than immediately leaving, the group decides to stay the night and enjoy some free Southern hospitality, and possibly boobs. Before long limbs are being torn from torsos, shlongs are being bitten off, and bodies are being squished, all in the name of…. zombies/vampires/ghosts/torture freaks/revenge? It doesn’t really become clear until the finals scenes, and by that point we’ve fainted due to the inanity of it all.
Every cliche in the Great Big Book Of Cliches is here, with no attempt to inject any surprises, tension, or ounce of interest. Some may say that’s the point – it’s simply a remake of a silly grindhouse film. What’s the point then? Why not just go back and watch the original? The same could of course be said for most remakes, but in this instance there is really no need to watch unless you are a die-hard Robert Englund or Lin Shaye fan. Those two ham it up royally, while the rest of the cast a mere cannon-fodder. Normally I would excuse such things if the gore was respectable, but this is low-budget rubbish with effects you wouldn’t have been shocked by in 1964. Sure the odd eye pops out and the odd arm is ripped off, but it’s done as if the camera wants to look away – there’s all the build up and just when you think you’re going to get a bloody money shot, there is but a mere glimpse, and then nothing; It’s rare for a grindhouse movie to be so tame.
Having said that, the film did make me uneasy, though that may have been because I watched it during a particularly painful bout of insomnia mixed with sickness. I hadn’t slept or eaten in over 60 hours and was talking to the sofas at 2.00am so I put it on. For some reason, scene after scene of silly redneck accents and antics made me nauseous and I couldn’t stomach it. I only returned to the second half once my illness had been pissed away. By then I was ready for a bloody final 45, but it never came and instead I got the usual tropes – final survivors are led into a showdown, and someone escapes and finds a local sheriff. At this point you know there are only two possible outcomes – the local sheriff is in on it and brings you back to the scene of the carnage to die, or when the police come to investigate there is no evidence of any crime. I’ll let you worry about which ending this one has – it really doesn’t matter. Should you watch it? If you’re a horror fan then nothing I say will stop you from watching. It is tripe with few redeeming qualities, and yet the story has potential even though it’s been done to death already a hundred times. There’s really no reason for a film like this to be made, or for anyone to watch it, but by all means give it shot – there’s still unfortunately a lot worse out there.
Let us know your thoughts on 2001 Maniacs and how it fares against the original in the comments below!