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2001 Maniacs (2005)
Director: Tim Sullivan

review by Jonathan McCalmont

Based on 2000 Maniacs by horror pioneer and erstwhile stag film director Herschell Gordon Lewis, 2001 Maniacs has an exploitation film pedigree so pure you could show it in a ring and then put it out to stud. Produced by Eli Roth (Hostel and Cabin Fever) and starring Robert Englund (A Nightmare On Elm Street), this film is endlessly silly, endlessly exploitative and endlessly gory and violent. You'd be hard pressed to find a more enjoyable way to spend an hour and 27 minutes.

Three groups of good looking college students are making their way to Daytona beach for spring break when they find themselves diverted from the main road and into the middle of Pleasant Valley's God and Guts celebrations, at which they are to be the guests of honour. Initially wowed by the free hospitality and the bevy of half-naked and sexually aggressive women that are hanging about the place, the group agrees to stay only for them to be butchered and eaten by the town's eccentric population.

It is important to remember when watching a film such as this that the exploitation film belongs in a genre of its own. Neither a horror movie, nor an erotic thriller, or a teen sex comedy, the genre has its own aesthetics and its own tropes. For a successful exploitation film you generally need three ingredients; firstly, you need gore and horror, which is not meant to be scary. Secondly, you need sex and nudity that isn't really meant to be sexy and thirdly you need grotesques... lots and lots of grotesques, whether they be human characters or monsters you need to have an actor who is absolutely unashamed to ham it up as if his life depended upon it. 2001 Maniacs has all three ingredients in spades.

The violence and gore on display in this film are clearly quite cheaply made but they are also made to a very high standard. When blood and guts fly across the room they look the way that such things should look and there are a few severed heads that look disturbingly real (and anyone who has downloaded videos of Iraqi beheadings will know what I mean). The murders are also nicely inventive including someone being literally spit roasted and someone getting their penis bitten off by a woman with spiky metal teeth. Way over the top and well into the arena of cartoon violence, the gore and bloodshed in this film is a joy.

Featuring a number of model-turned-actresses and a few old hands from 1990s' erotic thrillers (whatever happened to those?), 2001 Maniacs is more than able to do sexy-but-wrong when it needs to. The women are all practically falling out of their costumes and, as with the best exploitation films, sex and death are closely linked as if a character gets laid, chances are they're going to wind up dead soon afterwards.

Thirdly, the film is practically nothing but grotesques from Robert Englund shamelessly chewing the scenery as Mayor Buckman through the various pouting lovelies to the actors who were evidently so dreadful that they had to have their lines dubbed on in post-production. However, for all its quality as harmless silly fun, 2001 Maniacs also has enough wit to know when and how to reinvent and update the ideas of the original.

Much like the original, 2001 Maniacs isn't afraid to throw around a few stereotypes as it populates its southern town not only with racist cannibals seeking revenge for the civil war but also inbred morons, incestuous lesbians and a man who keeps chasing a sheep with his trousers around his ankles. However, unlike the original film that reportedly seemed to be explicitly picking a fight with southern Christians, Sullivan also turns the stereotype around by playing on northern prejudices about their southern countrymen and how they're more than willing to make the most of the naïve and sexually innocent southerners when its to their advantage. The film even introduces a black and Asian couple who strut around turning their noses up at the inbred hicks only for them both to be killed in pretty horrific ways, saving the film from what could have been an embarrassingly PC ending.

If you're looking for a truly shocking horror film then 2001 Maniacs is not for you. However, if you're looking to spend an hour and a half laughing at an incredibly well made cavalcade of fake breasts and severed heads then this is absolutely the film for you. A most welcome remake of a classic of the genre, 2001 Maniacs has even proved successful enough to spawn a sequel; 2001 Maniacs: Beverly Helbillys. Hurrah!
2001 Maniacs

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