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1/23/08

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By all rights, I should have enjoyed 2001 Maniacs. It's full of graphic violence, naked girls and over-the-top performances; all the stuff I love about horror films. If you're a horror fan, I suggest you give it a try for those elements alone. It may work for you, where it didn't for me. For some reason it never connected. I'll try to figure out why in the next few paragraphs.

It may have been the horror movie cliche' of the characters getting lost on a road trip; it was especially stupid here, where there is a detour sign in the middle of a wide-open highway, and without much thought they characters follow a backwater dirt road. Where they find a small town and they're welcomed by the most extreme rednecks you've ever met, who offer them to stay for a party. As they were supposed to be on their way to Dayton Beach for a week in a beach house, I really don't think they'd bother. But they're characters in horror films, they're supposed to do stupid things, so it wasn't that.

Soon after this, one of the girls follows a "charming" southern-gentlemen out to a barn for some easy sex, but he decides to draw-and-quarter her instead. She thinks he's tying her up for something kinky, instead he rips her apart limb by limb. It's a pretty original scene, and it's pulled off neatly, with some good camera-work and grotesque special effects. It's the best death in the film, which is full of good bloody work. Overall, I was pretty pleased with the film's kills, they wimp out in a couple of scenes, but for the most part it was pretty graphic.

Robert Englund hams it up as Mayor Buckman, he relishes in the chance to be a lead character in a horror film again. Lin Shaye, who's better known for her comedy work, is a lot of fun here too; she really gets into torturing these kids. Giuseppe Andrews, who was fun in Cabin Fever, puts on a cheesy southern accent, and a cheesier southern suit, and is fun as the psychotic, ladies-man. Horror director Eli Roth has a brief cameo as a nasty hitchhiker, that could have been more fun. The rest of the cast is unknowns, and they're all uniformly terrible and forgettable. That may have been the reason, I need at least one character to connect with, and they were all way too lame to care about.

The story is pretty typical, after following the detour, a group of guys, followed by a group of girls and a biker and his babe show up in this small, hidden town. They're offered to be the guests of honor at the town's annual party. But of course their hosts have nefarious plans for them, i.e., barbecuing them for dinner. They're all dispatched in nasty ways, without putting up much of a fight. That might have been it too, there was no twist or hook, the film takes the path of least resistance, offering up nothing new.

But I've seen plenty of horror films that follow the same-old-storyline and enjoyed them more than 2001 Maniacs. It was decently directed, there are some fun camera angles; but it could have used some more pep, the newbie actors needed a kick in the butt. And I guess that's what it was, all the right horror film elements are here in the right order, but it's presented like business-as-usual, with no spirit and nothing truly compelling.

Maybe it was me, maybe I wasn't in the right mood... but I don't think so. I may give it another try in a few years, I've changed my opinions about movies before, but it's extremely rare. Like I said, if you're a horror fan, give it a chance, it may work for. For now, I'll check out the original, Two Thousand Maniacs!, directed by the legendary Herschell Gordon Lewis, I have a feeling I'll enjoy it a lot more.



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