MARCH 31, 2008
One of the first movies watched for Horror Movie A Day (in the pre-writing reviews days, though I will try to eventually write one up for all of those forgotten little movies) was Two Thousand Maniacs, which is one of Hershell Gordon Lewis’ best-known movies. I didn’t care for it much, though I liked the ridiculous death scenes (my favorite – the barrel roll) and the delightfully awful songs. So I was a bit hesitant for the remake, retitled 2001 Maniacs, since rule of thumb is that a remake pales in comparison. Also, another rule of thumb is to never get your hopes too high for a movie made by anyone involved with Snoop Dogg’s Hood Of Horror. Well, I’m happy to say that this version breaks the mold!
Tim Sullivan and Chris Kobin (Sullivan directed, both scripted) did exactly what a remake of a bad movie SHOULD do: improve on the weak areas while retaining the spirit of the original. The biggest problem with the first movie, for me anyway, was how completely fucking stupid the characters were. They practically deserve to die for entering such obvious traps so willingly. Here, the townsfolk are a bit trickier, and the victims are much smarter (though still atypically horror movie dumb), so that the death scenes are not only more interesting, but even a bit more suspenseful. Whereas before, the entire method of the trap was obvious from the start, here we are allowed to sort of be surprised when the death trap comes out. For example, the “Milk Maiden” scene, in which Day of the Dead’s Christa Campbell (boyoyoyoyong) seduces a dude. We know that he’s gonna be a goner, but it’s not entirely obvious when and how.
Also, the traps are pretty much all new (my memory sucks – didn’t someone get ripped apart by runaway horses in the original as well?). For example, the aforementioned Maiden scene – she forces acid down the kid’s throat, which melts him from the inside out. It’s a fucking great scene. Like the Final Destination movies, you can almost imagine the creative team sitting around thinking of different ways to kill everyone and then writing the movie around that. Which is fine by me.
Also fine by me? Casting Peter Stormare! I love this guy, and had no idea he was even in the film. Sure, his role is brief, but his purpose is a good one, as his scenes help develop the main characters before they head off on their ill-fated journey, unlike the original film, which pretty much began with four people that we didn’t know about to enter the town. Eli Roth also pops up, playing the same guy he did in Cabin Fever. The rest of the cast is pretty genre friendly as well: in addition to Robert Englund and Lin Shaye as the main heavies, Kane Hodder, Scott Spiegel, Johnny Legend, and Sullivan himself pop up in cameos.
The main cast is decent, if not really memorable. I’m hardpressed to remember any of their names, but since the villains are the real draw for this film, I guess that’s not really an issue. Still, their relative blandness makes it difficult to peg the survivors (if any), which also adds a touch of suspense to the proceedings. Again, it’s all about improving the original, which had an obvious hero right from the start.
One thing I was a bit disappointed by was the lack of the original music. The theme “South Will Rise Again” is sort of in it (they pretty much just sing the chorus over and over), but there isn’t much else in the way of non-score music. I would have liked to see one or two of the other songs pop up somewhere. Also, the juvenile humor of the hicks fucking farm animals doesn’t really work, especially once you get to the sort-of twist ending.
All in all, if you are like me, and felt that the concept was somewhat wasted on Lewis’ super cheap, super stupid original, the remake should be refreshing to you. It’s not exactly my favorite movie of the year or anything, but it certainly makes for a good example of how to effectively remake a film (provided the film warranted a remake in the first place, which of course isn’t the case 90% of the time).
What say you?