|The Plot: We begin our tail along the side of the highway where we watch Lester and Rufe, two country bumpkins, swap out a Detour sign in the middle of the road. As they see a car that they like, they throw a detour sign in their way leading them to Pleasant Valley: population 2,000. Terry Adams is a lovely young lady who has recently picked up Tom White who had been hitchhiking along the road. White is on his way to Atlanta for a conference in a couple of days. However, once he and another car (with two couples) that was stopped by our bumpkins get to Pleasant Valley – they are treated like superstars. With everyone in town coming to meet them right at their car. Mayor Buckamn introduces the strangers to his town and offers to give them free room and board for the next couple of days while they prepare to celebrate their bicentennial. Everyone agrees after being forced into the situation, and take to liking their treatment. However, what secrets lie behind the smiling faces of this town’s inhabitants? And what exactly is being celebrated at this bicentennial? Oh, and why does everyone keep making these puns like they’re talking about killing the young strangers in town? … oh…|
The Review: Herschell Gordon Lewis was certainly a pioneer in terms of bringing onscreen violence out of the closet and into the foreground. However, time hasn’t been particularly kind to his version of “camp”, and a lot of younger viewers are going to be turned off to this particular approach. It is very much something along the lines of what Troma does, only without everyone being in on the joke. The performances are entirely over the top and the scripts are pure nonsense nonsense by default, but it’s these things mixed with the absurd amounts of gore that keep new audiences finding the material over and over again. Two Thousand Maniacs demonstrates clearly that weird HG Lewis mix of old-time values and extreme violence, a dichotomy that can’t be understood but mixes well into his films. In a film where we’re liable to go from a man being tied up and pulled apart by four horses, to a scene of a woman providing a tantalizing amount of skin while she pulls up her dress in a stream and lightly dabs at her legs – if you look closely, you might even see a thigh! It’s just part of the charm, as odd as it is. With Two Thousand Maniacs, Lewis offers one of his better scripts – where the gore doesn’t simply feel repetitive or as if the script was simply written around the sequences. That isn’t to say we’re dealing with David Mamet caliber writing – but there’s a beginning, middle and end – and not simply rehashing for the same scenes over and over again, so I was at least thankful for that.
As a southern man, I just HAVE to pitch in my two cents about the way the south is portrayed in the film. I’m not upset that southerners are shown to be blood thirsty monsters, that could be any culture or town! I’m not even upset that southerners are shown to still be hung up on the war between the states, the film was made in the sixties and if there are still a few people around these days with resentment towards the North I can imagine what the old timers were like back then. No, I’m offended at the use of the word “yall” in the film. Ya’ll is a shortened version of two words, You and All. It’s a term that, to the best of my knowledge, has always been used in the plural sense. You can use it when referring to a group of people who haven’t yet arrived, such as: “so what are ya’ll going to do today?” or “When they get here, where are ya’ll going?”. However, over and over throughout the film characters continually use the phrase when referring to a single person. A man might be walking away, and another might say “Where ya’ll going?”. After three or four times, the routine just gets old. Being that the film was shot in St. Cloud, Florida I picture one of two things: either the actors were from Hollywood and traveled to the location where no one payed close attention to the way the locals speak, or maybe local actors were used but didn’t want to correct any lines of dialogue. Any way it goes, it’s just a bizarre little anomaly in the film and probably doesn’t count as anything other than a pet peeve on my end but I still thought I’d dedicate a paragraph to it.
Aside from the improper dialogue, Two Thousand Maniacs remains about as harmless as HG Lewis gets. The acting is over the top, but not so terrible that it can’t be tolerated. Thomas Wood, a Lewis regular, steps into the shoes of our heroic leading man and does a good job. Connie Mason, who married Thomas Wood the same year this film was released (Go Tom!), also does well in her role. The only performances that really gnaw at the viewer are those of Lester, Mayor Buckman and Rufe – three characters who are so over the top they barely categorize themselves as being human. However, it’s an HG Lewis flick, if you’ve seen one of his films you’ll know precisely what to expect. However, character and scripting aren’t the main advertisements for a Lewis film and certainly not the first thing that pops into mind. It’s all about the gore. Well, the Godfather doesn’t disappoint. Although not quite on par with something like The Wizard of Gore, the violence here is pretty graphic. Although the bodycount is relatively small, the few who do die are maimed, ripped apart and obliterated in some pretty original ways. I’ve already said too much about one death, I’ll just keep the rest of them to myself.
I should probably also make a note of all the banjo music as well as the main theme song, written by Lewis himself. I suppose if it’s your type of music, which is kind of bluegrass, then maybe you’ll enjoy it. However, if I ever hear about Robert E. Lee breaking a musket across his knee again, I think I’ll go bonkers. The tune is repeated more times than is comfortable throughout the film and by the third time you’re just done with it. Anyway, overall, I’d say it’s one of the better and more enjoyable Lewis flicks I have seen. It’s still not a spectacular piece of art, but certainly worth checking out if you’re interested in the man and his films. It along with The Gore, Gore Girls should make for quite the evening! I’m giving it a three out of five, a little low I’m sure of being one of his best – but for me that translates to being just above average. Gorehounds will be enticed, as will genre completest’s – but I wouldn’t recommend it for one of your first gore outings.