A lot of people die over the course of this 2005 film but none of them are particularly likable so who cares.
A remake of the Herschell Gordon Lewis classic (though Lewis’s film only featured Two Thousand Maniacs!), 2,001 Maniacs is about a small town called Pleasant Valley in Georgia. During the Civil War, Union soldiers killed 2,001 of the residents of Pleasant Valley so, as a result, the angry spirits of the town will not be happy until they’ve killed 2,001 Northerners. Luckily, for them, some yankee college students come driving through on their way to Daytona Beach for Spring Break. That means it’s time to bring out the hooks, the blades, the flames, and all the other things that can be used to dismember people on screen. It’s a bloody good time in Pleasant Valley.
The mayor of Pleasant Valley is played by Robert Englund and, if nothing else, Englund brings a lot of demented glee to the role. One thing that I’ve always liked about Englund is that, even though he could probably get away with it, he’s always refused to coast on the fact that he’s a horror icon. No matter the quality of the film in which he’s appearing, Englund always goes all out and gives a memorable performance. As played by Englund, the mayor comes across as being an affable and welcoming guy, or at least he does until he starts killing people. The viewers automatically know that the mayor’s a bad guy because they know the type of role in which Robert Englund typically gets cast. But, and this is the important, you can at least understand why the film’s victims didn’t automatically run in fear as soon as they met him. The mayor is all about hospitality. (That, and bloody revenge.)
Anyway, it’s tempting to view 2,001 Maniacs as being some sort of statement about Confederate war memorials but …. eh. I mean, again, it’s tempting but I think it’s ultimately kind of pointless. This is not a subversive film. This is not a film that’s attempting to scratch the surface of any major issues. This is just another gory film that examines the amount of ways someone’s body can pulled apart. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. There’s a lot of classic horror films that are centered around people dying in gory ways. The problem with 2,001 Maniacs is that, since none of the people dying are particularly interesting, you don’t really care about how they die or even the fact that they’re dead. “Oh hey,” you find yourself saying, “at least I won’t have to listen to that guy talk anymore.”
Despite being a bit on the dull side for most of its running time, 2,001 Maniacs does have an effective final few minutes. There’s a big battle between a survivor and a ghost that is surprisingly well-directed and would have been exciting if we actually cared about whether or not the survivor was actually going to …. well, survive. As for the film itself, it ends on a properly macabre note. I actually laughed at the film’s ending, even though perhaps I shouldn’t have. Again, it all comes down to not really caring that much about anyone in the movie.
Anyway, 2,001 Maniacs didn’t do much for me. The Lewis version is still the version to go with. Thank God for Robert Englund, though. That man can act.