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2001 Maniacs

Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // October 5, 2010
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted September 24, 2010 | E-mail the Author

"To our guests from the North
Spread here at our feet
Thanks fer bein' such tasty meat!"

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South will rise again! ...or at least the South will put up a fake 'Detour' sign, corral a bunch of you Yankee college kids heading down to sunny Florida for Spring Break, sex you up, and turn you into barbecue. That kind of counts as "rising", right?

So yeah, that's pretty much a complete runthrough of the plot of 2001 Maniacs right there, but I'll keep going anyway. Three pals -- played by Dylan Edrington, Matthew Carey, and Jay Gillespie -- are blazing a path down to Daytona. What looks like a shortcut winds up stranding 'em in the sleepy little town of Pleasant Valley, Georgia. No phones! No lights! No motorcars! Plenty of luxury, though. The locals are pretty squirrelly and a couple McNuggets short of a Happy Meal, but they're really eager to please. Plus there are plenty of jiggly Suthern belles just itching to be deflowered, and if that doesn't pan out, there's always that carful of other Yankee girls that just rolled in. So anyway, from there...? A whole lotta fuckin'. Everyone either gets laid or is at least looking on longingly as someone else is. Easy ass, plenty of booze, and big, free chicken dinners: who needs Daytona? Oops! ...and it's right about here that these Yankee college kids start noticing that a couple of their friends are M.I.A. They already knew they were the guests of honor for the big barbecue, but they didn't realize they were ::gulp!:: the main course...

2001 Maniacs may draw from the slightly-differently-titled H.G. Lewis flick from a few decades back, but it plays way more like the bastard son of a thousand Troma flicks. I want to say that I mean that in a good way since Troma was kind of the boon of my life and existence when I was in junior high and high school. It's an hour and a half of tits, ass, cacklingly over-the-top splatter, and a goofy, campy sense of humor. If this had come out back when I was in 9th grade, I'd probably have the little fold-out poster from Fango pinned up on my wall and everything. I feel as if I'm supposed to be clacking away at my keyboard saying how much fun 2001 Maniacs is -- riding crop-fu, girl-on-girl kissin' cousins, streams of maggots, eye-popping, El Kabong-ing, drawn-'n-quartering, everyone losing their tops and generally their entire heads too -- but this wound up being 87 of the longest minutes of my empty, wasted life.

There really are some solid splatter effects, with the highlight probably being a guy who's force-fed acid, which burns a hole clean through his stomach and sends all his innards sloshing and spilling out from there. The whole movie's dementedly
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goopy and sopping with gallons of stage blood. The quality of the effects work is really hit-or-miss, though, and the same goes for damn near everything about 2001 Maniacs, really. There are a few really likeable actors in the cast. Robert Englund obviously gets the biggest nod as Mayor Buckman, the mayor of Pleasant Valley who's rocking that Confederate flag eyepatch. Lin Shaye, Giuseppe Andrews, Marla Malcolm, and, very briefly, Peter Stormare also chime in with the types of performances that are exactly what a flick like this screams out for. They generally go big, they're clearly having a blast, and it's kind of infectious. Too many of the rest are awfully cringeworthy, though.

'Course, no matter what caliber of actor you cram together, they're still kinda limited by the material. 2001 Maniacs plods along agonizingly slowly whenever someone isn't being hacked apart or getting laid (or both, simultaneously). The movie's played so cartoony and campy that it kind of goes without saying that you're not gonna be lavished with any sterling characterization, there's no suspense or tension, and it really doesn't even go for scares. No, most of the in-between stuff is played for laughs, and the one-liners are so. surreally. terrible. There are a lot of really clunky double entendres like "I'm in 'pussy'" and "if I supply the peaches, do you think you boys could supply the cream?", with that last one delivered in between sucking on an oversized lollipop. The gags just seem so lazy and obvious. I mean, this is a flick with a bunch of backwater rednecks on the prowl in Georgia. How many Deliverence references and sheep-fucking sight gags do you think there are? One of the Yankees on the menu is black. Think there's a quip about dark meat? His girlfriend is Chinese. What's the over/under that they'll toss in a joke about being hungry an hour after scarfing down her innards? It's all just lazy and laughless. There are some things that would be clever if I got the joke, like The Black Guy being crushed to death by a cotton press, only I didn't know that was a cotton press or even what a cotton press is. Maybe I wasn't paying close enough attention. Whatever.

So yeah, as much as I usually go for campy splatter-comedies like this, 2001 Maniacs is kind of unwatchable. I absolutely dug some of the more demented make-up effects, and I'm definitely a fan of several of the actors on the bill, but those don't even come close to redeeming how uneven, laughless, and excruciatingly slow everything else about it is. I really, really wanted to like 2001 Maniacs, Skip It.

Like I said, it's kinda hard to watch 2001 Maniacs and not think back to Troma during their heyday. I mean, not only does the flick stick pretty closely to the traditional Troma template, but it looks like it could've been shot all the way back in 1989 or something too. The choice of film stock gives the movie a pretty indeterminate sense of time that kind of works in its favor, really. Kinda follows that it's not high definition eye candy so much, though. The photography has a coarse, gritty look to it. There's a decent sense of texture -- I mean, look at the really fine patterns of the professor's coat in the opening sequence -- but detail and clarity tend to be pretty middling. This transfer is riddled with flecks of dust too. I think some unusually soft or slightly out-of-focus shots have been tweaked, but otherwise, the presentation doesn't look like it's been overprocessed at all. The strange thing is that I don't see any of the usual hiccups I associate with heavy processing, and yet I still get the nagging feeling that 2001 Maniacs looks uncomfortably digital on Blu-ray. I can't quantify it or explain why. It's just this sense I get, so take that for whatever it's worth. The short version...? 2001 Maniacs is priced as a bargain bin Blu-ray release, and unlike a lot of Lionsgate's other titles from this Halloween-friendly wave of horror, it kinda looks the part too.

2001 Maniacs is unmatted, so it sports that screen-filling aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The movie's served up on a single-layer Blu-ray platter, and the video has been encoded with AVC.

2001 Maniacs is waving around a 24-bit, six-channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, but...yeah, no matter what technical specs might be rattled off on the flipside of the case, the movie never really steps away from its microscopic budget. The mix sounds kinda thin and trebly. Even though it uses all of the channels at its fingertips pretty well, 2001 Maniacs doesn't belt out that big, expansive sort of sound that fills every square inch of the room. It just feels really cramped. There's a passable amount of bass, and the sound design is playful enough to lob out a fair amount of stalking and atmosphere in the surrounds. The elements themselves don't sound that great, though, so no matter how they might be reshuffled in the mix, it's not gonna rank any higher than mediocre.

Aside from a couple of audio commentaries, there aren't any other soundtracks anywhere on this Blu-ray disc. Subtitles are offered in English (traditional and SDH) and Spanish.

  • Audio Commentaries: There are two commentaries on this Blu-ray disc, and the first is one of those tracks that I really dug even though I obviously didn't think all that much of the movie itself. It just screams ahead at a pretty manic pace, has a hysterically self-deprecating sense of
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    humor, and is constantly chucking out insight into how 2001 Maniacs came together while it's at it. Oh, I guess I should get around to mentioning who's on it too: co-writer/director Tim Sullivan, co-writer Chris Kobin, and producer Chris Tuffin. I was pretty intrigued to hear about how many times the project had been fully cast and crewed up only to crumble apart...first on 9/11/01, even. They mention the Curse of the Confederacy that was put on them by a bunch of Civil War re-enactors, and with as much time as this track spends laughing at everything that went so disastrously wrong, you kinda get the sense that maybe there's something to that. Stock footage snipped out of Frogs, a Jacko-inspired mugshot, a big dance number without any strippers at all, Sullivan embarrassedly howling when it comes out that he was booted from the set when one sequence was being filmed...I just really, really loved it. I mean, I like these guys so much that I sincerely do feel guilty panning the movie. So, yeah: required listening if you wind up buying or renting this shiny Blu-ray disc.

    Meanwhile, the other commentary with Sullivan and Robert Englund is completely inessential. Most of its highlights are already covered in the producer track...sometimes even in more detail, such as the precise reasons why filming the fiery climax had to be cut short that Sullivan kind of dances around delicately here. Looking at the notes I scribbled down, I think the only highlights I marked that aren't addressed in the producers' commentary are the origin of 2001 Maniacs' title and noting the lack of female nutjobs in the original H.G. Lewis flick. Sullivan and Englund both pad out this track with stuff by noting their deep & abiding love of horror and just how much fun they think 2001 Maniacs wound up being. There are just a few too many moments where they're discussing around the movie or sound like they're defending it rather than offering any meaningful insight. I like Tim Sullivan, and I like Robert Englund, but...yeah, you're better off just sticking with the producers' commentary instead.

  • Inside the Asylum (42 min.; SD): If you've already torn into the commentary tracks, you've gnawed most of the meat off this making-of doc's bones. A good bit of time is spent with the cast, though, and since none of them pop up in the commentaries, it's nice to see them represented and everything. Being such a gorehound, I loved all the emphasis on how the splatter effects -- most of which were knocked out practically, with CGI used very sparingly -- were put together. The design, the fabrication, the execution, and...hell, even peeks at the original storyboards: everything you wanted to know about 2001 Maniacs' make-up effects but were afraid to ask is tackled in here somewhere. What else...? Splatstick. Homages to everything from H.G. Lewis to Carnival of Souls. The mix of boobies and blood. Eli Roth explaining why 2001 Maniacs is the perfect date movie if you're looking to get laid. Metric tons of behind-the-scenes footage. There's a lot of personality to it too, and that's something I always appreciate. Sometimes "Inside the Asylum" does sound as if it's taking itself way too seriously, but generally, it's pretty light and quippy. If you've already listened to one of the commentaries, I think I'd fast-forward to the make-up effects stuff and mash 'Stop' afterwards, but it's a solid highlight reel if this is the only extra you're planning on watching.

  • Deleted Scenes, Extended Scenes, and Outtakes (37 min.; SD): Wow. This reel of unused stuff is exhaustive and...kinda exhausting too, really. It's murky, washed-out workprint quality, and you don't score any extra kills here or anything. I mean, I wasn't really looking for another 36 minutes and change of people sitting around and talking. Oh well. The highlights...? There's the original version of the opening, this time with John Landis playing the professor. You can hear Tim delivering his direction towards the kissing cousins as they writhe around and tease at pulling down their panties. Jezebel the sheep gets to show off her lovingly knitted sweater. There are also the raw takes of the gauntlet of maniacs from the climax, so if you want to hear someone snarl "life always finds a way to push its way up through death" fourteen hojillion times, here's your chance. Wow, I sound really bitter. I'm sorry.

  • Audition Reel (7 min.; SD): Last up is really rough looking camcorder footage of the cast plowing through snippets of quite a few different scenes.

The Final Word
Boobs. Blood. Cannibalistic, vengeful Sutherners. That's a hell of a menu, and 2001 Maniacs lobs out a deliriously campy, over-the-top sense of humor while it's sloshing around all those barrel drums of splatter too. The adorable, wide-eyed fourteen-year-old me who was devouring every Troma flick he could get his hands on would've loved the holy hell out of this. Wait, what am I talking about? My life still revolves pretty heavily around campy, shamelessly exploitative genre flicks, and in the back of my mind, I feel as if I should really, really be digging 2001 Maniacs...but I don't. So much of the comedy is clunky and obvious. The flick really drags its feet whenever someone's not nekkid or being eviscerated or whatever. This splatter-comedy has its heart in the right place and all, but I kinda get the impression that it was a lot more fun to make than it is to watch. This Blu-ray disc is pretty absurdly cheap, and there are hours and hours of extras, so there's that, I'd have a hard time even recommending this one as a rental. Part of me definitely feels kinda guilty for saying this, but Skip It.

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