Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964)
Directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis
Produced by David F. Friedman
William Kerwin as generic leading man, Tom White
Playboy Playmate Connie Mason as Terry Adams, the fully-clothed stunt honey
Jeffrey Allen as the hammiest man in Hamtown, Mayor Buckman
Ben Moore as Lester, big hick on campus
Gary Bakeman as Rufus, the Southern stereotype
Jerome Eden as John Miller, no, the other one
Shelby Livingston as Bea Miller, attractive excuse for a gore effect.
The pleasant Southern town of Pleasant Valley is having a centennial. A hundred years ago, something happened. Don’t worry about what, y’hear, just listen. They need six Northerners for their hundred years party, who are suckered into coming to town by the locals’ amazing sign placing skills. When our unsuspecting Yankees roll into town, the locals all crowd around (all 2000 of them, you'd guess, but casting could only afford about a hundred) and proclaim these folks to be the guests of honor. "Enjoy our hospitality!" sez the local Boss Hog. Apparently, in Pleasant Valley, "hospitality" means just what it sounds like it should. It means you is goin' to the hospital.
The party (which takes up the bulk of the running time) involves the locals gathering around the yankees and slaughtering them in interesting ways, usually implying that the upcoming unpleasantries will be a jaunty little state fair type diversion, like barrel rolling. When the poor, screaming yank gits it, the locals leer about, ‘cause he deserved it. Insert poorly developed transition scenes and you have the rest of this movie.
Two Thousand Maniacs! is primarily notable for being one of the first gore for its own sake films that the horror genre is so known for. H. G. Lewis (now a world-renown advertising writer) essentially began the gore subgenre with this film and 1963's Blood Feast. Who cares about a quality film here? Look at that guy's severed leg! Gross! Modern splatteristas like Lucio Fulci, Peter Jackson, and the entire production staff at Troma films might still be working in commercials (or nudie films, Lewis's big break came here, too) if not for Lewis's work. We can sit here, Manhattan laid neat before us, imaginary cigarette in hand, and write film school essays on this film for days, but it ain't gonna impress nobody. Lewis was ultimately in it for a buck.
By today’s standards, this film’s gore is tame. But the gore isn't the reason that I'll watch this movie with any sap who lets me press play with the tape loaded. Dogged if'n the movie ain't the funniest thing I've seen all month. Nothing makes me smile more than obvious Northerners choking out lines like, "Dogged if this ain't gonna be the best durn centennial ever!" Don't worry about having a Southern accent there, Gary, Kevin Costner doesn't bother with accents and he makes much more per picture than you do.
But if you have any naively held notions about this being a quality film, let me dispel them now. Two Thousand Maniacs! is technically inept, scripted like Dukes of Hazzard fanfiction, acted by a bunch of amateurs who give bunches of amateurs around the world bad names, and so dated in its effects that it makes squibs and Karo syrup look like breakthroughs in rocket science. But these are its charms, my dear. This film falls happily in the "so bad it’s good" category. Hell, I plan to show this thing to whoever will watch it with me. I need a live sounding board for all the myriad witticisms itching to be hurled at the screen while this movie plays.
All this ineptitude and goofiness almost makes the film more creepy. It's being a rock star dropped off in Bumfuck, Mississippi five hours into an acid trip, where things aren't exactly hallucinatory, but still surreal enough to where the white phones on the white walls elicit a nagging dread. Everyone is sure glad you could make it, and this makes you more than a little uncomfortable. Enjoy the ride, you say. Everyone is all smiles, you're the guest of honor, but you can't leave. Not now, not while this centennial... of some sort... is going on.
Even at a smidge under 90 minutes, Two Thousand Maniacs! is a little too long. It makes a great party film, but without the peanut gallery to accompany it, the proceedings drag. The coda adds nothing but extra reels; we've seen the people die that are going to, let me stop the film and freshen up my drink, fer chrissakes.
This movie is said to be the inspiration for the band name Ten Thousand Maniacs. Apparently, each band member was the equivalent of one of this movie.