Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...
The always-brilliant Vern is back to show us how it’s done with his review today of 2001 MANIACS:
What's up fellas,
You guys have been covering this '2001 MANIACS' movie for what seems like years. Well, it seems that way because it is that way. Quint reviewed the script before Bush was even in the White House. Then you kept talking about it while it was being made and a while back I believe Moriarty personally presented a screening of it and you guys posted a bunch of reviews from the screening. That's already more than enough coverage for a movie like this. But now that it's found its rightful home in Direct to Video Land, it falls into my jurisdiction. I make the rules here. King Kong ain't got shit on me, etc. etc. Anyway here's my take in case anybody gives a shit. (Not likely.)
FIrst of all I should say upfront that I have not seen 2000 MANIACS, the H.G. Lewis movie that 2001 MANIACS is based on. So I really have nothing to compare it to except Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. And frankly, 2001: MANIACS just doesn't stack up. I know I'm not original in saying this, but Kubrick's film is a visionary masterpiece that even when I watch it today makes me think that movies have potential to go places that nobody is even trying to go with them. Tim Sullivan's film is about some dickheads looking for pussy who get killed and eaten by cartoon redneck ghosts.
But let me play devil's advocate here and say that maybe in some minor ways it's not fair to compare a purposely bad "horror" "comedy" to one of the best and most innovative movies ever made - IF, as in this case, the latter movie was released theatrically. Okay well then if I put it that way then yes, 2001 MANIACS is a little better than HOUSE OF THE DEAD 2. It's forgettable crap but it's more entertaining than BOA VS. PYTHON or Wesley Snipes's UNSTOPPABLE.
The director is Tim Sullivan, best known for his additional dialogue in RETURN OF THE ALIEN'S DEADLY SPAWN. I'm sure he's probaly a nice guy and enthusiastic about horror movies. You can read more about him here and here. He cowrote the movie with a guy named Chris Kobin, and I will give that guy credit because he produced SLASHER, a great documentary John Landis made about selling used cars. Seriously check that one out, most people are not aware that Landis still has good movies in him.
Those are the guys who made the movie but alot of attention is also going to Eli Roth because he produced it and it's the first release from his new production company. I forget what the company is called but I'm guessing it's a series of greek letters. I mean seriously, I liked CABIN FEVER but I'm starting to wonder about this guy. He has another wacky cameo in this movie and looking at him, I figure he is definitely over the age of 22. So maybe it's time for him to become a man and make his first movie that's not about asshole frat boys trying to get laid while on vacation. Or quit pretending and just go get a job with Girls Gone Wild.
This movie even starts out with the protagonists playing a wacky joke on their uptight professor during a lecture about the civil war. Poor Peter Stormare, who plays the professor, makes them stay after class to yell at them about their "antics" and threaten to expel them. This is some universal type shit we can all relate to, because we saw that movie in the '80s I think. There are alot of implied high fives and WHOO HOOS and our three dipshit, Jonathan Taylor Thomas looking heroes hit the road and end up in a small southern town called Pleasant Valley, where cartoonish stereotypes of "old school southerners" pretend to make them the guests of honor at an annual festival. Then it's basically a series of scenes where the characters think they're gonna get laid but instead get drawn and quartered or get their dick bit off by metal teeth or something. (That second one was a pretty novel idea.) It's kind of like THE WICKER MAN as remade by whichever asshole did FLESH FOR THE BEAST. And then it leads up to a duel in a circle of fire, like CRADLE 2 THE GRAVE. Unfortunately, nobody shoves an atomic bomb down somebody's throat like Jet Li did to Mark Dacascos in that movie. So what's the point?
I know, I know. It's not supposed to be scary so I can't criticize it for not being real horror. And I know, the acting is supposed to bad so I can't criticize it for the painfully bad southern accents. And of course it's not supposed to be good so I can't complain about the bad dialogue and lack of imagination ("Like I always say, two heads are better than one!" one guy says about two severed heads. Get it?) And you're right, it's a low budget independent movie that people worked hard on so it's okay that it's not funny. Not to mention it's 2006 so I can't complain about it not even being all that gorey or imaginative in all the killings, because we've seen it all before. And yeah, there is always real porn to enjoy so it's not a big deal that for a T&A movie there is not enough lingering on the T and/or A. Okay but then what exactly is there to like? I guess I don't really get this genre of the horror movie that's not supposed to be scary but also isn't really funny. And if 2000 MANIACS isn't way more over the top gorey than this one is I wonder how the hell it got such a reputation? I just don't get it I guess. Kubrick must be rolling in his grave.
As you know I'm a positive individual, so I'm gonna say some things I liked about the movie. Some of the cast is pretty good for this kind of thing. Robert "Freddy" Englund plays the mayor. It's the same old shit he does in THE MANGLER and crap like that, but we all like him because he's Freddy, and he looks funny with a confederate flag eye patch. Lynn Shaye was a good choice to be in this, you may remember her as the horrifying landlord in KINGPIN. She was also in DETROIT ROCK CITY as was this guy Giuseppe Andrews. I kind of like this guy, mainly because he keeps mentioning his love for Fassbinder and Herzog on the DETROIT ROCK CITY dvd, which is funny.
The deaths, which seem to be the whole point of the movie, are okay I guess. Like the guy who is force fed acid and he melts from the inside out. I mean it's kind of like a SLEEPAWAY CAMP sequel with a civil war theme instead of summer camp. But to me it seemed like the deaths all happen too fast and cut away too soon. If that's the whole point of the movie they ought to milk it more, in my opinion.
There was one little scene I liked toward the end where one of the victim characters sees a little girl by herself twisting some kind of nozzle thing and he says very sweetly, "Evening precious. What're you doing there?" and just then he realizes that she's torturing a rat. I don't know, it's a simple little joke but I thought it was better executed than the rest of the movie.
I kind of like the basic idea behind the movie. Using horror to explore the civil war, or using the civil war to explore horror, or something, is not necessarily a bad idea. The director claims there's a metaphor for the post 9-11 world in there somewhere and I guess he's not stretching too much. These rednecks are avenging Northerners for massacring their town, so it's a cycle of violence committed on people that have nothing to do with the original violence, just like terrorism, just like war. I wouldn't have really got that out of the movie without him pointing it out though so don't worry about that one, they don't rub your face in it. I like the ending. It wasn't necessary for Peter Stormare to say, "Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it," at the beginning, but I get what they're going for.
Okay so that's the good stuff but still I gotta ask you guys. You're from Texas, right? Don't you guys ever get tired of this shit? Doesn't it piss you off to see movie after movie like this where southerners are all backwards rednecks, hicks, hillbillies, inbreds and klansmen? Or if they're gonna do a movie about those types of characters wouldn't it be cool if more of them were played by actors who either were or seemed to be from the south, instead of copying accents they saw on tv? I know Matthew McConaughey and Billy Bob Thornton would be pretty fuckin busy in this scenario, but we could figure something out. Wouldn't it be nice to see a movie about the south where nobody ever mentions the "squeal like a pig" scene in DELIVERANCE? Just once? And no sheepfuckers or lynch mobs? Shit, I'm not saying to ignore the history of racism in the south (or anywhere else) but these characters have nothing to do with real life, they're just the ten thousandth echo of a hundred thousand other movies about killer rednecks. Especially when the quality of the movie is not all that hot, I think this type of shit would piss me off if I was you.
Anyway, that's my take on this one. Put it in a category with '2010: THE YEAR WE MAKE CONTACT [not the movie contact but the actual contact with the aliens is what we make in that year]' at best. But before I go, I wanted to say something for the couple of people that worry about me for putting myself on the line and heroically watching all these bad DTV movies. You might be relieved to know that I actually saw one I thought was pretty good. It's been out forever though which is why I'm not reviewing it here. The movie is CARLITO'S WAY: RISE TO POWER, the prequel to the DePalma film, but based on the book that came before the book that the DePalma film is based on. Of course, it suffers from casting the chump from HOSTEL in Al Pacino's role, but taken only as a DTV sequel and not as a real one, it's pretty fucking good. DTV veteran Mario Van Peebles is especially great in a badass blaxploitation performance that makes you wish the movie was all about him.
Also a quick update for my fellow Seagalogists. You may have heard the news that Seagal is going to film a new "semi-comeback movie" in New Orleans. It's called PRINCE OF PISTOLS and features cameos by various blues legends as well as Seagal's own music. (He did the same thing in TICKER but he wasn't even the star of that movie, so this one should be better.) That one has the more awesome title, but I'm also interested in HARVESTER because it has a character called "Alien Queen" in it which opens up the possibility that it takes place in space, which is also where 2001 takes place. IMDB lists HARVESTER as being in post-production so hopefully it's too late for him to take the aliens out, as he did with the "biological mutants" he was originally supposed to fight in SUBMERGED. But to me maybe the most exciting Seagal news is that the movie that has been listed on IMDB for a while as "MERCENARY" has now suddenly become MERCENARY FOR JUSTICE. He turned OUT FOR JUSTICE into OUT FOR A KILL and OUT OF REACH so I'm glad he's finally figured out a way to use the JUSTICE part again too. Hopefully HARVESTER will become HARVESTER TO KILL before we know it.