You have to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy something like '2001 Maniacs,' I plum-reckon. It's one heck of a hee-haw, filled with buckets of blood, guts, boobs, silly tongue-in-cheek jokes and plenty of glorious Southern hospitality. Based on the drive-in cult classic from Herschell Gordon Lewis, the movie is an intentional B-level feature with a wicked sense of humor that celebrates the lighter side of the splatter-gore subgenre. As long as viewers can laugh at the over-the-top carnage and bloodthirsty caricatures, then this wacky horror comedy from writer/director Tim Sullivan will deliver the laughs along with some wild, hillbilly mayhem.
Robert Englund, the man behind the iconic face of Freddy Krueger, stars as the mayor, George Buckman, of the small town Pleasant Valley. Englund gives another memorable performance, though not seen by many mainstream audiences, as the one-eyed Confederate rebel with a hidden agenda. I've always thought he possesses one of the best menacing smiles in Hollywood, a unique feature that perfectly complements his even more threatening eyes. As a twisted cross between Colonel Sanders and Mark Twain, he also appears to be the ringleader of a clan of crazed cannibals with a unique taste for Northerner blood.
Those Northern guests happen to be six college students on Spring Break and a mixed-race biker couple, the latter of which are the source of some stupid but still amusing wisecracks. Be-cause, you kno', they're all in the Deep South. Soo Wee! They were "accidentally" detoured unto this idyllic Georgia municipality just as the township was preparing for its "Guts & Glory Jubilee," a festival that commemorates the American Civil War. As would be expected, the group is none too bright in seeing through the folk's unusual kindness as they frequently make offensive one-liners about their ways of living. So rather than feeling bad for the kids' systematic massacre, we join the side-splitting ruckus.
The always-marvelous Lin Shaye plays Granny Boone, who appears attached to the mayor. And like Englund, Shaye does a great job with her little ole Southern drawl, and she, too, secretly harbors a mean-streak in her chameleon-like demeanor — mighty hospitable and generous one minute, but willing to skin ya alive if given the opportunity. Playing Mother Hen to a town which seems like kin, the sweet, little old lady thoroughly enjoys licking an oversized skewer after it's been used to impale one of the more flamboyant students. It's an amusingly funny role for Shaye, perfectly matching Englund's hyperactive portrayal. And with most of the focus on them, we can ignore the terrible acting of the rest of the cast.
'2001 Maniacs' is the silly blend of slapstick and graphic gore, otherwise dubbed "splatstick," which is nothing new really when recalling Stuart Gordon's 'Re-Animator' or Peter Jackson's 'Dead Alive.' But Sullivan does terrific in balancing the genres without one overwhelming the other and provides his ensemble of demented hillbillies with plenty of facetious dialogue. The low-budget flick is not meant to be taken serious — either in the storyline or the special effects though they are cool to watch — because the movie never takes itself serious. It's fun and comical when you're in the mood for a gory laugh, and that's about it.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Lionsgate Home Entertainment offers '2001 Maniacs' to Blu-ray on a Region Free, BD25 disc inside a blue eco-case. At startup, we get a couple of skippable trailers before the main menu selection.
'2001 Maniacs' takes a meat cleaver to Blu-ray with a mostly average but also troubled 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode.
Framed in a 1.78:1 window, the transfer shows a good and generally stable contrast, allowing for plenty of visibility. Overall resolution, however, is quite inconsistent with some decently detailed scenes offset by others with fuzziness, weak shadow delineation and some low-level noise. Several sequences appear artificially sharpened though it doesn't often distract. Blacks range from acceptable to muddy gray blobs. The image simply feels flat and mundane. Colors are typically bright and accurate with natural skin tones, but they fail in giving the movie any energy or pop.
We've seen worse transfers, but we've also seen far, far better.
The audio has a bit more life to it, though it doesn't make much of an impression either.
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is very front-heavy, which is understandable for a low-budget feature like this. But even as the lossless mix displays a broad imaging, it feels unsubstantial and listless. There's good balance between the channels, and the musical score makes the best use, spreading evenly across the soundstage. The mid-range maintains decent clarity and definition, yet it's never pushed extensively with a lackluster low bass. Vocals are generally intelligible, but several conversations are difficult to make out with distractingly noticeable ADR work. Surrounds are pretty much non-existent.
This is a mild to average high-rez presentation. Nothing more.
Lionsgate gathers together the same collection of supplements seen on the DVD release.
While not as depraved or in-your-face as other "splatstick" features, Tim Sullivan's '2001 Maniacs' is still funny horror comedy. You probably have to be in the right mood — or in a wanton state of mind — to really enjoy the silly flick. With Robert Englund and Lin Shaye in the lead roles, it makes for an easy and amusing night of gore and laughs. The Blu-ray arrives with troubled video and average audio, but the supplements are surprisingly exhaustive. In the end, if you're not a fan of the subgenre, then this may not be for you. But if you're feeling a bit adventurous, the low-budget B-movie may be worth taking a chance.