Those already familiar with the original will know what they've gotten themselves into as our main characters follow a bogus Detour sign-just after narrowly avoiding Justin and Professor Mambo, character favorites from CABIN FEVER who are trying to hitch a ride-and arrive in the town of Pleasant Valley, whose residents are hard at work preparing for their weekend "Guts and Glory Jubilee." Soon the Confederate knife fodder arrive with Yankee good looks and are declared "guests of honor" by the one-eyed Mayor Buckman, played pitch-perfect by everybody's favorite sadist, Robert (Freddy Krueger) Englund. But what else can you expect when there's a population of, you guessed it, 2001...maniacs, that is!
What follows, surprisingly given our times and political climate, is refreshingly vulgar, completely un-PC and, much like the original, an expected excuse for extremely sadistic humor and gore. Where the first film now seems boring and slow, the new version is upbeat and well-paced. Happily and sadly, the first and only fully clothed female victim to get tied up and quartered by horses is the film's only waste of T in a movie overflowing with T&A. Many viewers may be offended by the black humor and straight-up racist jokes that pepper the film's dialogue, but those of you can rest assured that everyone gets their due by the end. It'll be interesting to see how the red states will react to such a searing and scabrous document of the South. Englund seems to imbue Mayor Buckman with a well-judged imitation of President Bush, and even the lives of his two sons in the film appear to closely ape those of the Bush daughters.
Longtime Lewis fans will be ecstatic that much, if not all, of his score from the original has been transferred to the new film by way of musical narrators Johnny Legend and his strumming sidekick Scott Spiegel. Somewhat in the vein of THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY, these musical country bumpkins pop up from time to time, like Sullivan's version of a Greek Chorus, hinting at the dangers to soon befall our ethnically and morally diverse blue state victims. "The South will rise again!"
The supporting cast is stocked with many fine new actors and veterans of the genre. Fans will enjoy the cool seething evil of Giuseppe Andrews (Fever's Deputy Winston) as he kills Yankee belles with kindness, and Lin Shaye (fast on her way to becoming a middle-aged scream queen after her role in the haunting DEAD END), who stars as Granny Boone, the murderous matriarch of Pleasant Valley. One day, this fine actress will hopefully be cast in a role that capitalizes on her real-life beauty and sassy charm; in the meantime, she here has a ball pushing the envelope, as when she sucks the red gore off a spear protruding from the gullet of a hapless victim! Newcomer Jay Gillespie evokes a REAL GENIUS or TOP GUN-era Val Kilmer with stern good looks and a thrill for the action around him. The rest of the MANIACS cast seem to be having fun with the bloody lowbrow horror and are in on the joke, all ready to "take one for the team" and die in a less-than-flattering manner. As each member is dispatched, you can tell they were having a great time taking it to the next level. This is a movie where "over the top" is just scratching the surface. Just ask Peaches, the Southern belle who wears a "retainer" that would make the shark in JAWS envious when she "services" a good ol' boy! (He doesn't last long.)
By the third reel, characters are walking around town all alone for no good reason, so we know they aren't going to end up much better than their missing brethren. Then Sullivan and crew punch up the action a bit with a scene that doesn't necessarily match the vibe of everything we've seen thus far, but has a maggot-worthy moment that makes up for the switch in tone. If you're looking to get scared, this is not exactly the right film, but if you're familiar with Lewis and his brand of goremongering, you'll squirm, screech and then writhe with laughter. 2001 MANIACS has all the elements of a good time yet still raises a dialogue among viewers that not many have had the balls to address in horror, or filmmaking in general, since the '70s.