On Thursday night (April 29), after the screening of Romero’s Survival of the Dead, we got to see the North American premier of Tim Sullivan’s 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams (I love the title and its second only to Gingerbread Man 2: The Passion of the Crust). For 2001 Maniacs we were lucky enough to have director Sullivan and the cast in attendance (most notably Bill Moseley). Right from the start Sullivan seemed to be warning us that what we’re about to see was an old-school exploitation film that pays tribute to and is steeped in that tradition. Well he was right. But there was no need to be apologetic; the crowd that assembled to see 2001 Maniacs was VERY into exploitation flicks and was loving it.
Unfortunately this is the kind of movie that is waaaaay more fun seeing it in a packed theater with fans who are there to get fucked up and have fun!! Sullivan even set up a drinking game for the movie: Every time the stuffed sheep Jezebel appears on screen everyone needs to yell out “fuck ya” and then do a shot. And as my hangover can attest, that goddamn sheep was in it A LOT!! Sullivan was also doing some promo filming (a la Paranormal Activity) of audience reactions during the screening. Everyone was whooping and hollering and having a great time. THIS is the way to see an exploitation flick!!
For for the movie itself. I really need to separate the actual movie from the experience I had by watching it with a really fun (drunk) group. In and of itself the movie is … well; its just “ok.” It fully embraces its exploitation roots and is completely successful in that regard. But overall the feel of the movie was that of a student film; kinda like a bunch of drunk frat boys got together to make a movie.
The plot will be familiar to anyone who’s seen Herschell Gordon Lewis’ original or Sullivan’s previous 2001 Maniacs outing (2005). A small Southern town was pillaged by a bunch of Northern soldiers during the Civil War. Women were raped and killed, children were brutally killed, and the town was burned to the ground. Now the town is cursed and the spirits of the dead towns people won’t rest until they take their revenge on and rape, kill, and eat 2001 Northerners. I hope you’ve seen the original (made by the “Godfather of Gore” Herschell Gordon Lewis back in 1964) because that is one classic flick. This time around our little Southern town packs up a bus and decides to take to South up to the North. Up in Iowa (??) they run into a group filming a reality show (its a parody of Road Rules and even has Nicole Ritchie and Paris Hilton doubles). This is when the fun starts.
The acting is very over-the-top. At times you know its intentional and other times you can’t help but feel its just the level of the actors in the movie. But what really took away from the experience was the soundtrack. The soundtrack was fucking horrendous and it made the worst sounding dubbed karate flick sound like a THX presentation!! All the dialogue sounded as though the cast were all talking in an amplified echo chamber. I’m really surprised they left the soundtrack the way they did for the North American premier. I’m assuming they are gonna fix it for the DVD release.
The f/x are well done but there wasn’t nearly enough carnage and mayhem for my likes. Sullivan set this up to be an old-school exploitation flick but too much time passes between gore set-pieces to really satisfy. There were times I was wondering when the next gore scene was gonna happen. But when we got it the gore was really bloody and fun!! A girl gets sawed in half the long way with a huge circular saw starting at her vag and ending through her head; a guy gets torn in half so just his exposed spine is “standing”; and we get a few exploding heads. The gore is fun, there just wasn’t enough of it for me. They needed to either add more gore or shorten the overall length of the film so the audience didn’t have to wait so long in between f/x.
The stand out performance was definitely Bill Moseley as Colonel Buckman, the mayor of the town. Moseley’s great in anything he does and this is no exception. We also get lots of nudity and even some girl-on-girl action. Sullivan’s heart was definitely in the right place here; he hits all the essential elements. Gore, hot girls (and they are hot), crazy dialogue that offends everyone, and some lez action. As Sullivan warned us before the screening started, “If you’re easily offended then you’re in the wrong place.”
If you’re looking for a fun, crazy, over-the-top exploitation flick then you’ll definitely enjoy this one. But be warned that the acting is pretty bad and (at least the version I saw) the soundtrack is horrendous. I was luckily enough to see this with a large group of drunk, rowdy, gore-loving people, so if you gather up a lot of friends and watch it like that you’ll love it!! Recommended only for those who love exploitation flicks and the exploitation-completist.
Director: Tim Sullivan
Plot: 2 out of 5 stars
Gore: 6 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer from the Texas Frightmare Weekend 2010