Film Review: Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964)

Also known as: Centennial (fake working title), 2000 Maniacs (alternative spelling)
Release Date: March 20th, 1964
Directed by: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Written by: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Music by: Larry Wellington
Cast: William Kerwin, Connie Mason, Jeffrey Allen

Jacqueline Kay, Friedman-Lewis Productions, Box Office Spectaculars, 83 Minutes

Review:

“Has it occurred to you that nobody has told us what this centennial is all about? Now, this is 1965, and a hundred years ago it was 1865, right? So, what happened in 1865?” – Tom White, “It was the ending of Civil War. The war between states!” – Terry Adams, “Well then you tell me why would a southern town want northerners as guests of honor at the centennial. It must has something to do with what happened a hundred years ago. So, something is very wrong with this town.” – Tom White

A year before this film, Herschell Gordon Lewis disgusted audiences with his debut film Blood Feast. That picture was a gore spectacle that paved the way for future gore cinema. It’s become legendary and survived the test of time because of how shocking it was in 1963. But it helped champion in an era of exploitation and grindhouse films that populated seedy theaters and drive-ins for a good decade and a half.

That being said, Blood Feast is a terrible, terrible film. It’s not really good on any level except in how it disgusted people and opened the floodgates for other penniless filmmakers to start pumping out their gore-littered schlock.

But I can’t quite call Herschell Gordon Lewis a bad filmmaker, as the man somehow took his terrible, basic formula, refined it, actually put together an interesting plot and then gave us this film just eight months later.

Two Thousand Maniacs! is not a good motion picture by any stretch of the imagination but it is at least a compelling one that is so bizarre you kind of want to know how the hell this insanity is happening.

The plot focuses on a small town in the middle of Nowheresville, Georgia. The residents of this town are putting up detour signs on the highway to lure in some outsiders. Once they arrive in the town, confused, the outsiders learn that the town is celebrating its Centennial. They feel like things are a bit off but since they’re being treated like prized guests, they soak it up.

However, each person is then killed in extremely violent ways. Two of them do survive and escape in the end but then we learn the batshit crazy truth: the town was a ghost town that was destroyed in the Civil War exactly one hundred years earlier. The town came back to life to get revenge on a half dozen Yankees because why the hell not.

This of course raises a lot of questions like how did these people know how to use telephones, cars and other technology that didn’t exist in their time? Why were they dressed in the finest Southern fashion of the 1960s and not the 1860s? Well, the whole movie is full of things that make you go “huh?” once you know what the big reveal is.

Still, suspending a lot of disbelief, the film works in a lot of ways regardless of all the nonsensical shit, the shoddy direction and the atrocious acting.

I’d be lying if I said that this didn’t lure me in, peak my interest and keep me glued to the screen.

While this has been remade, I’m assuming that one isn’t very good, this is the sort of film that should be remade with a competent director and a script writer that can actually work out some of the kinks and issues this original movie had. I think the concept is neat and that it could be improved upon, which is usually the only way I’ll support the idea of a remake or a reboot.

While several of the gore scenes are over the top and gratuitous, I’d say that this is actually less gory than Blood Feast. The camera cuts away a lot and some of the violence is implied with a finishing shot of a dead body covered in blood and meat. A lot of the shots during these scenes are of the reactions of the townsfolk who are getting off on the carnage.

Ultimately, this is not a good movie. But for gore pictures, it is one of the better ones and it at least has a story that works for what this is.

I’m not sure if Herschell Gordon Lewis actually displayed some directing talent or if he just kind of got lucky. Gorehounds will of course claim that the guy was a genius but I think that he was just a schlockmeister that developed his own unique style.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: Herschell Gordon Lewis’ other films.