OOM #27 – Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964)

Welcome to the blood and gore show! It’s only four days until Halloween and you can feel it in the air. This Monday morning it was chilly and cloudy, even if we’ve had some really hot days for the past week and a half or so. It was a sign that maybe the last “week” of October will be filled with more dread and nasty elements, with creatures appearing every day and gnawing and scratching our eyes out. Oooooh the horror! Still waiting for suggestions for a costume for the Halloween party I’m attending with my girlfriend this friday. Will we have a review that day? Of course, nothing stops me, not even the frustrating reality of work. This is my liberation guys.

So, today James Rolfe made a case for a movie that I don’t dislike at all, but for some reason I find myself wondering why he is so positive about it, and even considering it the best work of its director. The horror movie he featured was one half of the famous double feature ‘Grindhouse’ (2007), the Quentin Tarantino film ‘Death Proof’ (2007). I adore this movie, but sadly is highly maligned by those who expected some kind of “normal” movie from Tarantino, he fully adopts the low budget quality of the horror films from the 70’s, including the constant talk that never let us see the action, but with his own twist to it, managing to start the movie twice, with two completely different stories. In a way, like James says in his video, the film could’ve ended up a bit tiring after seeing one complete film already.

Personally, I haven’t written about this movie, but I think it needs an urgent re-watch. Personally, I think that it has a problem with its beginning, it is an entertaining but still slow build-up to what the film will actually end up being about. While I think I get the references and how it’s supposedly to be like that, I think that there’s a problem with imitating failures or things that were done wrong in a film that is a tribute. You can tribute bad films, but you have to acknowledge at the same time the bad things that they’ve done and feature the good, transcendent ones, those small moments of anarchy. We’ve gone through 30 years of filmmaking and we have the experience and the time to see the failures and we can change them. We can create a mood piece, but this movie sets no mood for what comes next, and the rest of the movie is great! I personally rate it 9 out of 10, and it’s the lowest rated Tarantino film, so you know I’m a fan.

You can watch James Rolfe’s video here, so he can give a better case for the movie and its amazing sequences. So, having seen that film, we have to choose a new one, and since yesterday we saw a 1964 film, that’s the first place where we will look in our list of recommended and horror films that must be seen (to be believed). And thus, only one film was left to be seen from the year, the Herschell Gordon Lewis film, my first! So, let’s be kind here, let’s find out what the Wizard of Gore has to show us in ‘Two Thousand Maniacs!’ (1964).

This is a weird film. It starts like mischief, as if some sort of a prank was going on that we aren’t aware of, two people see if any cars are coming in the highway and then they detour them using signs and other elements, to drive them out of the road and into a small town that is celebrating its centennial, or so is what everyone is saying, cheering and having that kind of talk and hospitality that ‘the south’ is famous for. And with this kinda prank, they attract six yankees into their realm, and they are treated as their guests of honor. So, since it’s a Gordon Lewis movie there are two chances here: the town is actually a nudie town and everyone will fuck each other by the end of the film, or the town is just a bunch of savages that go rampaging and killing the strangers that they lure in. It turns out it’s the second one… well, duh, since it’s horror month review, it had to be a gore/horror Gordon Lewis film.

So, the movie seems to be some kind of perversion, a subvert masterpiece of trash cinema, where the gore/horror wasn’t actually that common in the 60’s and that was popularized by films like this, but I assure you: you won’t find a gore film with a plot as solid as this one, but you can forget about any trace of decent acting. While the southerners are cliched, with their accents and yelling, they are still somewhat tolerable, but when it comes down to the six victims that are the guests of honor, they seem to come from beach films of the 50’s, they have the same jawline and their speech is identical, no one spoke like that in the 60’s! They seem to be artifacts of another era, youngsters that aren’t so young anymore, trapped in the B-movie circuit, finding themselves in a movie like this, something that has never been made before, and thus passing to history. The way they act is as abhorrent as the way that any protagonist of a bad 50’s monster film has, and while there are no monsters here, you can appreciate that they seem to don’t know what they’re doing.

The comedic and disruptive element of the gore, the cutting off of arms, legs and other members is among the most impressive things that one can see in this movie, they are done in such a delicate and at the same time realistic (for the time) manner, that one can seem to think that one is watching a snuff film. The raw qualities of the material and the fact that nothing like this had been made seem to feed that idea, this should be put alongside ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ (1974) among the films that fill you with that same dread and sense that you’re trapped without an exit. The people in the town is like Leatherface’s family, they all come together to harass and make horrific acts of violence on their victims. Sadly, the film doesn’t achieve the greatness of the 1974 masterpiece, mainly because of the lack of any good acting, as well as the sense that the film should end 10 minutes before it actually does. It explains too much and at the same time too little, the mystery was better, and not a supernatural explanation, that while interesting, doesn’t seem to solve anything except to force a political discourse that was going on. Strong, but shallow at the same time.

7/10

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