2001 Maniacs (DVD)

Starring Lin Shaye, Robert Englund, Giuseppe Andrews, Jay Gillespie, Marla Malcolm, Dylan Edrington

Directed by Tim Sullivan

Released by Lionsgate Home Entertainment

It seems like I’ve been waiting for years to talk about this movie, though in reality I’ve only seen it three times now, and two of those were on the DVD I’m reviewing for you here. Fact is, Tim Sullivan’s remake/sequel/Valentine to H.G. Lewis’ 2000 Maniacs has been around for so long that it almost seems unreal that it’s finally available to everyone.

The concept had been around for a while, and originally Sullivan was going to make the movie for Ryko as a direct-to-DVD title that would go to Blockbuster. The deal fell through for various reasons, and the 2001 Maniacs went from one set of hands to another until finally Eli Roth, Scott Speigel, and Boaz Yakin formed Raw Nerve and gave Sullivan the materials he needed to make his splatstick dream a reality.

Once it was done, however, it still sat for a while before finally being scooped up by Lionsgate Films… who promptly sat on it for a bit longer before announcing it would be a direct-to-DVD title. Full circle, one might say, though something tells me family-friendly Blockbuster won’t going to be carrying too many of these.

The 2001 Maniacs story is simple; three college buddies on their way to Daytona Beach for some much-needed Spring Break debauchery take a decidedly unwise detour. They wind up in the town of Pleasant Valley, Georgia, population 2001. As fortune would have it, they showed up just in time to be the guests of honor at the town’s annual Guts N’ Glory festival, a celebration the good Mayor Buckman (Englund at his scenery-chewing best) promises they will never forget.

When the barely clad and over sexed nymphets come strolling out of the woodwork, the three horny college kids do exactly what you’d expect; ditch their Daytona plans and decide to spend Spring Break with some Southern Belles. Of course, a few more people roll into town, victims of the same detour, so we have a good amount of potential fatalities on hand.

The promise of interesting deaths that Gordon’s original realized so fantastically is fulfilled in the remake’s first 25 minutes, thanks to a rather nasty drawing and quartering at the hands of the charming Harper Alexander (Andrews, creepy as hell from the get go), and it only gets better from there. More kids are lead away, usually with the promises of kinky sex, only to die in cool and gory deaths such as the Penis Fly Trap, the Acid Moonshine, and the Big Bell. These are the kind of audience-cheering offings that help to make this movie exactly what its creators wanted it to be; a drive-in splatter fest.

But beyond the sex and grue, there’s almost a message in 2001 Maniacs. I’m not saying it’s the kind of film that will make you rethink the way you live your life, but if you pay attention to the residents of Pleasant Valley, to what they’re saying and how they’re saying it, the truth of their dilemma is quite terrifying. Every hundred years these ghouls get a chance to even the score for their loss of life during the Civil War, and there is absolutely no escape for anyone who may be there when it all goes down. These maniacs are focused only on revenge, possess not a single inkling to show any mercy, and that gives them a kind of power the townspeople in the original seemed to lack. Lewis was trying to make splatter movie that kids would go see and just happened to have a cool idea to base it around. Sullivan is the same, although to me it felt like he also wanted to make sure the audience was scared of these maniacs, as well.

Of course, if you’re not interested in fear and just check out 2001 Maniacs for over the top gore and fantastic amounts of mammaries on display, you won’t be let down.

Since it took so damn for the film to finally hit the mainstream, it’s only fair that the DVD release is stacked to the gills. Tim seems to have had a lot to say about how the disc was going to be setup and what would be on it, as well as how it was going to be promoted (hence our month-long rolling promotion for the DVD, cause damnit, we do like it that much). The result is a very cool DVD with enough stuff on it to keep you singing, “The South is Gonna Rise Again (Yeeeeeee-Haw)!” long after the end credits.

First up: two separate commentary tracks for the listenin’; one with director Sullivan and star Robert Englund, the other with Sullivan, co-writer Chris Kobin, and producer Chris Tuffin. For the first of those two, imagine the two most hyperactive, passionate people you know, one a film geek and one just plain crazy, and you’ll get a good idea of what it’s like to listen to Tim and Robert discuss 2001 Maniacs for the length of the film’s running time. It’s full of cool info, anecdotes, and bizarre stories and really is one of the most fun commentaries I’ve heard in a long while.

The second track is a bit more laid back and some of the information that Tim imparts is repetitive of the fist track, but I guess you can’t really blame a guy for that, can you? This track goes into a lot more about what it took to make the film, with even more interesting tidbits coming from Tim and his co-creators. Not as much fun as the first, but no less enjoyable.

The next and biggest feature on the disc is the six-part making of documentary “Inside the Asylum”, shot and edited by Adam Robitel who played Mayor Buckman’s sheep-loving son Lester in the film. It’s broken up into sections, but I recommend watching it as one whole piece first and foremost. Intercut with an interview with Tim Sullivan that was shot on a blue screen and has all sorts of freaky shit going on behind it, the scenes are broken down from the documentarian’s point of view while the cast talks about just how much fun they’re having making it. It’s really hard to tell if Guiseppe Andrews is truly uninterested in being interviewed or just being weird, but his time on camera is still pretty funny for it’s absurdity alone.

There’s a lot of good stuff in here, and I’m sure you’ll have your own personal highlights. For me, the most memorable piece is when two actors, talking about working with Robert Englund, start talking about the first time they saw Friday the 13th. The camera girl actually stops and corrects them! Those are the kind of fuck ups you usually never see on even relatively candid making-ofs, which only helped make it that much funnier. The runner up for my favorite segment is the lengthy look at how some of the film’s gorier effects were created, cause damnit it’s cool to see fake bodies crushed to death and torn apart.

Next is a collection of almost 30 deleted or extended scenes, stuff that was thrown to the cutting room floor for reasons that I’m sure had more to do with pacing than with content. I theorize that because, save for one extended scenes with the three college buddies, most of them are pretty damn amusing. It’s a total of almost 40 minutes of deleted material, including an alternate opening with John Landis and 2000 Maniacs producer David Friedman, and well worth a watch.

Finally there are audition tapes from way back when casting was still taking place, featuring either stand-ins or people who originally had the role pretending like they were getting killed. Entertaining, but it went on a bit too long. The disc is rounded out with some trailers for other Lionsgate releases.

One other feature of note with this DVD are the menus; basically they’re paper craft versions of some of the more memorable scenes in the movie. They’re strange, bloody, and amusing, just like the movie featured within. A great overall package!

I think the only thing I would change here is the disc’s cover, which I’ve never really dug in the first place, but I’m not going to bitch about it’s looks when it’s got such a great personality. I’m glad to see Tim’s long, hard road to realize 2001 Maniacs finally come to such a satisfying end, and I’m happy to report that the film is just as fucked up and politically incorrect as I remember from when I first saw it almost a year ago. Lionsgate has done a great job with the disc, so you’ve got no reason not to give it a chance. Get some friends, gets some beers, maybe roll a joint or two if you want to laugh really hard, and kick back with 2001 Maniacs. It’s about damn time!

Special Features
Audio commentary with co-writer/director Tim Sullivan and actor Robert Englund
Audio commentary with co-writer/director Tim Sullivan, co-writer Chris Kobin and producer Chris Tuffin
“Inside the Asylum” featurette
Deleted/Extended scenes and outtakes
Audition Reel

4 ½ out of 5

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Johnny Butane

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