14 June 2006 | BaronBl00d
A Southern Guilty Pleasure
I bet Herschell Gordon Lewis, having just completed work on his second gore epic Two Thousand Maniacs, never once imagined that in roughly forty years his brainchild would be re-filmed and remade again. Instead of "the South will rise again, " it should be Herschell Gordon Lewis will rise again. Anyway, this film, like the original, has the happy town of Pleasant Valley as its setting: a town that magically reappears every 100 years on the anniversary of its destruction by Union soldiers during the Civil War only to have its hillbilly celebration of maiming, garroting, shivving, castrating, squeezing, quartering, barbecuing, decapitating, and so on of Yankee motorists in the nearby vicinity. Just like in the original, though much more bloodier and believable, nothing here is really frightening. Every gory scene is more like a punchline to a distasteful joke. Also, just like in the original, the South comes off looking like some barbaric civilization that is ages behind the more industrial North. The Southern stereotypes fly in this one though seem not to have the edge in the original film. What this film does have that the original does not are way better actors, lots and lots and lots of sexy women in lots and lots and lots of sexual situations, generous doses of humour(almost all of which were INTENDED), and a tongue firmly planted in cheek mood. Robert Englund plays Mayor Buckman to the hilt, even wearing an eye patch with the Confederate flag on it no less. Englund shows me here, as he has in other non-Freddy roles, that he is a versatile actor with a wide range. His Buckman has charm, grace, and dementia. Lin Shaye does an equally credible job playing Granny Boone(not to my knowledge in original). Everyone else is more than adequate working with this stuff. Johnny Legend and Scott Spiegel had me rolling as two wandering minstrels singing atrocious blue grass tunes with the most inane lyrics. And let's not forget the girls. The film has a bevy of beauties with a free and easy approach to being in front of the camera. Standouts(knockouts might be more appropriate) include Gina Marie Heeken, Bianca Smith, Wendy Kremer, and sultry Christa Campbell as the milk maid. Director Tim Sullivan knows exactly what he wants and goes right for it in this film. No high art here, just an appreciative group of filmmakers remaking a film I too would never have dreamt of being remade. The odd thing is that this film is far more watchable then the original. It has so much more going for it than the original - which does have some charms - don't get me wrong. Sullivan knows his audience and goes with the proverbial flow. He doesn't stray away from the shocking nor the easy, distasteful laugh(like when the black Yankee is presented as "dark" meat as just one example).