It makes sense that Eli Roth, director of “Cabin Fever” (and more recently the box office hit “Hostel”) is one of the producers of Tim Sullivan’s “2001 Maniacs”. Sullivan’s movie and Roth’s first film share much in common, including an abundance of gore and heavy doses of wacky comedy and odiously generic characters that you wouldn’t mind seeing dead in cruel and inhumane ways. And it’s precisely for those reasons that you should love Sullivan’s film — it is gleeful in its sadism, hilarious in its gags, and blissfully entertaining from beginning to end, clocking in at a fast 87 minute running time plus opening and end credits. The film is just long enough to hit all the splatter and jokes, but never long enough to bore.
“2001 Maniacs” follows the usual formula, with punkish college kids on their way to Daytona Beach in Florida for Spring Break. (Fans of TV’s “Prison Break” will get a kick out of Peter Stormare’s quick cameo as an exasperated college professor in the beginning.) Along the way, our Spring Breakers run across 3 like-minded “teens”, and together they eventually end up in the small, out-of-the-way town called Pleasant Valley , which seems to be stuck in time circa 1860s. The mayor of the town, played by an excellent Robert Englund, declares the Spring Breakers the town’s guests of honor. A free meal, room and board, and a gaggle of slutty Southern women convince the boys and their new friends to stay. But of course this is no ordinary town, and soon the kids start disappearing one by one. It seems that the Spring Breakers aren’t just invited to dinner, they are dinner.
To be sure, you would have to be one of those people who find Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” movies to be a masterpiece in order to fully appreciate what Tim Sullivan is going for here. And having liked Raimi’s works, as well as Roth’s “Cabin Fever” a great deal, it’s not very difficult for me to consider Sullivan’s “2001 Maniacs” another fine entry into a genre in desperate need of rejuvenation. The characters are overtly stereotypical, from the black motorcyclist and his leather-clad Chinese (though she doesn’t look very Chinese) girlfriend, to the Southerners themselves (a running gag involves a man and his sheep), and right down to the Spring Breakers.
Right from the start, it’s immediately made clear that “2001 Maniacs” is anything but an exercise in original screenwriting, and it is obvious Sullivan and co-writer Chris Kobin could care less about re-inventing the wheel. As with Roth’s films, “2001 Maniacs” oozes unbridled giddiness that is easy to get into. The film, simply put, begs not to be taken seriously. To do so would be ridiculous and unhealthy, as the sight of genre vet Lin Shaye running about in a Southern Belle dress and wielding a meat cleaver should certainly attest. Plus, approaching “2001 Maniacs” from any other angle besides resigned acceptance of the film’s ludicrous nature would only interfere with the movie’s overall entertainment value.
If there is such a thing as a point, then the point of “2001 Maniacs” seems to be how much blood and severed bodyparts Sullivan, a former special effects man himself, can throw at the screen and get away with. If it isn’t obvious by now, the film is very bloody, with torn limbs and gushy decapitations aplenty. Sullivan certainly isn’t shy about the gore, all of it done in jubilant, over-the-top fashion. The film is also amusing throughout despite a long, drawn out final 10 minutes. The film really should have ended 10 minutes earlier, with the mystery of the townspeople left for the viewer to guess. The clues are all there; did we really need a point and click narration of Pleasant Valley ‘s origins?
What’s there to be said about the film’s cast? They’re all generic stereotypes, from the handsome hero to the beautiful blonde heroine, who of course spends most of the movie in midriff bearing clothes because, well, it’s a movie made after the year 2000, and all attractive females in horror movies need to bear their midriff. It’s a Teen Horror Movie law. The Spring Breakers are your usual horny lot, the kind that doesn’t engender sympathy as the townspeople start hacking them up for dinner. Not that Sullivan ever tries to make them sympathetic. In possibly a first for the genre, leading lady Marla Malcolm actually takes off her top in a sex scene.
“2001 Maniacs” is a solid genre effort, with more than enough pluses to warrant an enthusiastic recommendation for those interested in the genre. The film will not appeal to anyone unfamiliar with its cult inspirations, for the simple reason that it’s a movie made by people who thrives in their obsessive devotion to horror filmmaking. And if you like splatter, all the better. Who knew you could come up with so many groovy ways to kill a horny Spring Breaker?
Tim Sullivan (director) / Tim Sullivan, Chris Kobin (screenplay)
CAST: Robert Englund …. Mayor Buckman
Lin Shaye …. Granny Boone
Giuseppe Andrews …. Harper Alexander
Jay Gillespie …. Anderson Lee
Marla Malcolm …. Joey
Dylan Edrington …. Nelson
Matthew Carey …. Cory
Mushond Lee …. Malcolm