Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964)

When “Two Thousand Maniacs!” arrived into the cult kingdom of the horror geek, Herschell Gordon Lewis’s horror comedy was an all out assault to Southern xenophobia and fanaticism, as well as a look at the vengeful spirit the South possessed if society continued to evolve from an Aryan aristocracy, to a melting pot of multi-racial ethics and politics. I mean, I’m sure there’s a vengeful spirit for almost anything, including pure evil, and Lewis’s horror comedy is a stripped down, low budget over the top horror film about the vicious unforgiving ghosts of the South who wreak havoc on outsiders that have evolved in the new world, punishing them for their decadence, sexuality, and freedom.

Three couples emerge on Pleasant Valley, a small town filled with old fashioned southerners who welcome them with open arms and invite them to bask in the amusements of the locals including toy nooses, confederate flags, and an endless array of temptations presenting themselves to the outsiders. It’s just a shame that Lewis has a clear grasp on commentary (if there is any) and premise, and no idea on how to evenly pace his horror film along to where it’s watchable. Granted, this isn’t a horrible movie, but I was bored to tears and thanks to Lewis’s pretty unusual direction, I found myself constantly trying to catch up. Sometimes it’s a break neck paced slapstick dark comedy with the motives of the town being made incredibly apparent, thus the murdering takes hold of the overall plot. And then suddenly Lewis decides to slow it down, preferring instead to focus on our young couple who are catching on to the town’s murderous games, and are looking for a way to escape.

Lewis takes this time to characterize them and inexplicably bring the villains to a standstill as they seem to take their time killing the Atlanta couple. This becomes unusual and apparent padding as they take great pains to trap and mutilate the others, while these two are left for last and are drawn in to their games slower than the others. Lewis never really explains why they’re so special or warrant a more extended manipulation. Furthermore, we’re never told why they store their cars but keep them with fuel and in perfect condition providing a getaway for the tricky survivors, nor does Lewis ever explain if the towns folks know they’re evil entities, or are just woefully unaware.

And why do some of them have a hint of guilt when they murder the inept tourists? I could never figure it out, and after that extended exchange from the seemingly calm couple who were just—oh—taunted, hunted, and chased by merciless psychos who happen to be undead, I was ready to move on and forget this. “Felix, stop thinking too much and just enjoy it!” you’ll scream, but I just couldn’t. Even if I shut off my brain for a while, it still would have bored the piss out of me. Sure, call me a Lewis hater, say my taste is in doubt, but “Two Thousand Maniacs!” is all show and very little substance to take away from it when you’re finished. Sure, it’s a splatter film with creative deaths, but that doesn’t make up for the tedium, repetition, and plot holes that follow. Next.