2000 Maniacs (1964, Herschell Gordon Lewis)

It is my dad’s fault that I’ve wanted to see this for so long, since he mentioned it years ago. I figured it’d be pretty bad, but I didn’t count on it being a self-conscious bit of low-budget camp horror-comedy. So it’s a stupid, terrible movie but still impossible to hate (I have more of a savage dislike for it).

The fateful barrel:

“The South’s gonna rise again,” says the corny-ass song over the introduction, and that’s just what the movie’s about. Some lost travelers on their way to Atlanta get redirected to a rural town and crowned the guests of honor in a Civil War revenge ceremony, killed in various inventive ways, usually in broad daylight before a crowd of cheering townies. One is crushed by a giant rock in a carnival game, another is ripped apart by horses, and in the most famous scene (to my dad, anyway) a guy is put inside a barrel full of nails and rolled down a hill. Twist ending: the couple who escapes returns with law enforcement, but the town has vanished, leaving only a plaque saying that the whole place was leveled by the Union army during the war (apparently inspired by Brigadoon, if “inspired” is the word).

Oh and one girl’s arm is just chopped off:

Lots of banjo music, obviously. The cameraman is zoom-happy and everything looks cheap, but at least it was shot with direct sound, which you can tell since the background hum changes dramatically with every edit. This likely puts it technologically above such contemporaries as Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St. Matthew and Germi’s Seduced and Abandoned and Antonioni’s Red Desert. I distracted myself with the horrible accents (shot in Florida but somehow devoid of authentic Southerners) and character names (Terry Adams! David Wells!).

One detail about the South the filmmakers got right:

An advertising man, Lewis also made The Wizard of Gore and Blood Feast, and producer David Friedman oversaw two Maniacs sequels in the 2000’s.

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