Review: Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964)


Directed by: Hershell Gordon Lewis | 84 minutes | horror | Actors: William Kerwin, Connie Mason, Jeffrey Allen, Ben Moore, Gary Bakeman, Jerome Eden, Shelby Livingston, Michael Korb, Yvonne Gilbert, Mark Douglas, Linda Cochran, Vincent Santo, Andy Wilson, Candi Conder, The Pleasant Valley Boys

After the success of the 1963 released ‘Blood Feast’, Hershell Gordon Lewis soon came up with a sequel: ‘Two Thousand Maniacs!’. Although the two films had nothing to do with each other except for the bad-acting-but-fine-looking Connie Mason, they – along with ‘Color Me Blood Red’ – have come to be known as the blood trilogy. A trilogy that is not connected by a storyline or even by characters, but by the large amounts of blood that are wasted in it. After the misdeeds of Fuad Ramses in ‘Blood Feast’, this time it is the turn of the inhabitants of a southern American village to make life difficult for the cast of immoral teenagers. All this while your limbs are flying around your ears.

While it is clear from the start that this is never going to look as spectacular as it sounds, it remains a promise that arouses curiosity. The concept of bloodshed squared quickly becomes the whole concept of the film, because Lewis does not know how to get his 84 minutes going. This results in each scene being stretched as far as possible and many musical interludes from the Pleasant Valley Boys – the men responsible for the whining banjos in the background. An excellent storytelling pace for the youth in the drive-ins who were busy with completely different things than watching the film. However, if the scenes still go too fast, there are always the explicit and repeating dialogues to get everything clear again.

When it’s time for average American teen Beverly to take a seat on yet another torture device, the viewer first gets to listen to a five-minute yes-no battle between Beverly and the evil mayor. Not that Lewis was unaware of the term ‘tension arc’, but there were a lot of minutes to fill and most of those minutes are in ‘Two Thousand Maniacs!’ filled with superficial dialogues. It is therefore interesting to see how the film implicitly tries to convey a moral message by punishing the drinking (!) And cheating (!!!) teenagers for their behavior. A spark of theme in an otherwise very, very flat film. Ex-playmate Connie Mason also has a tough time in this film, because she still can’t act.

Yet Lewis knows how to use his untalented cast better this time by taking his characters less seriously than in ‘Blood Feast’. The actors make the film transparent as a glass of water, but by enlarging this overacting, Lewis puts the dismal quality of his film into perspective. Especially with the addition of the repetitive organ tunes in the background, the film starts to show a reasonable self-awareness. However, it never comes to a full-fledged parody and ‘Two Thousand Maniacs’ remains mainly the movie that you didn’t believe actually existed.

Movies like ‘Two Thousand Maniacs!’ are always problematic. On the one hand, one cannot believe that they were created, and on the other, one cannot deny the sadistic but innocent pleasure of them. Can Hershell Gordon Lewis be blamed for reducing film to its most banal form when it produces such a pleasant hour and a half? Perhaps when we view the film as a product, but not when we consider film as a viewing experience. A consumption that ends with the credits.

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