April 27, 2011

It'll Make You Scream

In 2005 director Tim Sullivan brought to the screen 2001 Maniacs, which was his remake of Herschell Gordon Lewis' 1964 movie 2000 Maniacs. It turned out to be a wonderfully gruesome and terrically good fun movie which stood on its own two feet. This was one remake that worked well.

Five years later and Sullivan is back with the long delayed sequel, which originally entitled 2001 Maniacs: Beverly Hellbillies before settling on its Field of Screams moniker. In Field of Screams the good Southern folk of Pleasant Valley are growing restless, it seems that their tourism business isn't what it once was. The folk from the North just aren't visiting anymore which severely hampers their source of entertainment, not to mention their diets. They have a plan though, and that is to uproot and head north, with their travelling carnival, in search of some unsuspecting victims. These potential victims come in the shape of the cast and crew of a reality television show entitled Road Rascals. This show has an obnoxious slew of characters that are prime for the taking and the folk from Pleasant Valley don't waste any time in showing them some good old fashioned Southern hospitality.

The premise and set-up for Field of Screams had a lot of potential to be another riotous rollercoaster of blood, guts, naked flesh and laughs. The fact that it contains all of these yet still disappoints is one of those unexplained movie mysteries. On some levels it definitely does work, yet the positives are outweighed by the negatives. The main problem with 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams for me was the very episodic style in which it was shot, this breaks up any flow to the events on screen. The whole way through it felt like kill scene, flesh scene, joke scene, now rinse and repeat. Nothing wrong with that in principle but when that is the entire basis for a movie it grows very tiresome. Helping the movie though is a strong cast which included Lin Shaye returning as the completely mad Grandma, Bill Moseley doing an admiorable job of replacing Robert Englund as Mayor Buckman and Skinny Puppy frontman Kevin "Orge" Ogilvie and Dr. Harper Alexander. These three, along with the returning Christa Campbell all ham it up in their roles and do keep the entertainment level from dropping too far. These actors along with some nicely over-the-top death scenes are the high points in an otherwise disappointing movie. You aren't going to feel anything for the supposed victims, you are just going to wait to see how they will die, and aside from the aforementioned death scenes this movie is nowhere near as pleasing to the eye as 2001 Maniacs was. The look and feel of this movie was one of a movie that had nowhere near the financial backing of the first movie and this shows in the finished product.

As for the DVD release itself, well that is a slightly different kettle of fish altogether. The packaging is sweet, with a double-sided sleeve with liner notes from Tim Sullivan and artwork for the soundtrack on the flipside. On the extras front there might not be too much but what there is definitely ups the entertainment factor. This comes mainly in the form of the film's commentary which is provided by Tim Sullivan, Lin Shaye, Christa Campbell and one of the crew, whose name escapes me. It's a light-hearted affair that manages to be informative as well as humorous, and as is the case with most decent commentaries fills in the viewer with information and observations that may well have been missed if watching the movie without the commentary. All in all this does indeed add to the viewing experience and comes as recommended viewing. Elsewhere on the disc, aside from a slideshow and some previews, is Behind the Screams: The Making of 2001 Maniacs Field of Screams. This is a short feature in which Tim Sullivan tells us a little more about what went into the making of the movie, as well as a few nuggets of wisdom from Bill Moseley. Unfortunately a fair amount of the information here is repetetion from the commentary, and it does contain numerous spoilers, but on the whole it makes worthwhile viewing.

Overall 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams as a movie is a disappointment, but one that is slightly made up for with some outrageous humor and gore and an entertaining commentary. This release is definitely a case of rent before you buy.

Review by Jude Felton

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