Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964)

Herschell Gordon Lewis’s main claim to fame is that he introduced gore into the horror movie. European directors were starting to show more graphic violence in their movies at around the same time, especially in the giallo films, but the horror movie that relies purely on gore seems to have been the invention of Lewis. Two Thousand Maniacs!, made in 1964, certainly has nothing else going for it. There’s no atmosphere, and there’s nothing remotely interesting about the visuals. There’s no suspense and no tension. There’s also no wit, and no sense of fun. There were plenty of bad horror movies made around this time that are enormous fun to watch. This isn’t one of them. The acting is execrable, and the pacing is ponderous. The film has some moment of sadistic violence, and it has gore. By 1964 standards, it’s very gory (and very crudely done).

It doesn’t even have any real horror – there’s no sense of weirdness or strangeness or cosmic wrongness, no sense of things happening that challenge our comfortable beliefs about the way the world works. The only real horror is the banjo music! The basic idea had some potential in that area – it’s the story of a town in Georgia that was destroyed by Union soldiers during the Civil War, a town that comes to life again every hundred years to exact revenge on northerners. The plot is in fact lifted from the musical Brigadoon! Unfortunately the execution is so leaden and so inept that the potential is never fulfilled. It’s a movie that is both tedious and nasty, but mostly it’s tedious. Amazingly tedious. Of mild historical interest only, as marking the beginning of the trend towards gore that would eventually ruin the horror genre.

1 out of 10

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