Written by: Chris Kobin, Tim Sullivan, and Christopher Tuffin
Directed by: Tim Sullivan
Starring: Bill Moseley, Lin Shaye, and Christa Campbell
Reviewed by: Brett G.
“Suck my Dixie!“
You just can’t keep a good hillbilly down, it seems. Five years after his Herschell Gordon Lewis redux, 2001 Maniacs, writer/director Tim Sullivan has returned with his pack of maniacal rednecks. This time, the blood-thirsty wild bunch hits the road to spread their own unique brand of southern hospitality to the Northern states. Get ready for a second helping of crass, blood, and boobs, as 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams has finally arrived. It’s a field that’s still full of red hot, homicidal southern belles and sheep-cornholing, and Sullivan once again invites you to “come get a taste of the Old South…and let the Old South get a taste of you!”
It’s once again time for the annual Guts and Glory Jubilee in Pleasant Valley, Georgia. Mayor Buckman and company eagerly await a new pack of Yankees to sautee and dig into; however, they soon find that the local sheriff is shutting the show down this year. He soon gets introduced to the town favorite “barrel roll” game, which turns him into mincemeat. The town is disappointed about their cancelled festivities, but Buckman figures that if no one will come to the old south, they’ll just take it to them! They end up in Iowa, where a traveling reality TV show crew also happens to be. The show is about two spoiled rich sisters who travel across America for no apparent reason. Their next destination is Georgia, so when they stumble across the transplanted Pleasant Valley jubilee, their producer decides to cut costs and film there instead.
Field of Screams proves that you can take the hillbillies out of the south, but you can’t take the south out of the hillbillies. Despite the change in setting, this is pretty much its predecessor, only amped up to 11. This is both a good and bad thing--it’s a much sillier film than the original, and much less focused. It feels more like a collection of jokes and gags that have been loosely strung together more than anything. They’re a mixed bag, too, as some of the humor is just too silly, and it seems like the worst sequences are the longest. There are some genuinely funny bits, though--the two sister characters are a good send-up of the vacuous American celebrities that are famous just for being famous, and there’s also a good bit of Southern-related humor (check out “Custard’s Last Chicken Stand”). I’m sure much of the humor and crass will be deplored by mainstream critics--there’s a black cook named “Jemima,” and there’s a sequence where another black girl is hanged and it’s played for laughs.
It’s obviously not meant to be taken seriously, of course. The film certainly has its demented heart in the right place, even if it does miss the mark sometimes. Really, you should know what to expect if you’ve seen the original, but this one lets you know what you’re in for about three minutes in, where one of the little redneck bastards gleefully cries “kill that motherfucker!” Mayor Buckman obliges, treating us to a re-creation of the infamous “barrel roll” sequence from the original Two Thousand Maniacs, and the film pretty much had me at that point. There’s plenty of blood and guts spewed all over the place, and the boobs are in abundance (Christa Campbell notably returns as the “Milk,” so-named for obvious reasons). In some ways, this one feels more like a proper Herschell Gordon-Lewis film than the original because it feels a bit more hastily thrown together and is so gratuitous. True to form then, the gore sequences are easily the highlight of this one and surpass the original in terms of demented creativity. There’s a pretty awesome bit where a lesbian gets more than she bargains for when she gets some snatch…literally.
The zany cast of characters are fun enough too. There’s a noticeable replacement--Robert Englund is swapped out for Bill Moseley in the role of the mayor--but it really isn’t too distracting because the carnage is at center-stage. Moseley exhibits the same exuberant, demented chops that made him a cult favorite in roles such as Chop Top and Otis Driftwood. A few more faces show up from the first film, such as Lin Shaye (as you’ve never seen her before!) in the role of Granny Boone. The victims themselves aren’t quite as memorable, with the exception of Alex Luria in the role of Jesus, and Asa Hope and Katie Marie Johnson aren’t afraid to show off their goods in the sister roles. At the end of the day, most of them are just there to show up on the cannibal clan’s dinner plates anyway. The audience knows this, and, more importantly, Sullivan knows this, so he keeps the gags coming at full force throughout.
Indeed, the film rarely lets up once it gets going, for better or worse. At the end of the day, there’s more better than worse, but it’s still a bit too silly and overdone at times. It’s like there’s no filter, and the film is filled to the brim with insanity. Not surprisingly, the film promises that the south will indeed rise again, and if Sullivan serves up another round, I’ll be at the table. First things first, however--to sink your teeth into this one, you’ll need to check out First Look Studios’ DVD release. It’s an unrated disc that features a nice, clean anamorphic transfer that’s nearly flawless. The audio isn’t quite as praiseworthy, as the 5.1 track oscillates in volume throughout and never quite sounds loud enough. It doesn’t hinder the film, but it is a bit distracting. Special features include a commentary with Sullivan, a behind-the-scenes feature, a “shock and roll slideshow,” and the film’s trailer. When you check it out, be sure to stay through the film’s credits, where you’ll be introduced to the latest addition to Pleasant Valley, who will no doubt follow in his parents’ demented footsteps someday. Sullivan has made another worthy addition to the Maniacs legacy--it’s not quite as good as his first outing, but it’s definitely worth a look for fans of that film. Rent it!
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