Friday, July 30, 2010

2001 MANIACS: FIELD OF SCREAMS

Back in 2005, director Tim Sullivan paid homage to the Herschel Gordon Lewis drive-in splatterfest 2000 MANIACS with his updated, moderately smart and funny remake, 2001 MANIACS. That flick was about a small Southern town where the inhabitants were still fighting their own, twisted version of the Civil War by luring northern tourists (teenagers on Spring Break, 'natch) to their annual barbecue celebration - and then turning their Yankee guests into the main course. Filled with gore, boobs, and hayseed humor, and featuring a nice turn by Robert Englund as the town's mayor, 2001 MANIACS was a fun little gore comedy.

The belated sequel, 2001 MANIACS: FIELD OF SCREAMS (2010), released a couple of weeks ago on DVD by First Look Studios, is - unfortunately - a real letdown.

The undead residents of Pleasant Valley, finding it harder to lure victims into their little village for some reason, take to the road with a traveling fair. In Idaho, they encounter the cast and crew of a "Road Rules"-styled reality show, and, led by Mayor Buckman (THE DEVIL'S REJECTS' Bill Moseley, replacing Englund) and Granny Boone (Lin Shaye, returning from the first film), they are soon up to their old tricks.

Clearly shot on a shoestring budget with only one location to speak of, bad audio (it sounds like the entire soundtrack was added in post), and an overall sensation of deja vu, FIELD OF SCREAMS never really takes off. It takes too long before we get to the first real "kill," and the while some of the effects are pretty good, it feels like the filmmakers are more interested in skewering "reality TV" than their annoying characters. The videography appears rushed and occasionally under- or over-lit. Even the nudity is disappointing.

Still, Moseley does a pretty good job stepping into Robert Englund's role, giving it his own spin and delivering one of the better performances in the film. Lin Shaye's Granny is still fun to watch, and Ahmed Best (Jar-Jar Binks himself!) is actually OK in his supporting role. The rest of the cast... not so much. The script is crass and offensive, as it should be, but it lacks the charm and wit that occasionally surfaced in the first film.

First Look's DVD of 2001 MANIACS: FIELD OF SCREAMS provides a just-adequate 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer from what appears to be a digital video source, and Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Stereo audio. Not that it helps much, with the dialogue and ambient sound being so badly mixed. No matter which option you choose, this movie is tough to listen to. Extras include a commentary track by Sullivan which details many of their budget and production problems, a 20-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, a production still gallery, and trailers for other First Look titles.

Disappointing.

BUY: 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams (Unrated)