2001 Maniacs is a spirited remake and love letter to trash cinema


2001 Maniacs deserves to be celebrated. As an outsider looking in, you may see the words “trash cinema” and take them as the worst type of insult but you would be wrong…

2001 Maniacs at first glance, could be considered “trash cinema.” A moniker that seems to act as a warning to steer clear of the film in question lest you invite a wretched stench and wriggling group of maggots into your home.

While that’s a fair, common-sense assessment of the term, the truth is that it couldn’t be any more incorrect. With those words comes the deepest form of affection: a love that possesses my very soul; a homeliness that embraces me with warm arms and keeps me safe from the world that we’re all running from.

“Trash cinema” is a mirror for my own love of film. The films are a sanctuary for people who love movies, made by people who love movies, that exist in a realm that defies quality and critique. They are at once universally panned but entirely self-assured.

They are comfortable. They are secure. These films belong to a community of fans who use cinema as a means to escape reality.

Who unabashedly admire the imperfect, and who wear that love like a badge of honor. We honor the legacies of these films, most of which might as well not even exist to the majority of movie-watchers, because we appreciate their spirit and eagerness to exist in a world that overlooks them at every turn.

They are us. They are celebrations of every strange thing we love. Of every oddity that brings us joy. And for that, we are eternally grateful.

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One of my personal favorite examples of this type of film is trash-maestro Herschell Gordon Lewis’ Two Thousand Maniacs!. Released in 1964, the horror flick follows six Northerners who are deceived by a detour sign and led to a small Southern town known as Pleasant Valley.

These characters are immediately greeted by a suspiciously overzealous and excited community who quickly deem them the guests of honor at their upcoming centennial celebration. Over the next couple of days, the protagonists are sadistically murdered by the community as vengeance against the Union troops who destroyed their town at the end of the Civil War.

Two Thousand Maniacs! is noteworthy for its depiction of, at the time of its release, overtly graphic violence; it’s silly, exaggerated take on Southerners and their Confederate flag-waving, redneck pride; the cartoonishly poor and awkward performances from the cast; and the light, comedic tone that Lewis carries the film in despite its horrific nature.

Naturally, the film was panned by critics and common horror fans throughout the years since its release, but that didn’t stop Two Thousand Maniacs! from establishing a loving cult fandom and a golden throne among the all-time greats of trash cinema.

2001 Maniacs — Courtesy of BloodWorks and Raw Nerve

Fast forward to 2005 and the age of the remake. In a year that The Amityville Horror, House of Wax, and The Fog all received the remake treatment, there was very little chance that a re-telling of Two Thousand Maniacs! would be properly recognized. Hell, it may never be – and that’s part of the reason it’s so special.

Directed by Tim Sullivan, the project was titled 2001 Maniacs, and it was STACKED with horror stars of the past and future. The cast alone included Robert Englund, Lin Shaye, and Kane Hodder (in a brief cameo), with appearances by Eli Roth and Adam Robitel (Whose new film Escape Room is currently showing in theaters across the world).

Generally, remakes exist either as cash grabs or genuine attempts to improve on the source material, but 2001 Maniacs, even with all the talent involved, is neither. The film is a thorough love letter to its predecessor that wears its affection for trash cinema proudly on the sleeve of its dismembered arm. Following essentially the same plot as the original film and featuring different variations of the same kills – albeit with more gore – 2001 Maniacs revels in the same silly spirit as Lewis’ trash classic.

2001 Maniacs – Courtesy of Richard King , Raw Nerve and BloodWorks

The Southerners are still mightily exaggerated, and the performances are still ridiculously over the top. Even Robert Englund is hamming it up and having a blast. If imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, every living member of the 1964 production should be blushing to this day.

Like the ridiculous genre films that it emulates, 2001 Maniacs could never really fail. Whether it received poor reviews or was overlooked for years, its sole purpose for existing is to express love for a little movie that meant the world to the filmmakers and cast members, to exude the same addictive fun, and to craft something that would be appreciated by the same strays who latched on to the original film and its brand of cinema.

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In that regard, 2001 Maniacs is a resounding success. Sullivan’s film checks every box it intends to, and even manages to surpass the quality of the original film in key ways (It’s undeniably more coherent).

It’s far from perfect, but that’s precisely where it should be. It exists in the same realm of defiance, made with a heart that beats for our oddities, patiently waiting to be discovered and loved by people like us. For a time when, at long last, trash cinema will rise again.

Are you a fan of 2001 Maniacs? Feel free to comment in the section below.