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The citizens of the southern town Pleasant Valley lure six Yankee tourists into town where they are to be the reluctant guests for the centennial celebration of the day a band of renegade Union troops decimated the town. The town then participates in events, a different event for each of the tourists, in which the tourist is dispatched. One couple begins to suspect something and seeks a way to escape.
I hate to keep recapping the man's career in each of my reviews for his films, but the movies that Herschell Gordon Lewis (aka "The Godfather of Gore") made were not your ordinary horror films. Prior to his previous release (Blood Feast), gore was not something that you found in many movies, and you certainly didn't find gore that went extremely over the top. By today's standards, the effects still seem quite good, but the shock value of actually seeing so much of the red stuff may not be present for the youngsters in the crowd. However, even though there have been countless films to display ample amounts of gore since this film was released over forty years ago, this doesn't look dated at all; in fact, it actually looks better than a fair chunk of the movies being released today.
Review by Chad
Added: June 23, 2006
The films that Lewis made were not known for their brilliant storylines or the award-winning acting coming from the actors and actresses found within. With the release of Blood Feast, Lewis found that the audiences loved the over the top style of graphic violence that he put into his films, so a good portion of his films were simply made to cash in on that. This movie breaks away from that trend, and while there is definitely some of that trademark violence to be found here, the main emphasis is on the storyline this time.
The storyline takes place in the small Georgia town of Pleasant Valley, a town which is celebrating its centennial. Thanks to a detour on the main road, this Southern town finds itself with six Northern visitors, who Mayor Buckman (Jeffrey Allen) cheerfully dubs the guests of honor. Tom White (William Kerwin) and Terry Adams (Playboy model Connie Mason) are a bit leery about staying for this celebration, but the other four have no problems with it and settle in for a couple of days worth of barbecue, alcohol, and old-fashioned romps in the hay. Tom eventually puts the pieces of the puzzle together, and discovers that - since the year is 1965 - the town was founded back in 1865, right at the end of the Civil War. Why would a group of Southerners be so insistent that these Yankees stick around, especially after we find out the roots behind this celebration? Keeping in mind that this was the second entry in Lewis' "Gore Trilogy", I don't think that I need to spell it out for you readers.
As I mentioned, this movie focuses more on the storyline side of things, so fans of Lewis' other splatter-flicks may be let down by this one. We wind up with a nice body count by the time the credits roll and each kill is both creative and bloody (the nail-covered barrel roll down a hill is by far the neatest effect of the film), but these only take up a small fraction of the eighty minute running time. However, unlike some of Lewis' other films, the storyline isn't there merely to set up the next death scene; no sir, the storyline found here is actually quite intriguing, and there are plenty of surprises to be found as it moves along (well, assuming you haven't seen the remake).
My only complaint about this film was the acting abilities from the cast. This sort of thing really wasn't a problem in most of his other films, as while the cast was pretty bad in those as well, the storyline wasn't the main focus of the presentation. Here, however, the cast is given a lot more time to "shine", and the results from some of said cast isn't pretty. Connie Mason, the star of Blood Feast, returns for another leading role. Although she was downright awful in Feast, she has improved considerably in this film; however, it's still pretty clear why she's best known for her Playboy career instead of her stint in Hollywood. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Jeffrey Allen (the mayor) was great in his role (even though I was spoiled by seeing Robert Englund's superior performance in the remake first), as were some of the slack-jawed Southerners who had smaller parts.
Just last night, I watched Alexandre Aja's remake of The Hills Have Eyes, a remake that (in my opinion) completely slaughters Wes Craven's original version. Shockingly, I have the same opinion about tonight's feature presentation: Tim Sullivan's remake of this movie is better than the original. It's not quite the slaughter than Aja managed to achieve and I'd still recommend that you check this one out before or after the remake, but in my view, this is another one of those extremely rare cases where a remake outshines the original. 8/10.
- added 06/26/2006, 01:25 PM
Wow...I cannot believe someone has said a
Herschell Gordon Lewis film has been bested by a
remake. Geez. That is so untrue. The remake is
fine, but nowhere close to the original. I agree
with the "Hills Have Eyes" remake, but not this
one. The original is superior in every way,
especially when you consider the time period when
it was released and the impact it had. 10/10.
- added 06/26/2006, 05:16 PM
In my opinion, the remake is better... but it's
not a WHOLE lot better, as was the case with The
Hills Have Eyes. What I enjoyed most about the
remake was Robert Englund's performance as the
mayor, the updated (but not totally different)
storyline, and the way that the effects seemed
more like Lewis' style than his own version of the
film did. Also, when comparing this to some of
Lewis' other offerings (Blood Feast, Wizard Of
Gore), it doesn't quite live up to the standards
that they set. Sure, the storyline is better
here, but that's not what you pick up a Lewis
offering for. Also, when you consider that those
two aforementioned films showed his penchant for
showing every last drop of blood and grue in
detail, watching this one (that shys away from
most of the red stuff) was a bit of a let down.
Gore doesn't make or break a movie, but that is
definitely Lewis' strong point.
agree with you about the timing of the release;
yes, this and Blood Feast really set the stage for
the over-the-top gore effects of the late sixties
and seventies and even up until today, but I don't
figure that into my final score. Had Jurassic
Park been a steaming pile of shit with the
exception of the special effects (I loved that
movie, but for the sake of argument), would it be
remembered so fondly? For better or worse, that
was one of the breakthrough films for CGI
effects... but I wouldn't factor that in when
evaluating the film at large.
- added 06/30/2006, 03:49 PM
Wow again. Once again, I thought Robert Englund
was waaaaaaaay too over the top, as he always is.
It works with Freddy, but not so much with roles
like this. This is the same Robert Englund we got
in "The Mangler" and "Urban Legend" -- and that is
not a good thing. Englund is just not that good
at these kinds of villainous roles because he
always envokes waaaaaaaay too much Krueger when he
does it. We will just have to agree to disagree
on this particular horror film, but this is one
remake that makes the original look like a true
classic of the genre, even if it wasn't already.
- added 06/30/2006, 07:42 PM
Urban Legend... I don't think I've seen that,
shockingly enough - wasn't that released towards
the end of the "Scream" and "I Know What You Did
Last Summer" flood of slashers? I think my
brother has it on DVD somewhere, so I may pop it
in sooner or later. Anywho, I'm not going to
comment on that one since I haven't seen it.
The Mangler was shit, and while Englund
made it more enjoyable, nothing could save that
movie. The less said about it, the better. Here,
however, I enjoyed his over-the-top performance;
sure, it would have been out of place had he been
playing Hannibal Lecter or Michael Myers, but in
this style of film, it worked wonderfully. If
you'll recall, the mayor from the original was
also pretty "out there" with his performance -
Englund turned it up quite a few notches, and
while this performance would have been out of
place in the original, it worked well in the
remake (which had more of a comedic edge to it...
the whole "confidence in a fart" story was
Again, I don't want to
give the impression that I thought the remake was
leagues better than the original; it was better in
my view, but not by a whole lot.
- added 07/11/2006, 01:56 AM
Saying the "2,000 Maniacs" was better than the
original is like saying the "Texas Chainsaw
Massacre" was better than the original. Think
that is to the extreme? Not really. "Texas
Chainsaw Massacre" would have never been without
"2,000 Maniacs". Not only did this film add so
much to the horror genre, as a whole, but it took
Lewis' gore propencity to a whole new level. And,
yes, the mayor in the original was over-the-top,
but not close to as over-the-top as Robert Englund
gets. Englund is just NOT a good actor. With the
exception of his Freddy Krueger portrayal, he is
just not that strong an actor, and this film
showcases his mediocrity.
- added 07/11/2006, 03:17 AM
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre took a lot of
inspiration from Spider Baby, a movie that was
shot right around the same time as this one (it's
also a movie that really needs a review here).
Also, while I did enjoy this one, I don't see what
it brought to the horror genre other than
continuing Lewis' streak of gore films; horror in
general had been done long before this one was
released, and Lewis himself had done the whole
gore thing previously in Blood Feast. Comparing
TCM to Blood Feast, that I could kind of agree
with... but not this one.
Englund. I'll concede that the man is highly
overrated, and I'll also admit that he's hit or
miss when he's not in an over-the-top role such as
the mayor or Freddy Krueger. He's far from my
favorite actor, but this is another point that
we're going to have to agree to disagree on; I
thought that he was perfect in the remake.