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By Steve Anderson | August 1, 2006

When you can watch a movie and see flying armadillos and country musicians at their most purely homicidal-looking, all within the first fifteen minutes, you know you’re in for a serious rush.

And that’s exactly what you’re going to get out of “2001 Maniacs.”

Now, I’m sure by now most of you have seen this sucker sitting on the video store shelves, and gave it a sad, scornful shake of the head with a little tongue-clucking as you wondered just how low Robert Englund was planning to sink. And some of you more adventurous souls took a look at the back of the box, saw the name “Eli Roth”, remembered “Hostel”, and ran for the hills like your feet were on fire and the IRS was waving audit forms at you.

Okay, it’s true. Robert Englund’s been doing the DTV thing a lot lately. His profile on the IMDB reads like…well…like a guy who has been in theatres even less than I’ve been in the last five years. Seriously—haven’t hit a theatre since “Stay Alive.”

And we can all agree that “Hostel” was pretty much a solid block of godawful perpetrated on American viewers out of some kind of hyperdeveloped sadistic sense.

But if you’re willing to give this one a chance, you will find a highly unique and very well developed horror movie with lots of comedic bits and some nifty twists.

Plotwise, what we’ve got here is a little village in Georgia, Pleasant Valley by name, that looks like it’s packed to the brim with nice folks who live in a little backwater town in the middle of nowhere. The denizens of Pleasant Valley seem to live up to their name, and they’re just about to kick off their annual “Guts ‘n’ Glory Festival” a big village-wide party that in the beginning looks like a lot of fun.

But the fun doesn’t last long as we discover why Pleasant Valley isn’t as pleasant as we’d all hoped.

First, check out that DVD menu. That…is just fantastically freaky stuff. It truly must be seen to be believed—make sure you watch the whole thing. It’ll have a couple of spoilers but nothing too tragic.

Second, there’s a very nifty cameo at seven minutes and ten seconds. I give you, the return of Dr. Mambo! “Cabin Fever” enthusiasts will remember that one.

Third, the gradual unraveling of the town and the people therein is an absolute joy to watch. It speaks to some very careful story crafting and I approve wholeheartedly.

And yet, I’m becoming a bit unnerved by the recent push to get country music singers involved in direct to video horror movies. First, Randy Travis was breaking land-speed records for exorcisms and now we’ve got Travis Tritt looking like he’s about ready to break out the chainsaw and start a massacre of his own. What’s the logical next step in the sequence here, Garth Brooks as an axe murderer? Brooks and Dunn put people meat in a chili cook-off? Maybe the Dixie Chicks will finally get their chance to take care of Earl once and for all! Yeah! Right along with the whole block!

It really just doesn’t make much sense. Though I’m personally rooting for Cletus T. Judd….

Not that this gets in the way of enjoying “2001 Maniacs”. Not in the least. “2001 Maniacs” is packed full of comedy, action, and genuine outright blood-drenched horror sufficient to keep most fans happy.

The ending is a huge surprise. Despite an incredible fight scene at the end, where Robert Englund (or a reasonable facsimile) manages to get into a sabre duel with our last surviving male lead, there will still be at least two major twists to the end.

The special features include a behind-the-scenes featurette, an audition reel, and trailers for “2001 Maniacs”, “The Mangler Reborn”, “The Green River Killer”, and “Streets of Legend”.

All in all, despite a whole bunch of red flags screaming at you from the box, it’s really going to be worth your time and rental dollars to snag a copy of “2001 Maniacs”. Ignore everything logic and your instincts tell you on this one—this funny and action-packed romp has everything you need to make a solid night.

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