Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964):

The middle child of Hershell Gordon Lewis' Blood brood, a revenge-of-the-South opus that refries Brigadoon's ploy for drive-in Southern Gothic. Three Northern couples are swerved off the main road into the centenary reveries of one Pleasant Valley, a Jethro Bodine of a burg, rope-belt and all. What's being celebrated? The Yankees mingle with the locals, and too late realize that behind all their grinning lie Confederate ghosts bent on avenging a century-old massacre, Lewis-style -- bodies hacked off and barbecued, pulled apart by horses, turned pincushion after a nail-incrusted barrel roll, and crushed by Volkswagen-sized boulders. Playing the material to the jaunty banjo of macabre farce, Lewis displays more technical polish than Blood Feast (not a hard thing to do), though his peerlessly crass instincts remain intact -- while gore lingers as the main object of contemplation, attempts at flesh-sniffing fall short (Playmate humanoid Connie Mason daintily washing her calves by a stream is the closest the picture comes to cheesecake). Less single-minded in its paint-splattering than the earlier movie, Lewis' cheeky shocker is also a far more conventionally abysmal work, lacking the perverse obsessiveness and blunt lack of style that saturated Blood Feast. (I'm not even sure if that's a recommendation.) With Thomas Wood, Jeffrey Allen, Ben Moore, and Vincent Santo.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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