The Pleasant Valley Boys
Horror Gore Comedy
Trivia The plot of this gore film was apparently inspired by the musical Brigadoon (1954).
It was reportedly shot in an area of Florida that is now occupied by Walt Disney World.
This movie inspired the name of the rock group 10,000 Maniacs. The band member who came up with the name misremembered the movie's title.
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Two Thousand Maniacs (1964)
12th Apr 05
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.
You know what it’s like, you’re hitchhiking across the USA (trying to get to that Teacher’s conference in Atlanta) when, luckily, a beautiful woman, who is in fact Connie Mason - Playboy Playmate of the month June 1963, picks you up in her red convertible. You happily speed off down the road, but soon after you come across a detour sign. Forced off the main highway, you drive up a dirt track, where you arrive at a strange little town; Pleasant Valley (Population 2000). It’s at this point you should start to get a little alarmed, because what has happened here is that you’ve pulled right on up into Herschell Gordon Lewis territory…
There’s something not quite right about the majority of Herschell Gordon Lewis movies – he seems to be one of those people you either love or hate (indeed, most horror fans are happy to do both at the same time), whereby the quality of the film takes second place to extremely gory set pieces and stilted horror comedy. Initially beginning his career in the nudie-cuties trade, HGL made the transfer to the horror genre with Blood Feast (see our review here) – which caused a huge storm by being the first ‘gore’ film, and was subsequently banned in the UK as a video nasty.
Two Thousand Maniacs is the second part of the so-called HGL “Blood Trilogy”, named because they were the only three ‘gore’ films in which Lewis wrote, directed and acted as the cinematographer. There were plenty of other films that followed, including the cult classic The Gore Gore Girls, but never again a film which featured such an extensive HGL thumb print on the negative (Color Me Blood Red - the third part of the trilogy – aside). Often Lewis’ films fit into the ‘so-bad-it’s-dull category, but every so now and then, things ‘click’ together, and you find yourself enjoying an HGL movie far more than you think you should. Happily, Two Thousand Maniacs fits into the latter category, and is often voted as the one of the Grandfather-of-gore’s finest pieces of work, if not his ‘masterpiece’.
The plot is fairly straightforward – six people (in two separate cars) are detoured off the main road towards Pleasant Valley (I’ll repeat again – Population Two Thousand – are you starting to see where this film, Two Thousand Maniacs is going?) and as they drive down the town’s main street, flag-waving townsfolk surround the cars. It seems that Pleasant Valley are about to begin their centennial celebrations, and as luck would have it, our six detoured people are to be the “Guests of Honour” for this special brand of Southern hospitality.
Over the course of the next day or two, the innocent guests are dispatched one by one by the town members in equally horrifying circumstances (the first girl is torn apart and served as the meat for the BBQ, her husband is then ‘quartered’ by four horses in the town’s ‘Horse Race’), whilst our hero Mr White grows increasingly suspicious of the townsfolk activity and plans to escape with Playboy Playmate Mason.
It’s a simple concept, but one that works terrifically well, especially as the tension mounts as each townsfolk member seems to be as deranged as the next one, from the sultry seductress to the boy who is obsessed with candy. The acting is pretty much universally terrible, but a lot of the amateur townsfolk have such an exuberance to their performance, you can’t help be buoyed along with bustle. Particular mention must go to The Pleasant Valley Boys – a band of wandering musicians (well, two at least) who pepper the film with many moments of “yee haa’ Country and Western music. In fact, if their title tune doesn’t get your toe tapping (“Yeeeeeyeehaaa – the South’s gonna rise again!”) you’re clearly as dead as the inhabitants of Pleasant Valley themselves.
It’s never going to win any awards for film making (HGL may be able to compose some nice shots from time to time, but he has difficulty shooting a dialogue scene without breaking the simple rules of ‘crossing the line’), but then Herschell Gordon Lewis films are never about classy shots and arty atmospherics. They’re about cartoon concepts, horrific acts and lashings of blood red gore, and in these areas Two Thousand Maniacs wins out. It’s actually very close in tone to the Wicker Man, the feeling of being alone in a community that are all against you, and the creep really sets as the southern drawl and hammy acting actually adds to the fear factor. Pleasant Valley is just too weird and too smiley-face happy to be anything but a death trap.
The killings and gore of the film are also quite gruesome, the most famous being the ‘roll down the hill in a barrel of nails’ and the ‘rock on platform’ death and both are quite lengthy in their depictions, and we do feel pretty bad for the victims in question, even if we do know they’re only two-bit actors covered in Ketchup. The first murder is the best as two guys chop up the first woman for the barbecue, all severed thumbs and axed arms, the men take special delight in their carving, and gleefully announce “We got ourselves a barbecue” as soon as the deed is done. Lovely.
In short, do not watch this film if you like:
Good sound and dubbing
Well-judged pacing and editing
If, however, you like hilariously bad acting, awful Southern US dialogue (“Dog gam!” “By Dinghy!”), ludicrous plotting (at one point Mr White stumbles across a memorial stone revealing that Pleasant Valley was laid to waste in 1865 by a group of renegade Union soldiers and concludes that “It means that we’re to be killed!” – eh? How’d he work that one out?), memorable characters, jaunty Country and Western soundtracks and a huge side portion of cheese, then this is the film for you.
Altogether now - “Yeeeeehyehaaa – oh, the South’s gonna rise again”.
Versions The recent Tartan DVD and video release (2004) was restored from a European PAL format which runs at nearly 84 minutes, over three minutes short of the original running time although no scenes are cut or edited.
31st Mar 05 HGL has his characters simply play with human organs / intestines / eyes in sockets close-up needlessly and for longer than is necessary, if indeed it was necessary at all, which it isn't. Like close-up...