...Kitley's Army Challenge is also getting near its end, and it has been a wild and wooly journey through sixteen (so far) first-time horror views (FTVs). Jon Kitley, of Kitley's Krypt fame, is running a year-long challenge to watch two FTVs each month, each month having a different theme. From 1930s horror to slashers, Jon's done an outstanding job choosing a wide range of sub-genres, so kudos to him.
June's objective was to watch two films from either (or both) of horror's gore kings, H.G. Lewis and Lucio Fulci. I chose to watch one from each director: A Cat in the Brain for Fulci, and Two Thousand Maniacs! for Lewis. Neither film is what you would call outstanding cinema, but they have their charms. What stood out for me with Maniacs! in particular was the supernatural ending and the tamer tone than his previous offering, Blood Feast; Lewis's other films were more in line with crazy people in the real world hacking and slashing through their victims to some twisted end. The fact that Pleasant Valley was an apparition as well as a (true) local legend puts the film into a different realm. When the sheriff doubts the main characters, it opens the door for us to doubt them as well.
Lewis, like many horror directors, claims that his films have no deeper meaning and should be taken at face value. He was primarily a businessman and considered himself as such. But like Romero's Night of the Living Dead, Maniacs! is completely a product of its time regardless of what the director says, and there is certainly the possibility that on a subconscious level the fears and tensions of the time seeped into the film without the directors' knowledge.
Or perhaps they are just being coy.
I had the chance to watch Maniacs! again, on a bigger screen, tonight at Bowling Green State University's Gish Theatre. It's definitely a film that deserves to be seen with a crowd, like so many other so-bad-they're-good movies. Whatever you make of it, Two Thousand Maniacs! also deserves to be watched, or rewatched as the case may be. Enjoy, and save room for the barbecue.