Two Thousand Maniacs (1964)
One of Herschell Gordon Lewis' infamous "Blood Trilogy" (with "Color Me Blood Red" and "Blood Feast"), "Two Thousand Maniacs" is certainly the best film of those three. The story and production are both better, as are the gore effects and the acting.
The story is thus: bloodthirsty members of a Southern U.S. town decimated by the Union in the Civil War marks the centennial of that grisy event with a plan to lure and methodically butcher six Yankees who are simply passing through.
The townsfolk are unapologetically stereotypically hayseed, with crossed eyes, overalls, and a decided inability to form grammatically correct sentences (I think I used to work with the people these characters were based on).
They use the oldest Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote tricks in the book to lure the poor unsuspecting Northerners, switching road signs to lead them into town, then telling them they're the guests of honor at their town's centennial celebration, not mentioning that part of the festivities include separating them from appendages.
The hillbillies have an exceptional flair for torture, and it's obvious the characters spent considerable time devising cruel and painful modes of death, and went to great pains to construct their devices of torture.
At times they use tried and true methods (dismemberment by horse, using an ax), others with complex machines: another was a very large rock affixed atop a scaffold rigged with a dunk tank-like target that the townsfolk throw balls and rocks at, while the victim lies tied up on a platform below, while still another is the infamous "barrel roll," where the victim is forced into a barrel, which then has nails driven through it, and is pushed down a hill.
There isn't the sheer volume of blood that his other films have, but the deaths are more creative and devilishly funny, and while the film's main disappointment is that the dialog isn't up to par with previous entries on the intentionally unintentional comedy scale, the actors deliver it with much more gusto.
Lewis takes ungodly pleasure in making the audience squirm, and for the time this must have been an exceptionally shocking film (though contemporary films like "Hostel" have more detailed gore scenes thanks to technological advancements, they can't hope to replicate the spirit of these films).
Of course, saying the acting in this film is better is really like saying "Battlefield Earth" is a better film than "Shark Attack 2," since it still features Lewis' signature squint-and-read dialog, especially on the part of the Northerners. The townspeople, especially Jeffrey Allen, who plays Mayor Buckman, are wholly believable in their roles, hackneyed as they may be.
Rating: 4 1/2 Yaps out of 5