"Gilbert Gill's come back to kill!"
You already know the whole plot, don't you? It's gotten to where the self-referential teen-horror gonzo slasher genre doesn't even bother to depart from the rulebook. The best thing the latest teenager-on-a-meathook release has going for it -- "Maniacal," it's called, in homage to the classic "Maniac" -- is a bald big-eared psycho who doesn't even have THAT much childhood trauma.
Maybe a little incest from his stepmom. Maybe a few too many rules from his alcoholic dad. Maybe his sister teases him about his sexual urges a little too often. But basically what we've got here is one of those implement-wielding monsters that Donald Pleasence would call "EEEEEEEEvil, pure eeeee-uh-villllll." He was BORN rotten.
Our story is told by Gilbert Gill's virginal sister, Janet, played by brunette Perrine Moore, whose principal claim to fame is being Miss Teen California 1996. (And if you'll remember, that was a hellaciously competitive year.) She somehow can't stop thinking that she's partly responsible for that night three years ago when Gilbert started whaling on his family with a hardware-store hammer, leaving his dad twitching on the living room floor and his stepmom with her skull bashed into tiny pieces in the kitchen. Maybe he's crazy, but then again maybe he's just "slow."
Present day, it's time for Gilbert to get out of the Hitchfield Sanitarium, where he's become a model patient by vacantly staring at the doctors, hunching his knees up against his chest and going catatonic, and occasionally lurching through the corridors like an oversized skinhead on quaaludes. In other words, everyone knows Gilbert is a raving homicidal lunatic except for . . . uh . . . everybody in the movie.
But before his dad can show up to take him home, Gilbert has already rammed a fork through the brain of an orderly, twisted off the neck of a nurse, and ripped the intestines out of one of the female patients who makes the mistake of coming on to him sexually.
Pretty soon he's shopping for masks at the local horror emporium -- the clown mask is an especially creepy tribute to John Wayne Gacy -- and heading for the slumber party, where Janet and her two slutty girlfriends are spending the evening watching scary movies with three hormonal guys. Of course, the first rule of horror movies applies here: anyone who has sex must die.
And the second rule: anyone can die at any moment.
What the script lacks in originality, and the execution lacks in acting, is more than made up for by some of the most gruesome special effects you'll see this side of the "60 Minutes" makeup room. Gilbert doesn't just like to kill his victims. He likes to rip their guts out, stomp their heads flat, and perform creative surgery with a boxcutter. He saves his special weapon -- four kitchen knives duct-taped to a broomstick -- for the big paint-the-house-red finale. But by then we already know who the sole survivor will be.
Miss Teen California 1996. Who else?
It's by the numbers but it never bogs down. Let's look at those drive-in totals. We have: Fourteen dead bodies. Six breasts (but some of them should count twice). One exploding head. Head-smashing. Hand-hacking. Heart-ripping. Fork to the brain. Face-removal. Hammer-fondling. Neck-breaking. Hypo needle that breaks off in the psycho's bewtocks. Head smushed into wall. Intestine-ripping. Neck-slashing. Multiple knife-through-the-back broomstick gouging. Eye-gouging. Head-stomping. Disemboweling. Strangulation followed by skull-pounding. Worm-faced flashback. Liquid Drano froth-mouth suicide. Multiple aardvarking. Straitjacket Fu. Annoying child-actor Fu. Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Lee Webb, as the bald-headed psycho whose ears are almost bigger than his head; Deborah Huber, as the creepy stepmom who says "Give Mama a nice kiss"; Heather Ashley, as the sluttiest of the girlfriends; Michael Nyman, as the trigger-happy cop who likes to fire at cars that fail to obey his orders to stop; Perrine Moore, as the naive Final Girl, who says "Stop it! You're freaking me out!" and turns out to be one of the finest screamers in the history of horror; Carol Rosecarver, as the serious student who turns out to be the wildest girl of them all (bless her heart), for her two enormous talents; Brannon Gould, as the new kid in town who kisses Janet on the neck but thinks "Take it slow" means to put his hand on her breast; and Joe Castro, the director, for doing things the drive-in way.
Two stars. Joe Bob says check it out.
"Maniacal" Web site: cinemacabre.com/maniacal.htm.
To reach Joe Bob, go to joebobbriggs.com or email him at JoeBob@upi.com. Snail-mail: P.O. Box 2002, Dallas, Texas, 75221.