Christie Lynn Smith
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The Crazies (2010)
26th Feb 10
Biological weapon infects water supply of a small town. Inhabitants of small town begin to sing creepy songs whilst riding bikes. Before turning into crazed killers.
Let’s face it – this Hollywood remake trend doesn’t seem to be simply a trend anymore. It has gone on too long for that, and looks like it is here to stay. The biggest problem with the horror remakes we’ve seen over the last decade (or more) is the frustrating tendency to re-tell stories that have been competently-to-flawlessly told already. Personally, I’m still angry about the travesty that is The Wicker Man remake. At the same time, Zack Snyder’s remake of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead shot the remake doubters square in the head. So we’ve learned not to casually dismiss such ideas anymore, but to merely hope that whoever adapts the retelling will do so not only respectfully, but also with an original streak that transcends merely telling the same story again.
Romero’s The Crazies is an excellent example of the type of movie these people should be remaking. While the original boasted a great concept, the budgetary limitations steered it into an almost amateur realisation. It didn’t look too good, the acting left plenty to be desired, and Romero’s film felt quite cluttered with unnecessary detail, e.g. too much focus on military procedure. At its centre however, a small team of local townspeople, which this remake has kept as the core human concern, while the surrounding community ticks like a time bomb of bloody chaos.
Set in the small Iowa town of Ogden Marsh, director Breck Eisner introduces us to his characters in the context of an all American baseball game. Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) and deputy Russell Clank (Joe Anderson) notice the town drunkard clamber onto he pitch from afar. He’s not supposed to enter the play area, but much worse than that, he’s carrying a shotgun which, when confronted by David, he raises, only to be shot dead on the spot by our handsome Sheriff.
It soon transpires that the perpetrator had been off the booze for years, and no-one can explain his actions earlier that day. Later that night, another local man burns his house to the ground, with his wife and kid inside. When local hunters discover a decomposed pilot’s corpse in the woods, Sheriff David investigates, only to find a submerged plane. But where did it come from? And why has no-one discovered it before? Do you think that maybe there might be some kind of biological weapon on board, which has infiltrated the local water supply, thereby changing local inhabitants from peace-loving brethren into raging crazies?
Soon, martial law takes over, and our two cops are captured, along with the rest of the townspeople and David’s hot doctor wife Judy (Radha Mitchell) are taken into quarantine. But not for long, as martial power fails to control the situation, and our main characters aim to escape small-town-life-turned-sour. They become hunted by the trigger-happy authorities, and pursued by plagued locals.
Don’t you just love how Hollywood works these days? Here we have a movie set in small town USA where the only people who haven’t been infected also happen to be the most attractive people in town. Textbook casting is alive and well. Another element straight out of the textbook is that of those supposed surprises that occur, say, when a central character is saved from death at the last minute by an off-frame gunshot. It’s quite lazy filmmaking, but it’s also cinematic, and all too easy to forgive, especially given the number of genuine surprise moments on display here. For every such moment you see coming, there are at least two you won’t.
The structure of The Crazies flows nicely, from a relatively serene opening to the full-tilt mayhem that ensues when all those chaps wearing head-to-toe white suits and masks turn up to control the effects of the ‘Trixie’ virus. It’s savage stuff, but not completely gratuitous, which does help make everything seem more real. Which is helpful when we’ve already invested in these characters – Timothy Olyphant and deputy Joe Anderson in particular stand out as local law enforcement double act; the chemistry is there.
This is perhaps more of an action flick than a full-on horror film, and is certainly as far removed from the classic origins of horror as you could imagine. Popcorn-throwing moments are here in abundance, however; them crazies just love jumping out of nowhere and looking all...crazy. One of the best scenes in the entire movie utilises the unlikely setting of a machine car wash; it's both intense and original. In addition, the idea of the redneck hunters becoming infected isn't great in itself, but I loved how these guys continue to stick together to wreck more havoc in 'Trixie' mode. That said, there is nothing particularly gutsy about The Crazies - it does what it does very well, but refuses to go that extra mile to make for an unforgettable film experience.
If you enjoyed the Dawn of the Dead remake as much as we did, then you're likely to be convinced by this respectful Romero cover version - the general style and aesthetics are quite similar. While Sahara director (and son of ex-Disney CEO Michael) Breck Eisner might lack some of Zack Snyder's vision, he has nevertheless managed to concoct a winning biological potion that will shock, thrill, amuse, and most importantly, entertain.