Thursday, March 4, 2010

Review: "The Crazies"

In George A. Romero's 1973 original The Crazies, his follow up to Night of the Living Dead, Judy and David are a young couple caught up in a military cover-up when a man-made virus is unleashed on a small Pennsylvania town which drives its victims insane before killing them. In Breck Eisner's 2010 remake, Judy is a doctor and her husband David is the Sheriff in a small Iowa town that has been infected by a man-made virus which drives its victims insane before killing them. That's basically where the similarities end.

Ogden Marsh is small farming town, dependent on the local water supply to irrigate the corn fields which the town in the black. It's 1200 or so residents all know each other and everyone turns out for the opening day game of the local high school baseball team, including the town's reformed drunk, wearing a blank expression and toting a shotgun as he deliberately walks onto the field in the middle of the game. And thus begins the town's rather quick descent into chaos as more and more of its citizens become infected and start killing one another.

Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) and his deputy Russell know something's really wrong when the phones and Internet are suddenly useless (not to mention the fact that the M.E. tries to cut David's head open with a bone saw in the back room of the local funeral home). David tries to convince his wife Judy (Radha Mitchell) to leave for her sister's, but she refuses, knowing the town will need its doctor to help them through this crisis. But before she can, the military descends on the town and starts rounding people up at the high school, separating those with fevers from those without, and separating the pregnant Judy from David, who is shipped off to nearby truck stop and presumably, evacuation. Determined to save his wife, David returns to town where they, along with Russell and Judy's assistant Becca (Danielle Panabaker), try to get out without being killed by the infected or shot by the military.

The screenplay by Scott Kosar (The Amityville Horror) and Ray Wright (Pulse) dispenses with the talky dialog of Romero's original and director Breck Eisner keeps the pace moving along briskly while providing plenty of tension and just the right amount of shocks without going into overkill. Olyphant (The Broken Hearts Club; Live Free or Die Hard) is fine here, displaying enough swagger to be convincing as a sheriff (a role he is about to take on on FX's new series "Justified"), while retaining the right amount of sensitivity for a devoted husband and father. Mitchell (Pitch Black; Silent Hill) continues to prove more than capable as a genre actress. The rest of the cast are all fine and by dispensing with the fervent anti-military themes of the original (made at the height of the Vietnam War), Eisner manages to evoke both nightmarish chaos and quiet, dark-ride tension quite effectively. The military are still the real bad guys here, but this film is more about surviving the unthinkable, than placing blame for it.

As with any good horror movie, you have take The Crazies at face value and accept it for exactly what it is: a fun, exciting and (while often improbable) believable ride. **1/2 (Two and a Half Stars Out of Four). The Crazies is rated 'R' for violence, gore and language.

More, anon.


Anonymous said...

I think we are in complete agreement on this one. BTW - I never saw the original.

Prospero said...

I made sure I saw it last week. I'd seen "Martin" and all the "...of the Dead" movies, of course. I found it to be very, very talky.