The Crazies. 2010. Directed by Breck Eisner. Screenplay by Scott Kosar & Ray Wright; based on the 1973 film of the same name by George A. Romero.
Starring Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson, Danielle Panabaker, Christie Lynn Smith, Brett Rickaby, Preston Bailey, John Aylward, Joe Reegan, Glenn Morshower, Larry Cedar, Gregory Sporleder, Mike Hickman, Lisa K. Wyatt, Justin Welborn, Chet Grissom, & Tahmus Rounds. Overture Films/Participant Media/Imagenation Abu Dhabi FZ.
Rated 18A. 101 minutes.
People talk a good game about horror remakes being no good. Some also seem intent on believing there are no actually scary horror movies anymore. Both of which is nonsense. Now, not all remakes are good; a nice chunk of them are actually, in my mind, a load of garbage. For every 5 bad ones, though, we do get a good one. I won’t go into a list of the ones I feel are actually good (a couple are even – dare I say – great).
What I will do is tell you about why The Crazies is one of the remakes I’ve enjoyed most. A version of 1973’s The Crazies from living legend George A. Romero, an awesome little movie in its own right, this Timothy Olyphant-star vehicle is worth more than being tossed off as just another movie remade by the Hollywood machine. Admittedly, I’m not really a fan of Breck Eisner’s work. Not even what he did on Fear Itself; although, to be fair, that series only had a couple episodes that were actually decent. But I’ve got to give credit where credit is due. He turns this into a nail-biting, tense, 101-minute ride that never ceases to feel eerie and exciting all at once. Of course, having a charming, charismatic male lead such as Olyphant and an equally strong leading female in Radha Mitchell helps immensely. Doesn’t hurt to have a good supporting role played by the likes of Joe Anderson, either.
The horror is all there, the suspense and tension, coupled with a smart adapted screenplay from Romero’s original and the solid acting. If you say you’re not scared, that’s fine. I don’t wet myself when I’m scared or creeped out by a film. However, a good horror lingers with me. Certain scenes stick in my mind and crawl out at times, maybe late at night while I try to fall asleep or during the day when I’m lost in a thought. The Crazies has a lot of those moments. It’s got a heavy dose of terror and some fun horror to boot, for those of us who enjoy the macabre to the fullest.
There are plenty of scenes worth mentioning in regards to the ones I still remember vividly. Hell, when they sit out in that boat early on above the sunken plane, it’s damn unsettling. Then the shot moves out, further and further, until we see it on that satellite view. Not only is that little part of the scene sort of creepy, it’s then we start to understand the gravity of the situation about to come. Barely a minute later, Sheriff Dutten (Olyphant) utters the line: “We‘re in trouble.” An almost surreal moment follows this, as Dutten heads out in the street and sees an older woman, dressed like a little girl, riding on her bicycle through the empty road (trivia: the woman is Lynn Lowry, from the original Romero flick). This is the first deeply chilling shot. By the minute, we understand the town of Ogden Marsh is in more trouble than even Dutten knows.
What separates the infected citizens of Ogden Marsh from Romero’s zombies, or any other incarnations of the undead since, is how they are still capable of using their brain. To a certain extent, anyway. They’re able to use weapons, to attack with more than just they teeth and hands. This makes them more formidable opponents one on one than any zombie we’ve seen, from Romero or otherwise. These infected aren’t faster than normal, they’re simply devoid of any human emotion and eager to kill. Almost scarier than the fast moving infected from Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake.
The autopsy tool, the small saw, that Dutten faces down a little before the half hour mark of the movie is an ingenious horror scene, one of its best. We’ve seen plenty different moments such as this one throughout the history of the genre. Something about this scene, the coroner being infected and the frantic scramble of the Sheriff to get away from the saw sprinting across the floor at him, is just spot on. Add to that most men will probably find their butthole puckering while Dutten watches the saw get closer to his genitals with each second. This is only the beginning; a proper way to get the horror adrenaline flowing, which kicks off all the action.
Worth mentioning – when Judy (Mitchell) finds herself strapped to a gurney, left behind by the military, that entire scene is downright frightening. Honestly scary. First, you have the one person laughing and laughing in the dark. Terrible eeriness right away. Secondly there’s the infected man who shows up afterwards dragging a pitchfork the entire time, looking for people to kill. Worse still is how he takes his time, going from one bed to the next and stabbing people in the guts with the big, sharp tool. By the time he gets near Judy, it is unbearable. A well written, edited, and directed sequence all around.
Olyphant and Mitchell are perfect for the roles of David and Judy Dutten, the town Sheriff and doctor. They’re the everyperson-types, people you can actually envision living in a small place like Ogden Marsh, where everyone knows one another and everything about them and they all see each other at the local ball games. Mitchell makes us feel for her character, both a loving mother and loving doctor to the various residents of their town. Once we discover she’s pregnant it only makes us empathise more, as the fear of what’s going on gets greater imagining what might affect her unborn child in the process. Alongside her is the sturdy, classic leading man in Olyphant. Whether Seth Bullock, Raylan Givens, or any other character, he always projects an undeniable confidence. Even in Sheriff Dutten’s weakest moments he’s a beacon of solidarity for the others to rally around. But again, you believe him as the Sheriff, just as Mitchell comes across so much like what you’d expect from a doctor in a rural area. They’re a good team and help sell the main plot, as David and Judy try fleeing the horror that’s come down on Ogden Marsh.
I’ve got to give this a 4-star review. There are genuine moments of horror mixed with that human drama which makes stories like this work. It’s never perfect, some bits could’ve been tightened to make the pacing better. Those are nitpicks. In the end, The Crazies effectively creeps me out. Not once do you find any true respite from the madness. And even in the scenes where we think the fleeing group are about to catch a break, in true survival horror fashion they only wind up in the midst of more savagery. Any movie that can keep me grounded with the characters while the horrific imagery and exciting pace doesn’t let up is worth a great grade. You won’t be disappointed in this remake. I do enjoy Romero’s original film. I feel like this improved on it in the right ways without changing too much or getting too far from the original point.
What is the point, you ask? That terrifying events can tear a small town of close knit people into shreds within a short amount of time. That nobody’s safe when the government makes a mistake they need to keep buried. That there are worse fates than dying.