The Crazies (2010)
Just when I though I have seen more than enough of both zombie flicks and remakes one comes along that satisfies both of these lamentable criteria that surprised me. The recent remake of George Romero’s ‘The Crazies’ may not be as well made as the original but all things considered it did provide a satisfying coupled of hours of entertainment. One major thing it has working in its favor is it makes a wholehearted effort to diverge from what has become the de facto standard of the genre; those dreadful male teen oriented slash and das flick. At this point any horror film with a modicum of cohesive story starts out way in advance of the pack. This remake of The Crazies’ not only boasts a competent script and solid direction but a cast with more in the way of proven professionalism much in advance of the community college film school casting calls common with the boobs and blood dependent thing that has become known as horror movies. it is a shame that the genre that gave us the iconic monster flick from Universal studios in the 30’s and 40’s has degraded to a color by the numbers formula consisting of unusual ways to dismember stoned, horny teens. This film takes zombies back to dastardly creature that can give the audience the fun afternoon we all crave, what works best here is the almost complete lack of pretension in the movie. It does not pound the audience with allegory of social relevance nor does it pretend to be a neo-masterpiece. This is a film that is meant to be experienced on a visceral level resulting in some well defined frightening moments. In some respects it rises above the original in this regard. It might take a little extra effort or cost to get a hold of the original version of the film but it was intriguing to watch them back to back. Normally I try to take a remake on its own merits but in this case the forty years between versions and the difference in the perspective of the two film makers provided an interesting glimpse at how the genre’s potential has changed over time.
Reinventing the original store from the master of horror and king of the zombie flick George Romero fell to Scott Kosar and Ray Wright. I have frequently been dismayed by remake where the new authors attempt to recapture the spark of originality of the prior film or make so many alterations that the two films share little more than a title and a few generalized plot elements. Pleasantly to my surprise this movie acknowledged the cult classic status of the original reinterpreting it for the circumstances of a new generation. Back when Romero first envisioned this story the country was split along generational lines by the Vietnam War. There was a predominating distrust of the government and expectation of domestic militarization. With most of Romero’s zombie franchise he typically infused the proceedings with some degree of social relevance ranging from rampant consumerism to the innate and ancient fear of infection. In this remake the double meanings are placed on hold to get down to what you watch something like this; desperate people fighting for their lives against the lumbering undead. The movie was directed by Breck Eisner, whose most notable credit was an accident of birth; he is the son of former head of the Walt Disney Company, Michael Eisner. Professionally this younger Eisner directed an episode of the Spielberg miniseries, ‘Taken’ and the short lived Science fiction series, ‘The Invisible Man’. For someone moving on to feature length films he deports himself exceptionally well here. The pacing is well measured wasting little time in bringing the audience into the thick of things.
The action takes place in the American heartland, Ogden Marsh, Iowa. The Duttens are one of the more prominent couples in town. David (Timothy Olyphant) is the town’s sheriff and Judy (Radha Mitchell) is the local doctor. Unfortunately for them these positions would place them in the vanguard of a deadly epidemic. One afternoon at a game with the local high school nondescript citizen, Rory Hamil (Mike Hickman) walks out on the field armed with a shotgun. Deputy Russell Clank (Joe Anderson) employs him to drop the weapon but Rory appears unable to comply and is shot dead. Judy and fellow hospital worker Becca Darling (Danielle Panabaker) begin to notice a serious change in a growing number of the town’s inhabitants. They are sluggish in movement and thinking frequently blindly repeating answers to the simplest questions. This escalates rapidly to farmers slaughtering their families while unbeknownst to the townsfolk a military satellite is observing the town displaying the ominous message ‘initiate containment protocol’. It turns out a covert biological warfare incentive created the ‘Trixie virus and now it is painfully clear the bug is out of the lab. Although mavens of the genre may debate the infected here as zombies the certainly meet the general cinematic criteria; lumber and intent of infected and/or killing anyone in reach.
Olyphant is one of those rare actors that can switch effortlessly between the most heinous of villains to a trustworthy and noble minded lawman. He was chilling in the little cult hit ‘Hit man’ as a cold-blooded killer and equally believable and intense as the only honest lawman around in the HBO series ‘Deadwood’. Here he gives a performance that is far more gripping than usually found in a ‘B’ horror flick. As a big fan of independent movies I have come across many films featuring Mitchell. She has a seething intensity that is well suited for her role here. The dictatorial style is straightforward giving enough gore for true fans but nothing as graphic as the current torture movie trend. In all this is a satisfying horror movie that is well worth watching.