Directed by Breck Eisner
Starring Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Danielle Panabaker, Joe Anderson.
Release date: February 26, 2010
A military plane carrying a biological weapon crashes near an Iowa farm town, the people start becoming infected due to the effects of the weapon, the military gets involved and everyone has to run for their lives. If this sounds like a movie you have seen before, and not just because it is a remake of the 1973 film by George A. Romero, you are probably right. But I doubt it’s ever been as much fun.
Speaking of, let’s get something out in the open before we even get started. I know The Crazies isn’t movie about zombies in the truest sense, but purists be damned, it really is a zombie movie. It is not a faceless killer running amok; these are your friends and people you know infected by something unknown causing them to act… we’ll say “out of sorts.” I’ve always liked that level of emotion built into the zombie (and zombie-like) movie. If it were a typical horror movie there would be definitive bad guys. They threaten you, you kill them, end of story. No love lost. When the zombie apocalypse finally happens, the infected could very well be your wife, your friends, or your children. The survival aspect is compounded by potentially having to kill someone you know to stop them from
killing you, eating your brains, lighting you on fire, chewing your face off doing you harm.
The Crazies takes place in Ogden Marsh, Iowa, a rural farm town fictitious in name but very much alive in the spirit of the area. It’s the kind of town where everyone knows everyone and their business. When people are sick, they don’t call the doctor, they call Judy (Radha Mitchell). When people are in trouble they don’t call the sheriff, they go find David (Timothy Olyphant). These people know each other by name because they all grew up together. If you grew up in this area, you accept this because it’s the way it actually is. If you don’t live here, you accept this because, as a friend said to me just this week, “I’ve never heard of anyone moving to Iowa.” Regardless, you feel the townspeople’s sense of attachment to their environment.
Good horror movies have an interesting way of relating to the time period in which they are made. It makes a lot of sense. If you want to scare someone, discuss things that actually scare them. For example, if you want to speak to the paranoia surrounding the Cold War, you make a movie like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and it sticks on a deeper level. Romero knows this. He has always been known for mixing horror with elements of social commentary. It is part of what kept his movies from being dismissed as standard. A remake of The Crazies today is an interesting choice because of the parallels in the subtext. The original had some great ideas about the fear of government control spoken from the perspective of the Vietnam era. Here we are almost forty years later and those fears are even more magnified. Without launching a political debate it is safe to say that the concerns of government control and their position of plausible deniability is relatable.
If political subtext isn’t your thing, The Crazies works just as well as a standard horror movie. Sure the movie is well acted (Olyphant has played a sheriff enough times to be able to fly under the radar), but the direction of Breck Eisner is really what keeps things from getting out of hand. The Crazies is very well paced and respectful of its predecessor. Rather than trying to reinvent the genre by doing something completely different, he hits all the right note without shooting himself in the foot trying to cram in highlights from the original. Not bad from the guy who made Sahara.
There are just enough political overtones and just enough really good, bloody horror elements to keep everyone happy. That’s not to say he sits on the fence not picking sides, it just doesn’t lean one way or the other. Where I come from there is a word for that: efficient.