The Crazies

It’s rare that audiences get treated to good horror movies.  Luckily, a filmmaker or two comes around to deliver one.  Off the top of my head only a few flicks of the last year even come to mind.  “Drag Me to Hell” was a return to form for Sam Raimi fans, and while it’s arguably a straight-up comedy, “Zombieland” was a solid dose of fun.  “The Crazies” hits screens as a remake of a George A. Romero film from 1973 that most (including me) haven’t seen.  So taken on its own terms, this 2010 film works adequately at what it’s setting out to do.

The film opens during a little league baseball game.  A rigid old man, formerly the town drunk, walks onto the field with a rifle in hand. Timothy Olyphant, the bland star of “Live Free or Die Hard” and “Hitman,” and the bright spot of “A Perfect Getaway” and “The Girl Next Door,” plays small-town officer David Dutton.  He confronts the man only to find himself staring down the barrel of the gun before having to make a split-second decision.  He discharges his sidearm and takes the old man’s life.  From here on out, the town becomes stricken with multiple obscure cases involving individuals going mad and attempting/committing murder.  Dutton and his trusted deputy soon discover something has gone terribly wrong with the town’s water supply, turning its inhabitants into vicious killers before becoming zombie-like monsters.  Eventually the whole area becomes quarantined by the U.S. army, and Dutton must fight to protect his wife and unborn child.

Of the many recent zombie films, “The Crazies” fits right in.  I know many horror buffs claim that this isn’t exactly a “zombie” film because the infected people have some form of human consciousness–but come on, they get an infection, start attacking people, and turn into the perfect visual aid of a zombie.  So if I continue to refer to them as such you’ll just have to deal with it.  While I wouldn’t say this movie ranks quite as high as “28 Weeks Later” or the 2004 “Dawn of the Dead,” it’s a close call.  Director Breck Eisner (of the forgettable 2005 “Sahara’) knows how to instill some raging intensity in a scene. Granted, most of the sequences here have a certain familiarity and standardization to them especially within the genre, but he isn’t simply selling truckloads of gore. Sure, there is some of that, but he never forgets that the horror rests not ultimately with the zombies, but with human versus human confrontation.  The most interesting aspect of “The Crazies” is the fact that there is some form of humanity left in these monsters.  They have thoughts and memories, but with a damaged mind–driven to murder.  M. Night Shyamalan should have waited and taken notes from this film when developing the atrocious “The Happening.”  “The Crazies” also features a few memorable scenes, making it more than disposable horror, and ones concerning ‘the living dead.’  The tone of the movie never falters, and it also never loses sight of moral questions and dilemmas, providing the right commentary to give reason for the movie.  It’s still not a spectacular movie, or the horror film to reinvent the genre, but with solid performances across the board, excellent cinematography and unnerving tension the whole way through, “The Crazies” makes a standard zombie affair quite entertaining.

-MJV & the Movies

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