The Crazies

2010-11-15 10:44
The Crazies
What it's about:

The small farming town of Ogden Marsh, Iowa, becomes ground zero after a virus breaks out which turns the infected into homicidal maniacs.

What we thought:

On the face of it, there is absolutely nothing to distinguish The Crazies from a litany of people-gone-mad movies that have come before. It's the nature of the genre, and perhaps now more than ever, the horror movies that are coming to the fore are remakes, sequels, adaptations and reimaginations. The Crazies does not escape this legacy and is a remake of zombie king George A. Romero's 1973 movie of the same name. Romero's own involvement in this remake as executive producer is only one of the reasons why a formulaic film like The Crazies is superior to most.

There is so much to recommend The Crazies version 2010, even when its tired premise doesn't. The cast, populated by TV actors and bit players in someone else's epic story, bring a fantastic blend of tightly wound hysteria and cool confidence that only comes with their collective experience. Chief among them is Timothy Olyphant who plays upstanding sheriff David Dutten. At a baseball game that opens the movie he is forced to shoot and kill a local who walks onto the field wielding a shotgun. There is never any doubt that Sheriff Dutten is handy with a cold target as Olyphant has come to be associated with quick draws after playing various law enforcement on TV shows like HBO's sorely missed Deadwood and his latest hit show Justified. He's an endlessly watchable actor who seems to have honed his powers over the years, and has a particular way with

After a slightly unnerving start, The Crazies ramps up the, er, crazy exponentially over its 90 minutes. It emerges that the weird behaviour of the townspeople has been caused by an outbreak of a biochemical weapon developed by the government after an aircraft carrying the virus crashed in the town's water supply. So whoever drinks the water gets infected and is liable to unleash all kinds of mayhem. One man sets fire to his home with his wife and young son still inside. Another 'crazy' systematically stabs people with a pitchfork. Right in the gut. It's ghastly stuff alright, and while there's hardly any shocks to be had in random violence (one of the few things we can thank the Saw movies for), The Crazies portrays it with such coldness it's hard not to be drawn onto its madness for the sheer fun of it. There's a particularly off the wall in scene involving an angle grinder and the sheriff's family jewels that has to be experienced.

After Ogden Marsh is quarantined and the citizens examined for infection (a quick reading of their body temperature is all it takes) and imprisoned, it's up to the sheriff, his faithful deputy Russell Clank (played by British actor Joe Anderson) and Dutten's doctor wife Judy (the lovely Radha Mitchell) to try and make sense of the pandemonium that has gripped their sleepy little haven in the heart of America. Together with sweet, young teenager Becca (all the better to introduce some tragedy to the mix) who works part-time in Dr. Dutten's office. they form a miserable group of survivors and take to the road, trying to stay alive while their own demented neighbours and government bay for their blood.

Thankfully, The Crazies makes no pretentions about what it is. It's a paticularly well-groomed type of schlock cinema, thanks to director Breck Eisner's obvious joy at the opportunity to create havoc. And for all its doom-and-gloom, this is a thoroughly entertaining little movie that twists and turns and heads off into one perilous direction before being dragged into another. The few characters we come to know are fantastic portraits of how small town charm can somehow transform into righteous badassery when the chips are down. These are people you actually come to care for because they're given the space to play characters, rather than caricatures.

As corny as it sounds, it has to be said that this is a B-movie that brings its A-game. It's thrilling, often shocking and wears that hilarious title like a badge of honour. Now, if only all horror retreads could be this smart – and watchable.

Finally, a horror remake that's genuinely scary and thoroughly entertaining.
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