In the last couple of years, the horror genre has seemed to be dominated by the can’t go wrong slasher flick. Remake upon remake upon similar storylines have been the norm. From the re-imaging of classics such Halloween and Friday the 13th to less well known films being reproduced like My Bloody Valentine; in 3-D nonetheless. Others have combined the thriller and gore aspects with horror to make films like the “Saw” series and the “Collector”. I, personally, enjoy the casual break from these to take in the biological terror storyline. This is not only highly possible in real life but would affect way more than just a handful of people. Plus, we are just not prepared to defend against an antagonist of that caliber such as possibly killing or at least slowing down a killer who is trying to catch you. Unless that killer is Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees of course. The latest addition to this genre is “The Crazies”, a remake of the George A. Romero 1973 film. This one stars Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell.
The setting is Ogden Marsh, Iowa; a peaceful little town which makes its living on the crops it produces. The kind of place where everyone knows everyone and their mother’s first grade teacher. David Dutton (Olyphant) is the sheriff of this small town. He and his deputy, Russell (Joe Anderson) make up the entire police force for this place. David’s wife, Judy (Mitchell), is the doctor of the town. Nice little power couple there. Opening day for the high school’s baseball team yields more than just sliders and sinkers. A man, who has had drinking issues in the past walks, not wanders, onto the field carrying a shotgun. Dutton tries to talk him down, assuming he might be drunk, but this exchange ends in tragedy. I won’t tell but you can guess, seeing as how Dutton is one of the main characters in the film, how that confrontation ends. Anyhow, it is discovered that the man was never drunk at all but it’s unexplained why he acted so strangely. Judy also gets a patient in showing signs of delayed reaction and very minimal response. Later, this same patient’s home goes up in flames while his wife and son are locked in a closet inside.
Eventually the sheriff and his deputy discover that a plane crashed into the town’s drinking supply. Yup, there seems to be something in the water. Something that is driving everyone, well, crazy. The rest of the movie has David, Judy and Russell trying to escape the psychotic townspeople and the military who are trying to contain the incident. Obstacles such military roadblocks testing for “symptoms” ready to shoot anyone that displays them and crazed unaffected townsfolk on a personal hunt to kill the remaining infected themselves are in the way.
Going off of the original screenplay co-written by George A. Romero, the story in this remake is basic in nature but has some very suspenseful moments that can make it stand out from other thrillers/horrors. For instance, an infected principal dragging around a pitch fork killing possible infected people who have been strapped down by the military. Imagine watching everyone around you being impaled by a rusty pitch fork and not being able to run for your ever loving life. The Breck Eisner directed film wasn’t as scary as I had hoped but the “jump factor” in it was great. It did a good job at building suspense and pouncing on the audience in creative ways even during moments when it wasn’t expected.
The acting performances by Olyphant and Mitchell were right on point. You could see the fear in their eyes when in danger and determination on their faces to survive the terror when it called for it. Their characters actually cared for the townspeople, especially having jobs that circulated around everyone’s safety. You also felt their sadness and regret that they couldn’t help everyone. The infected townspeople were well played also; not exactly zombie-like but not all in their right minds either. Slurred speech and confused, menacing looks on their faces completed the roles. The film doesn’t give a lot of insight into the cause or conclusion of the incident but what Romero flick ever does. Keeps you guessing and your imagination running, again, crazy. I leave the “The Crazies” with “3.5 out of 5 pitchforks through the chest”. Run for your life! “Don’t ask me why I can’t leave without my wife and I won’t ask you why you can.”