If the “crazies” don’t get you, the military will.
When a covert military aircraft and it’s highly virulent payload crash in on the residents of Ogden Marsh, Iowa, a neighbor friendly farm town that boasts of Norman Rockwell serenity, the people slowly start to turn on each other and everday life as they know it quickly and mysterious calms to an end.
Timothy Olyphant (Rock Star, Go!) and the beautiful Radha Mitchell (Henry Poole is Here, Man on Fire) star as husband and wife David and Judy Dutton. As the local (and only) sheriff in town David’s job takes a serious turn for the worse in a powerful opening scene when he is forced to shoot a very familiar and close member of this small and tight knit community that, crazily enough, shows up in the middle of a little league ball game toting a shotgun. Judy, the small town doctor is beckoned to the home of another member who seems to be acting stranger than usual. Her prognosis is slightly off and is dismissed with a fever but only a few hours later does he proceed to stalk his wife and son around the house with a knife. The scene is plenty eerie as the quiet lurking and the absence of ambiant noise leaves only the creaking of floor boards to be heard. In a subsequent scene where he burns the house down with them inside it, it is made abundantly clear to us and to the Dutton’s that something just ain’t right in Ogden Marsh. He went from Andy Griffith to Harry Callahan in just the first three minutes of this movies and with the phones ringing off the hook and the townsfolk starting to turn things weren’t going to get any better. And this is just the beginning. It doesn’t take much for things to spiral out of control from this point.
The idea is translated to us in the style of the rage virus in “28 Days Later”. It’s a pandemic situation so intense that the catastrophe can’t be addressed because staying alive is the main priority. It was a great opening and the movie seemed to hold on to you from there. If you don’t like feeling that someone is breathing down the little hairs on the back of your neck this movie probably isn’t for you becasue you will be feeling that from beginning to end.
What I loved the most about this movie was the acting. It’s rare to get character chemisty in a thriller because the main focus is usually gore. Here the main focus is terror which altogether is a different animal. To achieve this it take a certain amount of plausible interaction between the cast members, or at least enough to show us how drastically they’re world will be torn apart. The filmakers achieved this in closeness throughout the characters and that made the disintegration of the fiber of this dreamy little community that much more palpable. I love these genre type movies anyway (Rage, Quarantine, Outbreak) but this one in particular kept me on the edge of my seat when the discovery is made that the people of this once peaceful town are in fact going crazy, and it’s not just some misdiagnosed mistake. It’s very believable. Their should be a calm before every storm and introducing the military as the culprit behind all this even further heightens the movie in that they now have to outrun these crazy killers and a trigger happy army trying to contain them…with a bullet in the head. If that’s not enough for you, this story is also accompanied by the eeriest of whistling to the tune of Gary Jules’ “Madhouse” combined with the necessary timing beats they pull off a not so shabby terror heist.
The movie has several moments where disturbing images reminded me of the Holocost as people are ripped from their families and forced into camps that serve only one purpose and that is containment and death. The town becomes over run by the military and when they find out their are on strict ‘shoot anything that moves’ orders, the small group of unaffected are forced to examine their own survival skills as well as their will to stay alive. The special effects and make-up were stunning as Robert Hall, who also gave us “Quarantine”, steps up to the plate with enough frightening make-up to set this movie aside from the typical horror flicks and push through as an almost shoe-in for this years best Horror movie nomination.
It’s sad that we can’t see more of Joe Anderson (the deputy). He is potent. I saw him in “The Ruins” which in my opinion was a failure of epic proportions as flesh eating foliage just doesn’t cut it for me, but, in this movie he ROCKED! If they were trying to use him for comic relief he delivered but not without serious tones as his own intense style propelled his character to the front of every scene. You WILL be seeing more of him, I’m certain.
The body count in this movie is high but well done as the writer’s did a little digging and found often creative and believeable ways that a crazy person might want to kill you. Imagine being strapped to a gurney whilst a madman pitchforks the person strapped next to you and you know you’re next. Imagine your entire town dying off and not knowing when or if you’re next. Imagine not having any control, just total chaos. This and alot more trancends this movie above and beyond your typical horror fodder. If you like horrors/thrillers as much as me you know how dissappointed you can get sometimes being that it’s all been done before. This leaves a good thriller with only a few outs for success. One being acting, two being timing, and the rest being a strong and plausible “what if” story. Some good make-up and effects never hurt.
The only thing about this movie that bothered me was the lack of information as to the real monster in this movie, the virus. I remember how much i loved “Outbreak” and looking back I have to admit that even though they share the same story, the focus on the virus and how deadly it was was the reason I was so horrified with it. This movie slowly started giving the lead role to the military as the monster instead of the virus. It’s still a great movie. If this doesn’t move you…you’re just plumb crazy.