The Crazies (***)

Posted on March 19th, 2010 in Commentary by EngineerBoy

Nobody puts crazy in a corner...

Marie and I decided to play multiplex roulette today, where we spontaneously stop at the movie theater and watch the most appealing next show.  There aren’t a lot of rules to Theater Roulette, but we reserve the right to veto and play again another day if nothing seems worthwhile.

Today’s winner was The Crazies, a remake of the George Romero film from the 1970’s with the same name and storyline.  Neither of us knew anything about the film, other than I recalled a vaguely non-terrible mention of it from somewhere, but not even a full-fledged review.

I’ve never seen the original, so can’t compare them, but the current version is an interesting twist on the zombieless zombie film.  The basic storyline is that a government plane carrying biological weapons has crashed upstream of a small farm community, and the infectious agent has seeped into the town’s water supply.  The infection causes people to go catatonic, then go crazy, then go homocidal, and was designed to destabilize the society of our enemies. 

The story focuses on the local sheriff, his wife, and an ever-decreasing band of survivors.  The sheriff and his deputy piece together what’s happening just in time to find their town completely isolated – no landlines, cell phones, internet connections, nothing.  The roads are blocked and an overwhelming force of highly uninformative government agents and soldiers take over, separating everyone into the infected or non-infected holding areas. 

The sheriff goes to one, his pregnant wife goes to the other, and thereby hangs the tale.  If you’ve ever seen a zombie/infected-people movie you’ll get the gist of the overall story, but The Crazies brings a good deal of art and craft to the telling.  As an aside, I find it amusing that people will dismiss “zombie movies” as something that have been done before, but to me that would be like dismissing all rom-coms or cop procedurals for the same reason.  The entertainment with these genre films isn’t in the uniqueness of the story, but in the nature of the telling.

For example, I grew up in a small town, and I live in a small town, so I know what small towns are like, and the director (Breck Eisner, son of Michael) nailed it perfectly.  The small town looks like a small town, not like what some Hollywood production designer might imagine a small town would look like, if they ever saw one other than out of the window of their coast-to-coast flights.

And the characters are small-town.  The sheriff (Timothy Olyphant) is polite and taciturn, but he’s not a dummy.  His wife (Radha Mitchell) is the town doctor, and his deputy (Joe Anderson) looks and talks like he grew up playing banjo on the porch, but when the chips are down he takes care of business.  The acting is excellent throughout the cast, and the effects are subtle and well-done.

Put it all together and The Crazies is fun (if you are the type who can see a zombie film as being “fun”), smart, unpredictable, and even humorous in parts.  Well worth the ticket price for any aficionado of the genre.

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