Wednesday, February 6, 2013

#905. The Crazies (2010)

Directed By: Breck Eisner

Starring: Radha Mitchell, Timothy Olyphant, Danielle Panabaker

Tag line: "Welcome to Ogden Marsh, the friendliest place on earth"

Trivia: The film opens with the song "We'll Meet Again," as performed by Johnny Cash. The song is from the same album that provided "The Man Comes Around," which opened another remake of a George A. Romero film, Dawn of the Dead

Throughout his career, George A. Romero directed a number of great horror films, a few of which would define an entire sub-genre for generations to come (I’m speaking, of course, of his Living Dead trilogy: Night, Dawn, and Day). Among the many entertaining movies that Mr. Romero helmed in the ‘70s and ‘80s is 1973’s The Crazies, a low-budget flick in which a deadly military virus transforms normal, everyday people into maniacal killers.

In keeping with the recent trend of turning yesterday’s classics into today’s big-budget “re-imaginings”, we have Breck Eisner’s version of this same tale, and as remakes go, 2010’s The Crazies is a damn good one!

The first sign of trouble in the normally quiet town of Ogden Nash, Iowa, is when farmer Rory Hamill (Mike Hickman) strolls onto a little league baseball field, interrupting the game in progress and brandishing a shotgun. After refusing to drop the weapon, Sheriff Dave Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) has no choice but to shoot Hamill dead.

Others have also been acting strange, with a few being treated by the town’s doctor, Judy Dutton (Radha Mitchell), the Sheriff’s wife. Soon, more and more people start behaving out of the norm, and are becoming increasingly violent.

The reasons behind the sudden chaos may have something to do with a recently-crashed military aircraft, which Sheriff Dutton and his deputy, Russell (Joe Anderson), found lying at the bottom of a nearby swamp. It's possible that, upon impact, the plane accidentally released a dangerous toxin that is now contaminating the town’s water supply. Soon after the two make this discovery, Ogden Nash is invaded by U.S military personnel, who, after establishing a quarantine for the entire area, begin rounding up the infected, some of whom refuse to go along peacefully.

Their community transformed into a war zone, the Duttons, joined by Russell and Judy’s assistant Becca (Danielle Panabaker), decide to make a break for it. But with the army ordered to use deadly force to stop this infection from spreading, their chances of escaping look pretty slim.

This isn’t the first George A. Romero remake that impressed me. Even with his 1978 classic being one of my all-time favorite films, I really enjoyed Zach Snyder's Dawn of the Dead. Like that movie, 2010’s The Crazies is a ramped-up, stylized take on Romero’s original, and features a lot more action and violence. In a scene that harkens back to the original, infected farmer Bill Farnum (Brett Rickaby) attacks his wife (Christie Lynn Smith) and son (Preston Bailey), who, after spotting him with a knife, run upstairs and lock themselves in a closet. Unable to slice his family up like he wanted to, ole’ Bill does the next best thing: he lights a match and sets the whole darn house on fire! Director Eisner generates a great deal of tension in this sequence and many others (including a damn-near unbearable scene set in a schoolhouse / hospital) while also cranking the bloodshed up a few notches.

While the action and violence are plentiful, one thing this version of The Crazies lacks is the social commentary of Romero’s original, which was as much about challenging authority as it was the horror unleashed on a town. This, in no way, makes 2010’s The Crazies inferior to the original. It's just different, and I, for one, enjoyed both takes on the story.


Anonymous said...

It's a fun movie, but also very tense and very scary at times that I wasn't expecting. Also, I feel as if Timothy Olyphant can do no wrong in my mind. Good post, man!

James Robert Smith said...

I enjoyed the remake of THE CRAZIES. One reason for that could be the fact that I have never seen the original. I've seen both the original DAWN OF THE DEAD which is one of the finest horror films I've ever watched, and the lousy remake from 2004 which is execrate and deserves to be totally forgotten.