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
In his heyday, director George A. Romero churned out a number of great horror films, a few of which went on to define an entire sub-genre for generations to come (I’m speaking, of course, of his Living Dead trilogy: Night, Dawn, and Day of the Dead). Among the many fine movies Mr. Romero helmed in the ‘70s and ‘80s was 1973’s The Crazies, a low-budget flick about a deadly military virus that transforms normal, everyday townsfolk into maniacal killers. In keeping with the modern 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 brandishing a shotgun. After he refuses to drop the weapon, Sheriff Dave Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) has no choice but to shoot Hamill dead. Others have also been acting strangely as of late, some of whom are taken to the town’s doctor, Judy Dutton (Radha Mitchell), who happens to be the Sheriff’s wife. Soon, more and more people are behaving out of the norm, and becoming increasingly violent. Things start falling into place when Sheriff Dutton and his deputy, Russell (Joe Anderson), find a military aircraft (which apparently crash-landed) lying at the bottom of a nearby swamp. They figure the plane inadvertently released a dangerous toxin that’s contaminating the town’s water supply, but soon after the two make this discovery, Ogden Nash is overrun by military personnel. Once the soldiers quarantine the entire area, they begin rounding up the infected, some of whom refuse to go along peacefully. Their community turned into a war zone, the Duttons, joined by Russell and Judy’s assistant, Becca (Danielle Panabaker), make a break for it. But with the army instructed to use deadly force to stop this infection from spreading, their chances of escape are looking pretty slim.
This isn’t the first remake of a George A. Romero picture to impress me; even with the 1978 classic being one of my all-time favorite films, I really enjoyed 2004’s Dawn of the Dead. Like that movie, 2010’s The Crazies is a ramped-up version of Romero’s film, featuring a lot more action and violence. In a scene that harkens back to the original, infected farmer Bill Farnum (Brett Rickaby) turns on his wife (Christie Lynn Smith) and son (Preston Bailey), who, after seeing 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 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 taking the bloodshed to a much higher level than his predecessor did.
While the action and violence are plentiful, this version of The Crazies lacks the social commentary of Romero’s original, which was as much about challenging authority as it was the horror unleashed on the town. This, in no way, makes 2010’s The Crazies inferior to the original, just different, and I, for one, enjoyed both takes on the story.