Welcome to Ogden Marsh, Iowa. It’s a farming community devoid of big box stores and flashy city lights. The largest store in the city is attached to a Gas Station. The Sheriff, David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant, A Perfect Getaway, Hitman) attends the local high-school’s baseball games, and his wife, Judy (Radha Mitchell, Surrogates, Silent Hill) owns the only medical practice in town. They live together on big, wide open land in a big house that is the perfect place to raise their future children.
The people in town are well-acquainted, and secrets aren’t really secret. When a local walks out onto the baseball field with a loaded gun and ends up on the receiving end of the bullet, the entire town is rocked by the news. In the next day, the Sheriff arrests another local who burned down his house with his wife and son locked inside. Suddenly a disturbing pattern of unusually docile townspeople whose behavior give way to an outbreak of enraged violence begins.
Suddenly the townspeople start to disappear. What happens next is merely suspected, but not expected- especially from a remake of a George A. Romero film. At it’s heart, ‘The Crazies’ carries the same spirit of most of Romero’s films, but shows a clear progression of concept from the writer. This film follows another recent rash of film remakes (The Last House On the Left, Friday the 13th, Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm St, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, The Amityville Horror), a lot of which were predictably more gory, more sexual, and full of cheap scares, cast with easily forgettable actors who delivered just as forgettable performances (I reserve the right to truly appreciate Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake). ‘The Crazies’ have none of these traits.
Though you might expect a producer (Breck Eisner, Sahara) to put Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell in a short-lived, but gratuitously nude sex scene at some point, the most naked either one get is wearing a hospital gown. The pace was so consistent that there was no opportunity for that to be a priority. The movie didn’t ease you into the story with a great deal of introductory story development- it started in the first few minutes of the film and continued into the credits. The character development occurred in the story as events unfolded.
I appreciated that this also wasn’t the next Romero Zombie film that I was honestly hoping for. The doomsday scenario was an unexpected and welcome twist through and through, and for a change, I loved that the ending was left wide open for a sequel (not that I expect one, I just like that my mind can play out what happens next), and that there wasn’t a happy ending. Sometimes when people are S.O.L., the audience’s desire to see the lead characters prevail is inconsequential- they’re S.O.L. anyway. It makes for far more compelling storytelling.
While the film wasn’t genuinely scary (the last truly scary horror movie I saw was the new ‘Amityville’, and even it had a gratuitous sex scene), it had a couple of predictable but effective pop-up scares, and the tension and suspense kept you distracted from noticing the lack of relentless terror. I found the attempted getaways frustrating (the characters were too selfless when they should honestly have just stripped a soldier or two and ran), and I often wondered why they were insistent on running at all, considering what they knew.
The film didn’t make any particularly unpredictable attempts with camera work- though the steady cam was a nice relief from a lot of recent hand-held shots in films that have made me want to lose my lunch. The lighting was excellent- not too dark, and not too bright. I liked the coloring, it was a nice change from the stylistic color filters used in many of Radha’s films. I really loved Olyphant’s performance, I felt it did him justice as an actor. I met him several years ago on the set of ‘Catch & Release‘.
All in all I’d give this a 4 out of 5. It’s definitely going to be one of my top-rated horror films, and a staple at any zombie movie marathon.
Kassi (Nova) is a self-proclaimed Average Joe (Average Jill?) movie-lover. Want more? Check out her blog at http://chupachica.wordpress.com/.