A well-executed remake that feels different from the usual theatrical horror fare.
Of all the films to be remade, I thought George Romero’s The Crazies was actually a good choice. It’s a great story that just wasn’t executed all that well. The original feels completely dated, with 1973 stamped across its forehead in huge block letters. The budgetary constraints are also painfully obvious, as the whole military angle is skirted around not so delicately. Sorry Romero, I love ya’, but I’ve just never been a fan of the original film. So I couldn’t help but be excited for a remake of a good story, especially when I saw the trailers. Could 2010 bring what 1973 could not? Did it update the film in the right way? Was it a better execution of the same premise? Mostly, but not completely.
The plot has changed little almost four decades later. A small town is suddenly disturbed by residents who have gone crazy for no reason. In no time, the town is completely quarantined by the military, and a group of survivors struggle to escape. One of the major concerns The Crazies had was distinguishing itself from the zombie film. Almost Human EFX worked on the design of the infected people, trying to give them a clear look without turning them into zombies. I’d say they did a pretty good job, focusing on enlarged veins and discolored eyes. From a story perspective, the way in which the crazies act is also different. They are not mindless, flesh-eating fiends, but rather people that are simply “not right.” They possess reasoning, motives, and memory. The fact that they are not zombie-like, and that they are still human makes some of the film’s early scenes more disturbing. When farmer Bill is infected and attacks his wife and child, it’s pretty messed up.
One of the aspects I enjoyed the most is the cast of characters. The performances are actually quite strong, adding more meaning to the acts of violence. Timothy Olyphant, who I’ve always loved (yes, even in Hitman) is great at riding along the edge of humor and seriousness as the town Sheriff. His wife, played by Radha Mitchell, is flawless. Olyphant’s deputy also gets an MVP in my book. He always shows up to protect the Sheriff at just the right moment. Plus, he has some of the funniest lines in the movie. I genuinely liked and cared for the film’s protagonists, which doesn’t happen all that often. Plus, I appreciated the gender neutrality of the film. It’s rare that you get a horror film (or any newer film for that matter) where women are not showcased in revealing outfits or put in sexual situations. I’m not saying that’s always a bad thing, but it was a nice change of pace in The Crazies. There simply wasn’t time for that and the women were treated no differently from the men (both in terms of story and the way they were shot).
While The Crazies has a tight pace and some great moments, it did feel like there were some missing action scenes. Instead of showing how characters got from A to B, it would simply cut to them at B when there should have been some sort of struggle to get there. At times, it just feels a little too easy to get around town. However, when things go wrong, the film shines. The scene in which the women are tied to hospital gurneys and a crazed principal comes after them with a pitchfork is pretty intense. Another favorite moment comes when Olyphant gets a knife through the hand (I won’t say anything more), but it’s pretty freaking awesome.
Someone attuned to filmmaking can see budgetary constraints here and there, but they are not all that noticeable. The film is well shot, using shadows and darkness quite well. It’s also filled with gorgeous Iowa landscape shots. I appreciated the lack of CGI—oh my goodness there were real helicopters! Although there are some computer-generated images, it’s clear that the filmmakers tried to steer away from digital effects. Thank you Breck Eisner.
Ultimately, I really enjoyed The Crazies, even if it could have been scarier than it was. I certainly wasn’t disappointed and encourage you guys to catch a matinee if you can.