THE CRAZIES (2010) Image


By Don R. Lewis | March 3, 2010

Breck Eisner’s remake of George Romero’s 1973 film “The Crazies” is a perfectly fine little B-movie. I don’t mean that in a bad, disparaging way because the film is passable, kinda creepy and fairly entertaining. Plus any studio effort in the “R” rated horror area should be lauded. I am also a fan of movies that fall into the “B” category as they can be schlocky, fun and have a point to make, especially when there’s some dark, paranoid undercurrents to them. The very best B-movies are the ones that contain some kind of allegory or social commentary on threats and fears we all face. Even the classic, cheaply-made Film Noirs (which were considered B-movies) touched on subjects like Freudian fears, existentialism and post war worries Americans had upon returning home.

George Romero’s classic zombie films were about similar issues and then later were a mixed bag of commentary on Reagan-era society and the “me” era of the 1980’s. While this updated version of “The Crazies” plays nicely in the B-movie horror genre and carries a nice dose of tension, there’s really nothing going on beneath the surface. Couple that with some half-baked plot lines and inconsistent use of the film’s unleashed virus, and we get a film that’s just okay, when it could have been much better.

The basic plot of “The Crazies” is that the townspeople in the quiet farming community of Ogden Marsh, Iowa, are behaving in a murderous and, yes, crazy way. Some kind of virus has seeped into the town and, at first, people just seem really spaced out as they dully repeat random non sequiturs over and over again. Doctor Judy Dutton (Radha Mitchell) can’t figure out what’s going on and neither can her husband, Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) who had to gun down an apparently drunken local who stammered into a high school baseball game carrying a loaded rifle. Soon the virus spreads and people are going on murderous rampages but the plot thickens when the U.S. government swoops in and makes things worse after they quarantine the town.

In a world where anthrax, H1N1, e-coli, terrorism and global warming are all scary, real threats, I was kind of stunned “The Crazies” didn’t allude to any of these things as a reason for the town’s growing insanity. There’s simply something making these people sick that is very clearly explained and that’s that. When the government shows up, I was awaiting for the film to dovetail into some kind of commentary about the overly vigilant world we live in but that never emerged either. Add to that the fact that the disease or virus infecting people has no real rules or clarity to it and the movie just becomes a basic exercise in high tension and simple scares. Some townsfolk are like bloodthirsty zombies while others seem like really pissed off rednecks looking to kill for kicks and, again, that’s not the worst thing a film can do. There’s some good jumps and taut scenes and, if nothing else, “The Crazies” is entertaining and capably directed. I just wanted a little more meat and potatoes plot wise.

Curbing those issues, “The Crazies” really is an enjoyable time at the movies, mostly due to the cast and the well-done set pieces in the film. Timothy Olyphant plays a great every-man and I’ll cop to being a big fan of his work. He’s got a presence onscreen that almost immediately pulls you onto his side, even when he’s playing a skeezy character as he did in “Live Free and Die Hard” and “The Girl Next Door.” Here he’s a nice-guy sheriff who just happens to be in the wrong town at the wrong time. Radha Mitchell remains gorgeous with a certain frail toughness to her and Joe Anderson as Sheriff Dutton’s sidekick, Deputy Clank, is extremely likable as well. But other than these core characters, we’re never allowed access to anyone else in the film in terms of character development. As a result, when and if they get infected, it’s a bummer but nothing else. “The Crazies” isn’t the worst horror film you’ll see nor is it the best. It’s a decently made horror film that serves it’s purpose which is to freak you out a little bit but not really make you think. If you like your movies fairly brainless and fun, you can do no better than “The Crazies.”

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  1. Don R. Lewis says:

    After I wrote this review I netflixed the original and it’s just terrible. Reallly, really bad.

  2. Jason says:

    I think for what it obviously is: a tense, survival/horror, it’s a great movie. Yes, we’ve had lots of movies like this one, and I never saw the original, but the movie has some suprises, just in the way it finds a way to keep telling the story and keep the tension up after the town goes to hell.
    My wife and and both had a related dream after watching the movie late lastnight, which for me always means it was a good movie in that it made an impression. I think alot of professional critics lose site that alot of people watch movies for pure escapism and a movie like this is certainly a rollercoaster of tense and jump out of your seat moments. It’s not an educational film or a comment on social this or that, just pure entertainment. I’d give this movie 5 stars to worth the time and memorable. If you liked 28 days later you’ll want to see this as well.

  3. DonLewis says:

    Re-read paragraph 3, Bob. I completely understood what was causing the craziness to occur, I was just trying to be vague to avoid spoilers. I also totally agree with your point about us not knowing who’s worse; the military or the crazed people. I just wanted a little more subtext rather than “a bio chemical leak made everyone sick and they’re killing people and now the military is here making ot worse.” That’s not subtext or layering, that’s dumbed down, on-the-nose filmmaking.

  4. Bob says:

    The reason for the growing insanity was first alluded to in a shot of two jets spewing “chemtrails” in the sky. Chemtrails are a hot topic among conspiracy theorists who blame them for all sorts of diseases. A military plane was found in the town’s water supply. The people who got sick first were the ones whose water supply was drawn closest to the downed jet. The movie clearly states some sort of weaponized viral agent in the downed jet was causing the problem. How did you miss that? Even though the movie was brainless as you say, it wasn’t pointless. The point of the movie was to question who “the crazies” really are, the zombie-like killers or the military who unleashed the zombie-creating virus on the world and then resorts to drastic measures to deal with the mess they made.

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