Horror Movie Month: "The Crazies" Review

Photo Credit: Lions Gate Films

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Horror Movie Month: "The Crazies" Review

Rating: R
Length: 101 minutes
Release Date: Feb. 26, 2010
Directed by: Breck Eisner
Genre: Horror/Mystery/Thriller

"The Crazies" is a remake of a 1973 horror flick of the same name. It stars Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell and was directed by Breck Eisner. The film measures up to its name as it's a bit crazy. However, it's also smart and has several funny moments as well. The screenwriters, Ray Wright ("Pulse") and Scott Kosar ("The Texas Chainsaw Massacre"), are masters of climactic scenes, and they masterminded several scary jolts throughout the movie.

The film is set in the heart of America, in the quiet Iowan farming town of Ogden Marsh. In the opening scenes, the town is blissfully quiet, the landscapes are wide and beautiful, and the citizens seem assured of their safety and sanity. Unfortunately, the town's water supply becomes contaminated with a poison that has the power to turn ordinary people into crazies, and before anyone can understand what's happening, some of the townspeople begin to go berserk. Thanks to this hazardous event, the citizens of Ogden Marsh find out just how scary life can get.

As the town descends into chaos, countless horrors fill the screen. Regardless of the traumatizing events unfolding onscreen, the audience will be gripped by the fearful sensation of what could happen next. Ordinary people are suddenly filled with hatred toward those around them; one man even massacres the entire teenage baseball team. The town's only hope is Sheriff David Dutton (Olyphant).

When the government swoops in to quarantine the infected citizens, Dutton's wife (Mitchell) is accidentally locked up with those already infected. In a scene that's equal parts heroic, romantic, and scary, Dutton rescues his wife from the prison where the quarantined citizens are being held. At this point, the film takes a psychological left turn.

During the first half of the movie, there's a gore fest of psychologically gripping and bloody scenes, but in the second half, the film seems to take a twist toward a zombie-infused game of hide and seek. All the cat-and-mouse antics are surprisingly scary and well directed.

According to the government, anyone who leaves the town will be shot regardless of whether that person is infected or not. With seek-and-destroy helicopters circling overhead to enforce this edict, Sheriff Dutton and his wife realize they must stay in town and fight the crazies on their own terms. They're aided in their efforts by Deputy Russell (Joe Anderson) and a teenager named Becca (Danielle Panabaker).

Olyphant truly leads the ensemble cast, and his acting is one of the best parts of the film. He has a great onscreen relationship with Mitchell, and their characters are very believable. Anderson provides a welcome contrast to Olyphant and Mitchell. His character is an armed redneck, and he is arguably the funniest character in the movie. In spite of great acting from these three stars, many of the film's lesser characters also make a big onscreen splash. In one particularly well-acted scene, a couple dies on their front lawn as the government napalms them. Scenes such as this carry the risk of being over the top, but the artful direction and incredible acting make them just perfect.

Although the film's plot is very straightforward and easy to follow, several subplots really have the power to get audiences thinking. One of the most important of these has to do with the government's role in the incident. After Dutton realizes that the toxin turning the townsfolk crazy is coming from the town's water supply, he begs the mayor to shut down the water. The mayor refuses because the townspeople need the water to irrigate their fields. Scenes such as this one paint the local government as both incompetent and idiotic while leaving room for the federal government to be the possible bad guy, especially when the sheriff discovers the water was actually contaminated by a military plane that crashed.

Audiences who haven't seen the 1973 version of "The Crazies" may wonder how this remake differs from its predecessor. A big difference is the original was set in Pennsylvania, but this remake is set in Iowa. However, the biggest difference is the original version explores the military's opinion on the matter while the remake ignores the government's point of view almost entirely. However, there are more similarities than differences between these two films. George Romero, who directed the original, was actually an executive producer for the remake.

"The Crazies" is smart and scary, and it goes beyond the average horror movie. It makes viewers ask themselves what would happen if their friends suddenly turned into crazy killers and what if the government wouldn't let anyone leave town. The answers are entertainingly explored in this film.

Rating: 3 out of 5