If you lived in Iowa, you'd be crazy too
In previous reviews, I've talked about how horror remakes are not necessarily a bad thing. Many horror remakes nowadays are a simple cash-grab, piggybacking off mostly well-known movies in hopes of making a buck. A great example of this is Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes production company, who have remade the decent A Nightmare on Elm St, the passable Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and the horrendous The Hitcher. For every 5 terrible horror remakes, though, there lies a great one, bringing a lesser-known movie to a new audience with an updated take. The 1982 version of The Thing was probably the best example of an a horror movie remake being better than the original. Can the same be said for a remake of a lesser-known George Romero film?
The Crazies is a 2010 remake of the 1973 horror movie by George Romero (Night Of The Living Dead, Monkey Shines). This version stars Timothy Olyphant (Deadwood, Justified) as David, the local sheriff in the small town of Ogden Marsh, Iowa. During a high school baseball game, when Rory Hamill, a local resident, wanders onto the field brandishing a shotgun. David clears the field and approaches Rory while his deputy, Russell Clank (Joe Anderson, The Ruins, Across The Universe) covers him. Rory, unresponsive to demands to stop, raises his gun and David shoots him dead. David is shaken, but comforted by his wife Judy (Radha Mitchell, Silent Hill, Pitch Black) the local doctor. Other townspeople begin to exhibit strange behavior, including Judy's brother-in-law, who kills her sister and nephew and sets their house on fire. The next day, David and Russell are called out to a swamp where a dead pilot was found by hunters. David discovers the pilot's military plane submerged underwater, the same body of water that supplies the town. David manually shuts down the water after being denied by the mayor. When he returns to town, he finds it deserted, save for a black SUV that speeds off when he gets close. The town is then swarmed by the military and scientists, quarantining the area and separating the townspeople by who is infected and who is not. Judy is deemed infected despite explaining her fever is due to her being pregnant. David and Russell are able to rescue Judy and Becca, her assistant, before an infected person, or Crazy, is able to kill them. On the run, the group has to hide from the soldiers and fight off the Crazies. Becca is killed when they get stuck inside an automatic car wash and their car is blown up by a helicopter. Russell becomes more agitated and aggressive as the continue on and uses spike strips to stop an oncoming SUV, causing it to flip repeatedly. David questions the official inside and learns that the town is infected with a biological weapon called “Trixie”. Enraged, Russell shoots him in the head. Between the military and a now infected Ruseell, how will David and Judy escape and survive.
Wizard of Oz gets grim and gritty
While this version of The Crazies does have the same basic story, names, and overtones as the original, it really is it's own movie. The original had a subplot involving government officials and delved into some other themes that the remake skipped over for the better. This version is more streamlined with an easily to follow story, likable characters, and better action. The Crazies is essentially a zombie movie without the traditional zombies, but still maintains the political and social commentary. The movie smartly raises the question of government involvement, suppression, and biological war. The infected people can no longer control their actions and almost anybody could become one, pitting neighbors against neighbors. We the audience are conflicted because while we want David and Judy to escape the containment, but put the rest of the world at risk. It's this conflict that makes the movie both thrilling and compelling.
The movie is highly entertaining thanks to solid action and great acting. There is danger around every corner in The Crazies making for some very good scares. There is a good amount of violence with lots of blood and some gore. The Crazies look very good with specific, believable makeup. Director Breck Eisner (Sahara, Fear Itself) made sure that the makeup for the Crazies came from real-life diseases. This attention to detail made the movie more believable and maintained the Crazies human traits. As someone who has seen a lot of zombie movies, it was a little weird to hear the Crazies speak and be coherent, but since this isn't a traditional zombie movie, it's fine. Breck does a good job of capturing both the action and fear in the movie, making for a fast-paced and exciting watch. Timothy Olyphant is great in his role, which should be no surprise since he plays a law officer in Deadwood, Gone In Sixty Seconds, and Justified. This isn't new ground for him. Radha Mitchell is good as well, exuding confidence and love. Joe Anderson puts in the best performance as Russell, becoming more and more unhinged as the movie progresses. As someone who has spent an extended period of time in Iowa, the location for the movie is a great choice. It is isolated, plain and boring, an unsuspecting “All American” place where nothing can seemingly go wrong.
"Uh, I'll just ask someone else for directions."
The Crazies is able of breaking the horror remake curse by bringing a lesser-known horror movie to a new audience while improving upon the original. This version maintains the strong social commentary and the heart of the original movie. It is essentially a zombie movie without all the brain-eating and head shooting. The action is much better thanks to a bigger budget and effects. There is a good amount of blood and gore with lots of variation. Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, and Joe Anderson all put in very good performances which help make the movie believable. When a movie is as good as The Crazies, it's hard to completely be against horror remakes.