The Crazies (2010)
The remake of The Crazies starts out with two strikes against it: it’s a remake of a well-liked 70’s horror film, and it’s directed by Breck Eisner, whose previous directorial effort was the infamous 2005 flop Sahara. So I went into it with somewhat tempered expectations. I’m happy to say that it overcomes these handicaps enough to be a pretty decent horror movie, although one that has definite weaknesses.
When some of the residents of Ogden Marsh, Iowa start acting strangely, Sheriff David Dutten quickly comes to suspect that something’s gotten into the town’s water supply which is affecting them. Pretty soon, the military’s blocked off the town, and tests the townspeople for the symptoms of a new bio weapon. Those who have a high enough temperature are thought to be infected, strapped to gurneys and quarantined, while the ones who pass the test get released to a truck stop outside of town. When the sheriff gets released, he immediately sneaks back into town in order to save his wife, who’s quarantined after giving what he insists is a false positive. From there, it’s a desperate race with his wife, his deputy, and a teenage girl to escape both the crazies and the increasingly trigger-happy military.
There are a lot of things The Crazies does right: it certainly earns its R rating, with plenty of language and enough gore to keep the crowds happy. It’s well-shot, and Eisner does a fine job in staging a couple of set pieces which I really wish hadn’t gotten spoiled in the trailer, particularly an innovative take on the old horror trope of the non-starting car. The movie is also greatly helped by the strong performances of its leads. Olyphant, Radha Mitchell as his doctor wife, and most of all, Joe Anderson as his deputy.
With all of those things going for it, it’s a shame The Crazies handicaps itself in a number of ways. There’s a least 3 instances of that old cliché in which a character gets saved by someone off-screen, and you’ll probably call it before it happens every time. It also relies way too heavily on cheap jump scares, usually accompanied by a sound sting, and it begins to wear on you after a short time. The movie does a good enough job of building up suspense to do without them, and they become more funny than scary pretty quickly. And the less said about its obvious (and ridiculous) ending, the better.
Despite these weaknesses, The Crazies works well enough. It’s a well-paced, well-acted horror film that’s definitely better than the usually dumb studio horror films we normally get these days. Although it lacks the commentary of the original, it stands well enough on its own to be worth seeing. It’s creepy and clever, and we don’t get enough of that in mainstream horror these days.
– By Ray