Monday, 8 March 2010
Plot Summary: About the inhabitants of a small Iowa town suddenly plagued by insanity and then death after a mysterious toxin contaminates their water supply.
The horror genre has been plagued by a trend in remakes for the last ten years, some of which have been good, many of which have been terrible. This time it’s zombie film-making legend George A. Romero’s turn as his 1973 film, also entitled The Crazies, has been given the remake treatment. The common consensus is that remakes usually work best when the original film had a good concept but was let down by its delivery. If this is true then The Crazies is a perfect candidate for a remake as Romero’s film had an original and politically edgy set-up but was given a minuscule budget and was, quite frankly, rather poorly directed. Thankfully Breck Eisner’s update was given a much higher budget and ends up being better than its predecessor in almost every way, providing a solid, if not outstanding, horror experience.
The film begins, rather bravely, on an image of the town in ruin. This bleak opener lets the audience know what they’re in for as the film slowly builds up the tension until all hell breaks loose. This is one thing that The Crazies does very well in much of its later scenes (especially in comparison with the original); building up tension and then providing an unflinching and gory finish. Eisner knows just how long to hold back the action, creating a creepy and tense atmosphere, and when he lets rip the resulting carnage is never less than satisfying. The cinematography, along with a suitably eerie score, compliments these scenes well, tingeing the images with a dark and gritty spectrum of greens. The Crazies also does a good job of making its audience respect its two core characters, a job too often neglected by similar genre offerings.
Married couple David and Judy are not idiots, they’re trained professionals (a police officer and doctor, respectfully) who won’t have you shouting at the screen in disbelief. It helps then, that both Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell also deliver solid performances which do their roles justice throughout. The main appeal of The Crazies is of course, the core concept. There is a virus loose in your hometown and it’s turning everyone you know into the murderous ‘crazies’ of the title. Not only this, but the government, aided by the military, must contain the virus by any means necessary before it goes global. The scenes of containment, its failure and the attempted clean-up involving the military are indeed genuinely shocking as families are separated without explanation, shot down in cold blood and eventually victims of mass burnings in an attempt to contain the biological hazard (provoking comparisons in one’s mind to many a historical incident).
This is, however, also where the film falls short. Since the release of Romero’s original in 1973 countless horror films have depicted ruthless states of martial law (28 Weeks Later standing as one of the better recent examples) which leaves The Crazies with little new to say. Additionally, even though this is the superior version, the original dealt with this subject matter with much more depth. Other, unrelated, problems also pervade the film. For all its tension building The Crazies is often host to many obvious jump scares, and also a number of false scares that at times it verges on the ridiculous. These techniques are overused in the genre and are rather tired. There are a number of glaring plot holes throughout the film (how did David get back to the police station? Do you die that quickly from being hung?) and the ending is also particularly underwhelming. Nevertheless, The Crazies is a surprisingly good remake and one of the more enjoyable horror films to grace the screen in recent months.
Final Verdict: 6/10