The Crazies - Film Review

Posted on 26. Feb, 2010 by in Film/TV

by Todd Gilchrist

The thing about zombie movies is that I really don’t care at all why people become zombies. That is the least important and, at a certain point, least interesting part of the plot of any movie featuring undead, deeply sick, ravenous, violent monsters. However, the fact that The Crazies tries to come up with that explanation – half-assed as it is – seems to be a concession to the non-horror audiences that director Breck Eisner hopes he will be drawing into theaters when the film opens this weekend. (Although technically speaking, the assailants in The Crazies are not full-fledged zombies but insane living persons, many audiences will be hard-pressed to tell the difference once they start oozing unhealthy looking fluids and shrieking with homicidal rage.)

A definite mainstream thriller that masquerades as a remake of a cult classic, The Crazies is remarkably effective as scary populist entertainment but may not make an impact with genre fanboys and girls.

4 shot The Crazies   Film Review

Joe Anderson, Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell and Danielle Panabaker

Timothy Olyphant (The Perfect Getaway) plays David Dutton, an Iowa sheriff who stumbles across a military cover-up after townspeople start to act unpredictable and violent towards one another. Enlisting his wife Judy (Radha Mitchell), a deputy named Russell (Joe Anderson) and Judy’s receptionist Becca (Danielle Panabaker), David escapes a military camp for the infected and heads out of town, hoping to get away from trigger-happy soldiers and ravenous, homicidal monsters alike, encountering both en route to supposed freedom.

Although Eisner claims to be a real genre fan, his first film was the more generously-budgeted Sahara, and it’s the crowd-pleaser in him that seems to steer this material away from its truly dark impulses towards something scary but more conventionally suspenseful. That actually isn’t a bad thing: set pieces play out more entertainingly by focusing on the characters’ emotions rather than their entrails, and the movie as a whole moves with an efficiency and fluidity that makes you enjoy even its most clichéd moments. Eisner’s ability to hone in on the immediate on screen threat and distract viewers from the real one is a gift, and even if all of the material isn’t up to the same level of sophistication, he makes most of it work, with a craftsman’s sense of style.

Unfortunately, Mitchell mismanages her character’s terror, and later, trauma, focusing the audience’s ire on her bad decisions (seriously? It doesn’t occur to her not to drink water after she determines it’s dangerous to do so?). But movies always need a good bad guy, that character we love to hate, and the movie is chock-full of ones that we can genuinely get behind, and get into being scared by their bad behavior, that her transgressions are relatively forgivable. Ultimately, The Crazies isn’t a masterpiece, but it seems bound for crossover success because it maintains a level of intensity and gore without grossing audiences out. All of which means that much like zombies themselves, it works better with less analysis or explanation, since all you want in a movie like this is to be scared, and in that capacity it does that just fine.

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