The Crazies is based on the 1973 George A. Romero flick of the same name and joins the ranks of newly remade apocalyptic scenarios, though this 2010 version borrows only marginally from the original.
While Crazies '73 was set in Pennsylvania, this time the plot revolves around the inhabitants of Ogden Marsh, a small Iowa town suddenly plagued by an outbreak of insanity and death after a mysterious toxin contaminates their water supply. From the opening scene of a disheveled guy interrupting a kids' softball game carrying a shotgun, Sherriff Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) and Deputy Clank (Joe Anderson) figure something is wrong in their little community. Bouts of insanity are eventually traced to the town's water supply where a plane has mysteriously crashed. Afterward the military moves in, dispensing martial law and wiping Ogden Marsh off the map along with all its inhabitants, infected or not. Where the 1973 classic was more politically motivated, dead set on making parallels to the Vietnam War, the Kent State shootings, this Crazies is more personal, focusing on Sheriff Dutton and his wife/ town doctor (Radha Mitchell) as they battle the evil gas-mask-wearing military on one side and vein-popping wide-eyed crazies on the other.
The music begins with Johnny Cash and ends with Willie Nelson giving this an artsy, slow-paced, Dawn of the Dead feel. Sandwiched in between are some decent moments and some requisite jolting scares, but the film leans toward silent haunting rather than overkill.
Brought to us from director Breck Eisner (of the dreadful Sahara), The Crazies has a semblance of style thanks to cinematographer Maxime Alexandre's (High Tension) atmospheric touch. But it seems for every good facet, there's an equally lame counterpart. There's some blood and gore, but mostly as an afterthought, with most of the blood splattering taking place off screen. Unlike most zombie flicks, the infected are primarily revealed in startling out-of-nowhere close-ups. When these zombies let us see their insanity, it's a crapshoot as to what they are capable of. They don't just eat brains - they like to mess with things. Think of it as zombies with an agenda.
Anderson (The Ruins) was fun to watch, thanks to his handle on his character's spiral-into-madness development. The rest of the acting was adequate amidst the bad dialogue, but something about the persistence and interaction between the characters kept it alive. With only a mention of biological warfare and dropping any political undercurrents, The Crazies has the feel of a sleepwalking Invasion of the Body Snatchers (both versions) combined with the campy hazmat blockbuster Outbreak. The Crazies, although not a great movie by any standards, holds it own. In this age of overwrought Michael Bay remakes and '70s horror take-offs, The Crazies was refreshingly sane.
The Crazies ★★1/2✩✩
Starring Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson. Directed Breck Eisner. Rated R