The Crazies (2010)

The Crazies (2010)

Radha Mitchell finds that working in a horror remake is a scream.

(2010) Horror (Overture) Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Danielle Panabaker, Joe Anderson, Christie Lynn Smith, Brett Rickaby, John Aylward, Preston Bailey, Joe Reegan, Glenn Morshower, Larry Cedar, Mike Hickman. Directed by Breck Eisner

It is one thing to live in the perfect small town. It is another to live in a small town full of homicidal maniacs. It is absolutely unsettling to watch one turn into the other.

Ogden Marsh, Iowa is one such perfect small town. Its springtime, the first day of the baseball season and the local team is playing one from a neighboring town. In the stands cheering away are Sheriff David Dutten (Olyphant) and his trusted right hand man Deputy Russell Clank (Anderson). What could be a better situation than that?

That’s when Rory Hamill (Hickman), the town drunk, steps onto the playing field with a loaded shotgun. Rory has never been a particularly violent man so it is something of a surprise. Then when he brings it up to bear, Sheriff Dutten is forced to shoot Rory dead.

Things go from bad to worse. Other people in town are beginning to show signs of strange behavior. Sheriff Dave’s wife Judy (Mitchell), the town doctor, can’t find anything wrong with anybody, they’re just acting robotic. Then they go crazy – violently crazy. One of her patients, Bill Farnum (Rickaby) sets his own house on fire – with his wife and son locked inside of it.

Sheriff Dave calls for help and gets it, but not the kind he expects. The army comes in and cordons off the town. Nobody can enter or leave. Those that attempt to escape are shot dead. Those inside the town who exhibit signs of a fever (as Judy does since she’s pregnant) are separated from the rest of the population. The fevered few all start to go crazy. Dave and Russell, both feeling fine, affect a rescue of Judy just as crazed townspeople storm the gates. In amidst the chaos and frenzy of crazed townspeople killing one another, Dave and Russell free Judy and her receptionist Becca (Panabaker) and try to find a way out of the stricken town – while outside, the military makes its own ominous plans.

This is based on a 1973 movie by horror legend George A. Romero. That movie was much less slick, much sparer in its design and in many ways, much more disturbing. The new one is chock full of scares and works more as a traditional horror movie while the original was a bit of an allegory about Vietnam war-era paranoia and general distrust of anything that resembled what we think of as normal. Romero was all about sticking it to “The Man.”

Eisner, whose last film was the box office bomb Sahara, shows a surprisingly deft hand here, keeping the horror coming at a breathtaking speed once things really get out of hand. Much of the horror doesn’t derive from the gore and the vein-y faces of the infected but from the situations where parents kill children, children kills parents and everyone hates the doctor.

Olyphant is one of those leading men who always seems like he should be getting much better roles than he does but for whatever reason hasn’t connected with an audience quite yet. This probably isn’t the role for him to break out with – the character is a by-the-numbers horror hero who in most regards doesn’t have a whole lot that’s special about him. Veteran genre performer Mitchell (Pitch Black) does solidly in her role as the town doctor but Anderson plays the twitchy Russell very memorably. He is the character that you’ll most likely remember with the most clarity.

This is a solid horror movie with nice scares delivered well. Eisner, who seemed over his head for much of Sahara, seems much more comfortable here. To my way of thinking, this is one of the better horror remakes of the recent rash of them to date and if Eisner wants to do more along this vein, I say let him. He’s certainly got the right touch for it.

WHY RENT THIS: Nice build-up and some really disturbing images. Olyphant, Mitchell and Anderson all do bang-up jobs.  

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: There are a few too many horror clichés here and could have used a little more attention to character.

FAMILY VALUES: Lots of violence, plenty of love and appropriately foul language.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Lynn Lowery, who co-starred in the 1973 version, cameos as an infected local riding a bicycle through the deserted center of town.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There is a motion comic summarizing events prior to the movie, as well as a nice little feature on George A. Romero, director of the 1973 version, and his effect on movie horror.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $54.6M on a $20M production budget; the movie was profitable.

FINAL RATING: 6/10

TOMORROW: Sorority Row

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