Title: The Crazies
Year of Release: 2010
Date Viewed: August 13th, 2010
MPAA Rating: R
Nope, it's not a documentary on the Uwe Boll fan club. The Crazies is about a small town getting torn apart by its own citizens who have become suddenly...well, crazy for no apparent reason.
An update of the 1973 George A. Romero picture of the same name, The Crazies is not quite a zombie picture but it fits perfectly within the genre due to the fact that its countless antagonists have no working brains among them. (Insert your own joke here about whatever business or political group is on your pet peeve list.)
Set in the town of Ogden Marsh, local sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) and deputy Russell Clank (Joe Anderson) begin to suspect that something weird is in the air (or perhaps somewhere else) after a series of random murders and acts of aggression are demonstrated by many of the town's residents without any clear motives. The suspects walk around and act like normal people but seem completely oblivious to the world around them or general reason.
The sheriff's team soon discover a crashed airplane stuck in the deep forest near the place that the town depends on for their water supply. Whatever cargo the plane was carrying appeared to have been spilled in the water. Fearing the worst, sheriff Dutton stops the water pipes indefinitely but appears to be too late. More and more residents lose their minds and become sadistic killers. The situation becomes so chaotic that the military's biological hazard team step in to contain all residents of Ogden Marsh in an attempt to control the virus before it gets out of hand.
It's all too little too late. (Why is the military always useless in these kind of horror films?) The town of psychopaths overpower the containment crew, leaving Dutton, his deputy and their respective wives on their own to fight for survival. And even if they manage to stay alive, they have a bigger horror to worry about; a giant military bomb designed to exterminate all living beings occupying Ogden Marsh.
If you're looking for originality, you won't find much of it here. While the idea of presenting zombies as borderline human is a little different, most of the horror plot devices presented here have been done before. Audiences that have not seen Romero's original film will likely relate this story to 28 Days Later, albeit with slower moving villains.
The Crazies is a film that does all the little things right. Classic set-ups such as characters exploring the unknown while the audience watches and waits for something to pop out are done reasonably well and less predictable than most modern day horror films.
The characters serve a bigger purpose than just running and screaming. They exist to give the audience a point-of-view from a clueless bystander who is accustomed to wielding so much power now stuck in a mess where he is powerless. With one exception in a very effective scene, the story stays with sheriff Dutton's group the whole way through, opting not to dwell on the hows and whys of the deadly virus.
Among the sea of familiar scenarios, The Crazies boasts some welcome surprises as well. My favorite scene involves our heroes trapped in their vehicle as it moves through a drive-in car wash building with Crazies attempting to break in. Anyone who has ever driven through one of those things can tell you that the lack of visibility of surroundings can be a little intimidating or even frightening to the claustrophobic. So imagine how well the psychology of "fear of the unknown" can be explored in this setting. I might even go out on a limb and declare this to be one of my favorite horror scenes to come out of this past decade.
And even the moments that don't work so well can still be enjoyable. The movie often reaches a comfortable level of cheesiness without venturing into the realm of self-parody. It walks on a slippery slope but manages to stay on its feet.
The Crazies is not a bad choice for your next horror themed party. It is cheesy enough to be mocked and serious enough to be fully immersed in. Horror films can never be for everyone. But this one can probably appeal to enough people to find some much deserved appreciation.