March 1, 2010

The Crazies (REVIEW)


The Crazies (2010)

Director: Breck Eisner


2/5 zedheads

The only thing crazy about The Crazies remake is how long, boring, and pointless it feels. It's not an incompetent movie, but there is just not enough story and material to fill its 101 minute running time. As a result, the film feels like it has graduated from the video-game school of film structure: move the characters to a new setting, have them fight a bad guy, move on to the next setting, fight another bad guy and repeat until conclusion. Game Over.

A remake of George Romero's The Crazies (1973), this film follows the same premise almost to the letter. The town people in a small rural community begin to go insane after a military-engineered bio-toxin contaminates their water supply. Not only must the infected escape their unpredictable neighbors but also outrun the ruthless extermination squads of the US military seeking to quarantine the area. Where The Crazies (2010) departs from the original is in the portrayal of the infected. To the best of my memory, in Romero's film the people just develop mental illnesses. Many become violent as a result, others become suicidal, and others just become incoherent. In the remake, the infected too develop signs of mental illness and quickly become violent if not still somewhat rational, but in the final stages they seem to become animalistic killers. For this reason, The Crazies just barely squeaks by as a zombie film. In my definition of "zombie," I make allowances for the living who have become, in some way, reduced to murderous impulses or rendered mindless and brought under the control of some other person or agent. While most of the "crazies" retain some sense of direction and control, others appear nothing more than mindless animals. It is these very few I call zombies in the same way that I would hesitantly call Umberto Lenzi's Nightmare City (1983) a zombie film.

(If you keep reading, I promise to show you a barenaked lady! Deal? Deal! )

Zombie debate aside, there's not really much "zombie" action in the film. Our protagonists Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant), his doctor wife Judy (Radha Mitchell), deputy Russell (Joe Anderson), and highschooler Becca (Danielle Panabaker) escape the military quarantine and try to escape the town of Odgend Marsh with their lives and minds intact. Except for two very good fight scenes (one in a mortuary and one featuring a very creative kill with a knife), the film plods along with nothing but lame jump scares, broadly defined characters, and not a touch of the social commentary that made Romero's original and flawed film likable. The film conveys no sense of dread and little sense of paranoia. You've got a perfect scenario in which characters are put in a high-stress environments. Some are going to go crazy because of the toxin, others are just going to go crazy with the pressure. You have a perfect scene to let paranoia and suspicion set the characters at odds, but this scenario does not become a part of the film because it would detract from the action sequences and video-game inspired "boss battles." Every other attempt to create a sense of horror falls flat. Count how many times the director thinks it's scary to reveal that a crazy person has been standing in the background of a scene BUT THE CHARACTER DIDN'T SEE THEM!!! AAAAAH!!!!! Maybe it works the first time, but the next two or three lose their edge.

It was somewhat fun seeing Olyphant play another Sheriff (he is famous for his portrayal of Seth Bullock on HBO's Deadwood), but this alone is not enough to justify the tedious pace of the story. Skip The Crazies and do the sane thing: save your money.

Let's end with a better piece of entertainment - that barenaked lady I promised you. Ed Robertson of The Barenaked Ladies, that is, singing the song "Crazy" in his bathroom. Take it away, Ed!