Synopsis: In this terrifying glimpse into the “American Dream” gone wrong, an unexplainable phenomenon has taken over the citizens of Ogden Marsh. One by one the townsfolk are falling victim to an unknown toxin and are turning sadistically violent. People who days ago lived quiet, unremarkable lives are now depraved, bloodthirsty killers.
While Sheriff Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) and his pregnant wife, Judy (Radha Mitchell), try to make sense of the escalating violence, the government uses deadly force to close off all access and won’t let anyone in or out – even those uninfected. An ordinary night becomes a horrifying struggle for the new remaining survivors as they do their best to get out of town alive.
‘The Crazies’ is a remake of the 1973 George Romero cult favourite. I’ve seen the original a few years ago and only remember it vaguely; I know that I had enjoyed it, despite its extremely low budget and inconsistent acting, but that’s about all I can recall at this time (other than the basic premise: a virus turns the residents of a small town into demented killers – enter the military to clean things up).
When the remake came out, I was a little sceptical: Romero’s film was hardly a classic and there is no real need to put a modern spin on a tale that finds itself comfortably nestled somewhere between superior genre films such as ’28 Days Later’ and ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’; it felt kind of redundant, déjà vu. On top of that, even though I should know better, the title sounds a little simple-minded and hokey; it really served to ward me off.
But, in light of my Romero “marathon” of late, and the fact that I was preparing to watch a series of remakes of John Caprpenter films, I decided that ‘The Crazies (2010)’ might make for a great bridge between the two. So, in the name of doing things properly, I held my breath and picked it up.
Honest to goodness, I’m happy that I did.
The unique thing about this twist on the zombie and stalker genres is that everyone acts crazy in this film – so it means that there are many threats, and they could be anywhere. That might appear overwhelming, but, to even things out and give our heroes a chance of survival, the town’s population was quickly thinned out, and those who were infected aren’t super-killers like Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers; the encounters, while feeling dangerous, are simple one-on-one battles.
The first 30 minutes proved to be an excellent set-up: the tension was palpable and the main character made all the correct, proper and efficient decisions he could possibly have made in such a situation (unlike the way they usually do in horror films, like running up the stairs ); he was brave, wise and had forethought in a way that we rarely see in Hollywood cinema. Very nice.
I also liked that there was no star casting, even with the leads – it kept things “real”. The problem with star vehicles is that they become ‘Tom Cruise/Tom Hanks/Julia Roberts’ movies – they’re no longer just a good story. Furthermore, in the same vein, there were a lot of relatively attractive people in the film, but they were not the standard Hollywood types. This helped to sell the notion that we were in small-town America – not in a fabricated cinematic daydream.
So I was enjoying myself tremendously – until one of the main characters decided to go back for his wife, that is. Maybe it’s just me, but it felt out of character and all-too-clichéd for my taste. It seemed like it was the incorrect thing to do at that point, in light of all that was happening (but then, bravery and smarts don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand). From that point onward, the story developed along “average”, familiar lines; it was good, solid fare, but it was fairly conventional post-apocalyptic, “zombie” stuff – nothing more.
Still, I only had one beef with the film, actually, and it’s when the male lead gets stabbed right through his hand and yet retains the use of it for the rest of the film. That didn’t seem realistic to me: even if he could still use it, it would have been painful and awkward at best. Furthermore, since he had direct blood contact with an infected person at that point (he used his knived hand to stab and kill his assailant), he should have been quickly infected as well. Not so. Not even close.
Otherwise, I thought that ‘The Crazies (2010)’ was a surprisingly solid effort. I have no idea how close it is to the Romero version, seeing as I haven’t watched it in years, but I do recall liking that first one less. So I suppose that, in the grand scheme of things, this remake is a success – if it can take the ramshackle pieces of the original and build something consistent and entertaining, all I can say to that is: well done!