Monday, March 8, 2010

The Crazies (2010)

I never saw George Romero’s original take on The Crazies (1973), so I can’t comment on this latest rendition as a remake. I do know Romero’s film about a town accidently infected by a manmade combat virus – and the military’s outlandishly extreme attempts to contain that mistake – was a deeply rooted reaction to Vietnam and the then recent Kent State shootings. And that same social paranoia would seem to translate rather appropriately to the now.
Directed by Breck Eisner, the modern Crazies brings steadfast support man Timothy Olyphant his first real leading role as small town Sheriff David Dutton (we’ll omit 2007’s Hitman, since it didn’t require any actual leading…or acting). When I say small town, I mean along the lines of population: 1,000, isolated by fields of corn and crop in middle-America Idaho. No sooner are we introduced to Dutton, his town doctor wife Judy (Radha Mitchell) and their quaint little dream world when a shotgun-clutching man struts into the middle of a baseball game ready to shatter their Americana. Said world quickly spirals downward into a hellish existence.

The Crazies isn’t a zombie film, although it’s akin to the likes of 28 Days Later (2002), and in more ways then one. While it is at times truly terrifying, it carries a gravitas absent in typical genre fare, and stays true to the original’s social intent. This is a movie meant to disturb, and it doesn’t have to rely on bloody chases or jumpy shadows to do that.

The story finds horror in the unexplainable. We never really get a reason why the infected become so aggressively violent, and we aren’t meant to. The events, the reasoning…it all feels so uncontrollably wrong, and that’s the point.

Olyphant is the everyman, a guy who, as sheriff, husband and expecting father, thinks he has the world in order. It’s all understood. It all makes sense. The film is a violent reaction to that complacent safety. It’s a shock to the system, an argument that NOTHING makes sense.

On the other hand, it’s also a genre flick, and it acts accordingly. Like Shutter Island (2010), Eisner’s film attempts to balance fun and purpose, and although it isn’t as schooled in its approach, it’s better than the average horror flick. Olyphant makes for an amicable lead, and Mitchell makes for an adequate lady in peril. Supporting player Joe Anderson (best known for his work in 2007’s Across the Universe, if anything) does the best character work in a sneaky role, showing promise for a career to come.

As does Eisner, who’s lined up to helm another remake with the upcoming return of Flash Gordon. His film isn’t groundbreaking, or amazing – we’ve seen a lot of this before, and often. But it’s sturdy, well-presented, and most importantly, entertaining.

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