This is a re-make of George A. Romero’s 1973 film, The Crazies. I have not seen the original yet so my review of this re-make would not be colored with expectations prompted by the original. However, I will provide a comparison in the near future.
Roger Corman is a man who has made careers’ worth of monster and horror movies on a shoe-string budget. At the Edinburgh International Film Festival last year, Corman highlighted the importance of theme and subtext in binding a project together and maintaining integrity. Newly-released horror flick The Crazies, however, is wading in the kiddie pool of film subtext.
The Crazies takes place in Ogden Marsh, Iowa, a town with less than 2,000 residents, whose portrayal cries out “Quaint Rural Living.” Farming is the main occupation, everyone plays baseball in the springtime, and the only minority you’ll likely encounter is the guy who buries you. Yep, life sure is great in Iowa–until Sheriff Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) has to shoot an armed man during a baseball game…and another guy burns his family alive…what the hell is going on?
To go any further would spoil it for you, but I can say that if you liked Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead (2004), a re-make of Romero’s original, you’ll love The Crazies: there are tons of blood, jumps, and action to entertain.
However, if you felt the Dawn re-make was a little flat compared to the original’s scathing critique of American consumerism, you’ll notice the same 2D feel in The Crazies. The movie is so busy rushing from one scare or battle to the next that it never gives itself the chance to develop the characters. The continuous pattern of “BOO!”, kill bad guy, move on to the next bit, made it feel like I was watching someone play Resident Evil (not to mention a shot of the destroyed town that reminded me of Raccoon City’s devastation).
The pacing, of course, is intended to distract you from a lack of substance. While speaking to a friend about the film, I realized the big problem is we don’t see the characters change in response to SPOILER a military quarantine, the ensuing massacre, and a nuclear bomb wiping out their town. SPOILER OVER Despite these major upheavals in their daily life, they’re still the same people at the end as they were in the beginning. Any time there was a quiet moment between Sheriff Dutton and his wife, I was awaiting another jump gag to pop into frame and preclude any meaningful dialog or growth.
The only point to all of this seems to be that the government and its military arm are bad; to make this statement, director Breck Eisner perpetuates myths of government control by displaying a military that has the manpower and the intel to quickly mobilize and completely quarantine a town within a 48 hour period.
We’re so busy tripping over our no-bid contracts, internal bureaucracy and corruption that we can’t effectively help refugees after a hurricane or fight a war. The sudden apparation of the military is reminiscent of Shaun of the Dead’s final act: in Shaun it was meant to be funny, but The Crazies just wants you to swallow your disbelief.
Finally, the plot plays into the myth of the American Individual, proclaiming that no matter what (refer to spoiler section), you can overcome it all and survive. Because you’re an American, goddamnit.
I was also bothered by a rather large plot hole MINOR SPOILER in which Sheriff Dutton stabs a “Crazy” infected woman in the throat, with a knife that is still lodged in his own hand, yet he does not become infected from the mixing of fluids. MINOR SPOILER OVER
Despite these issues, The Crazies is an okay horror film: kudos for practical effects and some directorial points. But it just doesn’t have the heart that would make it good or even great.
If you’re looking for a horror film with more meat on the bone, check out Carriers (see my review here*).
*go in expecting a drama horror, not a bunch of gore and jumps; otherwise you’ll be disappointed