Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Movie Review: The Crazies

The Crazies ** ½
Directed by:
Breck Eisner
Written By: Scott Kosar and Ray Wright based on the movie by George A. Romero.
Starring: Timothy Olyphant (David Dutton), Radha Mitchell (Judy Dutton), Joe Anderson (Russell Clank), Danielle Panabaker (Becca Darling), Christie Lynn Smith (Deardra Farnum), Brett Rickaby (Bill Farnum), Preston Bailey (Nicholas), John Aylward (Mayor Hobbs).

Considering this is the third remake in recent years of a George A. Romero classic in recent years (following Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead – the latter of which went straight to video), you would think that the aging horror master would have an easier time getting funding for his own movies. Romero’s 1973 film The Crazies may not rank among the directors finest works, but it is certainly one of the seminal “outbreak” movies, where a small town is subject to a new kind of virus that turns them all either kills the townspeople, or turns them into homicidal maniacs.

Breck Eisner’s new version of the Romero film stays pretty close to the plot of the original, but does make some changes as well (the military, which was a major subplot in the original, is basically faceless in this movie – an evil presence merely glimpsed at. And also, anyone hoping to see to a repeat of the father/daughter sex scene of the original, will be disappointed by it not being here this time around, and should also probably get some sort of psychological help). But other than that, it is basically the same. The small town starts to see strange things happening, as one by one the residents become homicidal. Soon, the entire town is infected; except for our “heroes” cop David (Timothy Olyphant), his pregnant doctor wife Judith (Radha Mitchell), his deputy Russell (Joe Anderson), and innocent teenager Becca (Danielle Panabaker). These four people band together and try to get out of town, while having to avoid the military who seem to want to slaughter everyone in town.

I enjoyed the first half of the movie much more than the second. In that half, Eisner does an excellent job at building paranoia and fear in this small community. The dark, foreboding nature of the this half is excellently played, and the film’s best scene is easily the one at the high school where people with the virus are strapped to gurneys as a principal goes crazy and starts stabbing people with his pitchfork. The suspense and terror felt in this scene is real and terrifying – much more so than the journey the four main characters make in the films second half.

I am also disappointed that the film has, like Dawn of the Dead before it, completely jettisoned Romero’s social commentary. Like many Romero films, The Crazies painted the military in a harsh, unflattering light. It is an uncaring, unfeeling organization, run by idiots who cannot see the forest for the trees, and blindly follow orders, no matter if they make sense or not. Not only are the much crueler in the Romero film, they are also much stupider – not allowing the doctor to continue to try and find a cure, which he does so anyway, but has it destroyed when the “crazies” attack him. That film also had a much bleaker, uncompromising ending – not that this ending is happy, just that it does spare the audience more pain than Romero did.

Perhaps I would have liked The Crazies more than I did had I not been a fan of Romero’s original version. Watching this version, I couldn’t help but think how much better it would have been had they merely cut the budget in half, and let Romero remake his own film – this time with a real budget. Nearly 40 years after the original film came out Romero still labors away with small budgets on his movies, while his old films get remade with more money, and less brains. It really is enough to drive you crazy.

No comments:

Post a Comment