Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Crazies (2010)

                The Crazies was originally a George Romero film released in 1973. The version in this review is the 2010 remake directed by Breck Eisner. It stars Timothy Olyphant as Sheriff David Dutton, and Radha Mitchell as his wife Dr Judy Dutton.

                Set in the fictional Ogden Marsh, Iowa the film follows David and Judy Dutton along with two other townspeople as they struggle to survive and make sense of why everybody has become murderous psychopaths.

                One thing that needs to be cleared up, this isn’t technically a zombie film. For me, zombies have to be the reanimated dead. The ‘Crazies’ are caused by a man-made virus which, when fatal, the bodies stop moving. This means the infected can be killed more conventionally, rather than the specific shot to the head. The fear in The Crazies doesn’t come from a shambling horde of creatures that never tire, and are basically impossible to kill; instead it comes from the fear of what happens when people are completely cut loose from their morality and become monsters.

                Other fears explored by The Crazies are; the paranoia surrounding infection, with the main four all fearing that they or the others are infected. It also looks at the fear of government bioweapons that are kept secret from the public, and the ways in which government forces take over in the event of an emergency and the drastic measures they take to keep their secrets “in the interest of the people”. However, despite these being very psychological fears, The Crazies isn’t a purely psychological horror. It begins with creepy, unexplained behaviour in an otherwise normal small town. This strange behaviour escalates into full blown murder, making the horror very visceral meaning this film is NOT for the squeamish. Just ask my Mum who passed out while watching.

                The Crazies isn’t just a simple gore-fest though. Whilst there are a few traditional horror tropes involved; for example, who doesn’t check all corners of a room when your town has been overrun by murderous psychopaths? It’s just common knowledge that the danger is always behind you. Plus, the teenage girl Becky is a little “scream-queen” at times; yet it isn’t as bad as in other horror films and it can be forgiven as it reminds the audience that she is only a teenager forced to deal with horrifying events.

                All the characters in The Crazies are very well scripted, again unlike most horror films. Olyphant (Dutton) plays a similar character to Rick Grimes from The Walking Dead TV series; a small town sheriff thrown into a catastrophe. Olyphant plays Dutton with a lot of steely emotion. A caring and sympathetic man forced to make life or death decisions, as well as trying to protect his wife and unborn child. The relationship created between Olyphant and Mitchell (Judy) is heartfelt and believable, you can feel the affection between them and the tensions caused by their traumatic situation. It is because of the scripting and acting that the characters are so easy to root for and makes their struggle for survival more gripping.

                The music used in The Crazies is a little unremarkable; it isn’t a dramatic, jarring score but instead is barely even there. However, this silence that occurs through the majority of them film means the music serves to highlight important plot developments. This is also repeated by the actors, what they don’t say is just as important as what they do. A trait that is often lost in modern cinema, and it's nice to see it used so effectively.
                So, is this a film worth watching? I would say, yes except it isn’t a particularly rewatchable film. Once seen it doesn’t have the same impact although still enjoyable. One big question is, how does it compare to the original Romero film? My answer is, I don’t know as I haven’t watched it. Yet. Once I have watched it I shall answer my own question for you. Watch this space.