Review

The Crazies

Director    Breck Eisner
Starring    Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson, Danielle Panabaker, Christie Lynn Smith, Brett Rickaby
Release    26 FEB (US) 26 FEB (UK)    Certificate 15
3 stars

Rob

25th February 2010

Welcome to small town Iowa, where everyone owns a farm, the police wear jeans, there are cornfields aplenty, and baseball games are rudely interrupted by maniacal hillbillies wielding shotguns. Oh, and it's probably best to take your own water, too.

After an unknown chemical toxin contaminates the town's H20 supply, the residents of Ogden Marsh suddenly became plagued by insanity - farmers burning down their farms, leaving their combine harvesters running, killing their loved ones, that sort of ill behaviour. The uninfected few must fight their way out of town, or face being shot on sight, with the military desperate to keep the town quarantined and the shit-storm covered up.

A remake of George A Romero's 1973 horror classic, Breck Eisner's retooling sticks pretty close to the original source material. But with recent films playing the "they're not zombies, they're just infected" card, it can be tough for one to stand out. I for one blame Danny Boyle. However, what makes The Crazies more 28 Days Later and less I Am Legend is the logic behind the infected. This lot aren't zombies, nor are they crudely animated vampire types, and they're certainly not contagious, bitey types - they're merely mentally unstable, homicidal hicks who drank from the wrong can. The Crazies is a good idea, executed well.

[gallery]Despite not having the greatest track record on the big screen (thank God for Deadwood), Timothy Olyphant is a difficult actor to dislike and is a very watchable leading man as the town's ever-optimistic Sheriff, David Dutton. The rest of the survivors, including Dutton's pregnant wife Judy (Radha Mitchell), his trigger-happy, denim-clad deputy Russell (Anderson) and nurse Becca (Panabaker), do what's expected of them - they scream, they shout, they shoot some guns: nothing too tough. Easy paycheques are in the post.

Unlike the Romero original, where the government plays a large part of the story, Eisner has opted for a different route and totally disregarded this sub-plot, opting to keep the film localised and builing a brooding sense of isolation. As in Cloverfield, we the viewer know about as much of what's going on as the protagonists. The only links to the outside world are a captured expositional grunt and an injured government agent pulled from a car crash.

Nevertheless, like Romero's version - released in the shadow of the Vietnam War, Watergate and the general era of government distrust - The Crazies carries with it the message and social commentary of the impact biological weapons can have. It was relevant back in the seventies, and it's still just as relevant in 2010. The world is still at war, nations are still flirting with the idea of bio-warfare and government distrust is even higher than ever. Good thing people still dig zombie movies too.

What we have here is a thought-provoking horror movie that's saturated with political undertones. That said, it's also an effective and humble homage to old-school B-movies, in particular to a director who didn't pussy-foot around blood, gore and suspense. George Romero should be proud.

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