Stop for just a second and imagine what it must be like to work with me.
Okay, so I held myself back (and didn't bother asking him "which one") and simply nodded that I was "familiar with it". He started to ask me if this wasn't the most derivative piece of crap movie ever made and that he'd seen it all before. I paused for a moment and asked "You do realize this is a REMAKE, right?"
He hadn't, but figured that was why it looked like it ripped off every Zombie Movie ever made. I stopped him right there and said that, while I, TOO, was sure that it would suck, I had to let him know that this was NOT a Zombie Movie, but was, in fact, a remake of a film by George Romero, the man who had reinvented the Zombie Genre with 1968's Night of the Living Dead and that his 1973 film The Crazies was another metaphorical horror adventure that used frightening situations to comment on society in ways that "Uncle George" does best and any similarities between the rampaging people in The Crazies and Zombies was either circumstantial or the makers of the new film had taken more liberties than the McCarthy Hearings... which wouldn't surprise me as all Romero Remakes tend to suck barnacled ankle!
At that point I opened my eyes and realized that said coworker had left for lunch with the rest of the department and that I was once again editorializing and evangelizing to nobody while other departments looked at me over their cubicle walls wondering what I was saying and to whom I thought I was saying it.
Yes, that's what it's like to work with me.
Regardless, The Crazies was soon released into theatres and once again, my daughter and I bellied up to the box office again to see what the latest crop of Romero Wannabes had done to one of his classics... and we were surprised. Why? Because The Crazies is not yet another in that trash heap of Bad Horror Remakes! We were shocked to note that the latest Romero Remake didn't reek or even suck, but was pretty good, really.
How is this possible? Well, probably because writers Ray Wright and Scott Kosar didn't try to outdo Romero or construct some wasted "Remake In Name Only", but did their best to channel what Romero did best, keeping the tension, the metaphor and the depth without sacrificing it all for cheap thrills and lame gratuities. This is ESPECIALLY surprising considering the fact that Scott Kosar was the writer of both the lame-ass Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake and the lame-ass Amityville Horror remake, both of which are models of how NOT to remake a horror flick. I salute you, Scotty-Boy!
It also doesn't hurt that director Breck Eisner took this remake seriously and approached it with an eye for what Uncle George had in mind if not a desire to remake the film scene-for-scene.
The film kicks off as a very peaceful and provincial town called Ogden Marsh, Iowa is settling into another normal, rural day... with the exception of the fact that the peaceful, provincial, normal, rural townsfolk are starting to act decidedly weird. How weird? Well, it starts when an otherwise ordinary local yokel named Rory Hamill (Mike Hickman) walks onto a High School Baseball field with a rifle and forces the good Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) to shoot the holy hell out of the man and send his immortal soul to somewhere hopefully even nicer than Ogden Marsh! Incidentally, that action manages to stop the baseball game but quick... even in a town as nice as Ogden Marsh.
Then again finding a place nicer than Ogden Marsh is about to get a whole lot easier as even more weird things start to take place. Soon after this another friendly resident named Bill Farnum (Brett Rickaby) torches his house after making damned sure his wife and kid (Christie Lynn Smith and Preston Bailey) are locked in said house as it burns hotter than a hunk-a, hunk-a love to the ever-lovin' ground. Then he just sits their calmly and chills out till the Sheriff and Fire Folks walk up to spank him. DICK MOVE!
Meanwhile David's wife Dr. Judy Dutton (Radha Mitchell) is noticing strange behavior in her patients including slow response time to simple questions (way simpler than "which Ragu tonight?") and repetitive statements (way more repetitive than that "I feel like Chicken Tonight" commercial). David's most trusted deputy Russell Clank (Joe Anderson, who clearly still believes that "Happiness is a Warm Gun") is called upon to investigate the unlikely claim that a plane crashed somewhere in the town's water supply. Hell, folks, these things aren't just unlikely or strange or weird... these things are downright... CRAZY.
And the rest of the otherwise very nice Ogden Marsh is starting to feel a little crazy too. Is this just some strange new trend, comparable to "Talk like a Pirate Day"? Maybe some national holiday that Sheriff Dutton was unaware of like "Act like a Jackass and stab your Neighbor with a PITCHFORK day"? Could the population be under the influence of some oddball plants like in The Happening? Has some strange radiation from outer space come down to mess with the inhabitants and raise the dead? Is there, maybe, something in the water in Ogden Marsh, or worse... something in the Ragu? And if so... what is the Government going to do about it?
Well, that part is easy... the Government is going to show up and quarantine the town like a Dharma Initiative hatch! As the guys in the gas masks with the guns and torches start to "rescue" the town, one had better believe there's an additional agenda somewhere in their creepy, crazy burocratic plan.
And that, true believers, is ONLY the beginning! It's never lost on anyone that whatever is turning the Ogden Marsh Lazies into absolute CRAZIES could take anyone over at any time and that just about every trusted friend the Duttons have ever had could become a potential enemy... at the drippity drop of a hat, man!
If Bill and Rory (and so, so many others) can go bad can Judy truly trust her dear friend and employee Becca Darling (Danielle Panabaker)? How far can David even trust Deputy Russell? Side note... if it came down to it, how far could David THROW Russell, seeing as how trusting people and throwing them seem to be measured similarly in the American Vernacular?
Then again, is the REAL enemy the government/ military presence that the good people of Ogden Marsh are running from the real enemies? Shouldn't the good guy survivors REALLY be attaching invaders like Private Billy Babcock (Joe Reegan) and that one Intelligence Officer dick played by Glenn Morshower? Then again, would doing something like THAT show that they TOO were crazy and, thus, infected and, thus, not such good guy survivors?
The guessing game of who is friend and who is enemy, who is helper and who is hinderer and when and where is what keeps the film interesting throughout. This is because the talented cast and crew execute the feel of the film very well and make sure they take things seriously even during the mild moments of uneasy comic relief. Further, in true Romero fashion this remake of The Crazies shows us that the real bad guys out there might not be the government who has control over us or the infected among us... but those people who were rotten at core to begin with and see the end of society as license to act like motherfuckers... way worse than the Crazies themselves.
That's the key here... The Crazies is surprisingly intelligent and well-crafted in each of its many layers. While this one isn't pure Romero, nor is it a direct remake, this version of the film has a good feel for Romero's intent and channels his metaphor and allegory quite well while still delivering a scary and action-oriented drama.
Still, the film isn't quite perfect. Like many of the current crop of horror films, The Crazies relies on a lot of jump-scares and startles (usually accompanied by loud noises) to remind the audience to be scared. The sad thing is that with the suspense that Eisner succeeds in building these gratuities are hardly necessary. Further there are a few plot contrivances that work to forward the story but don't always make a hell of a lot of logical sense when the dust settles. Still, the overall result is quite good and it feels very realistic (even foregoing some of the more comical aspects of Romero's original). So while The Crazies is still a 2010 Horror Remake... luckily it's not a BAD horror remake.
In short... the remake of The Crazies is marginally better than the original. I know, I know... you never thought after the Dawn of the Dead remake that I would say such a thing about any Romero remake. I'm as shocked to say that as you are to read it. That's because the remake of DOTD was on overrated, inconsistent and poorly realized film. It was popcorn. The original Crazies was good. Not as good as the original Dawn of the Dead, but it was a good film (with some excellent nudity). Somehow... the remake captures what Romero was going for VERY well and managed to up the ante in a few areas. It's not the BEST film out there, but I was very happy with it. Very.
It doesn't hurt that the director was given a talented cast to work with. Olyphant gives a serious and believable performance while Anderson seems canny even at his craziest. Meanwhile Mitchell is a strong but shocked victim of a world gone insane and represents what we, the audience, might be feeling if such a bizarre situation was real. Uncle George will always have my enduring admiration, loyalty, love and respect and the remakes of his films fall flatter than a short stack of flapjacks after an encounter with an elephant driven steam roller. Lucky for us there is one notable exception so far! Three and one Half Stars out of Five for The Crazies! It's not perfect, kids, but i also isn't the most derivative piece of crap movie ever made, nor have you seen it all before! Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go buy some beer. I think I heard some sort of crash late last night and I'll be damned if the water isn't tasting a might funny around here. So if it's all the same to you, I think I'll just stick to drinking the fruit of the barley. At least that way if I do happen to go crazy I'll have an excuse! See your crazy ass in the next reel, Jack!
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