Thursday, March 4, 2010

Review: The Crazies

The Crazies is a rare breed- a horror remake that's actually quite good. Still, despite all that the film gets right, I left the theater feeling a little disappointed. More annoying is the fact I can't, for the life of me, figure out why I had that feeling.

The story is simple, but effective. I'd say it's cliche but, since it's based on a movie from 1973, the premise was probably pretty original back then. Today, though, we've all watched the government screw up big time and try to cover it up in explossive fashion about a million times.

So, here we are in Everytown, America, enjoying an afternoon baseball game when a local yokel shows up with a shotgun and a mean case of creepily-staring-off-into-space. Turns out this dude is street-rat crazy. I'm talking needlessly homicidal crazy.

Anyway, as the local sherriff, played by Timothy Olyphant, tries to figure out what the hell went wrong, a group of soldiers outfitted with big guns and gas masks storm in and put the sleepy town on lockdown as more and more people start coming down with the "I want to kill my neighbors" virus.

This is perhaps the film's strongest point. Between the perfectly normal, overly aggressive soldiers and the infected townfolk, you never really know which group to be more afraid of. I'm sure this says something about the human condition and our apparent need to kill one another, even without the help of a government created virus, but I'll leave that to the more scholarly reviewers to decide.

A big plus for The Crazies is the fact you actually care about the core group of survivors you spend most of the movie following around. They aren't the most lovable bunch, but you want to see everyone get through this whole mess safely. It's that very connection I find missing in the vast majority of horror films and, for that reason, the cast should be commended.

I think what bothered me the most was the fact the film was a bit too straightforward and the crazy folks only show up a handful of times. There's no big twists or reveals here. Nothing left to ponder. And as for the movie's namesake, the crazies are visually arresting and do a great job of creeping you out, but they simply aren't a big enough part of the film for my tastes.

I'd recommend The Crazies to any horror fan in desperate need of a fix. There simply aren't many quality films in the genre and, when a good one pops up, you pretty much need to make seeing it a priority. Go in looking for a few good scares, great "monster attack" set pieces and possibly the best knife-kill of the decade and you should be a happy camper.

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