Friday, February 26, 2010

'The Crazies' (2010) Review

It takes alot to get me into a theater on opening day. Don't get me wrong, I love the experience: the scope, the sound, the brushed aluminum flask hidden securely in the front of my Fruit of the Looms. But as much as I love watching a film on the big screen, I often steer clear for one simple reason: the crowds. I'm not someone who is typically antisocial. I however, like to watch my movies in SILENCE; not with constant chatter, cell phones lighting up, and the continual crunch and smack of popcorn and Goobers. So it says something about my anticipation for Breck Eisner's remake of The Crazies, that I slid off to a matinee during it's first day on the silver screen. Although I have already heard it and voiced the opinion myself, I'm going to restate the obvious: if ever there was a “classic” genre film ripe for remaking/re-imagining, it was George A. Romero's 1973 disjointed citizens gone wild mess. There certainly is some nostalgia involved with the original, there are solid social themes on display, but overall it's just not a very good film. With that in mind, I was truly excited about watching a remake that had the potential to improve upon the original work.

The film opens in fine fashion when a plane carrying a secret biological weapon crashes into a lake; this time a small town in Iowa, rather than Pennsylvania. Said biological weapon of course begins contaminating the water supply. As it starts taking over the town's residents, the infected begin to prey on their neighbors, friends, and family. You've all seen the trailer with the infected guy getting gunned down on the baseball field by Olyphant's Sheriff Dutton. This scene is pretty indicative of the events that follow throughout the movie's running time. This is not a case of nauseous repetition. These moments are done well; viscerally, violently, and with great graphic gusto by effects wizard Robert Hall. Don't misunderstand me, there is a solid thread of genuine character development, there's even a bit of tension, it's not scary per say, but the look and feel of the kills and violence really give the film an enjoyable pace and visual flare. 

It's no surprise to the viewer when the government arrives to contain the outbreak at any cost, literally. In their own way the costumed government goons armed to the hilt are a bit creepy. That is, if it unsettles you to think of the possibility of this scenario playing out in your own backyard. They take David’s pregnant wife Judy (Radha Mitchell) into custody because she has begun to show signs of infection. It's here that Sheriff Dutton, his wife, Russell (Joe Anderson), and a young girl, Becca (Danielle Panabaker) make their daring escape from the government's grasp. At this point the film really begins to explore the likability of these characters, their relationships, and their somewhat futile attempts to avoid the inevitable. Although Olyphant and Mitchell are solid, it is Joe Anderson who really stole the spotlight. His portrayal of an everyman trying to survive in his insane new reality resonated with me. I won't veer into spoiler territory, because that is not what I do. What I am known to do is give the reader the foundation and let you either enjoy watching the house being built or suffer while it crumbles to rubble. So there you have it.

Those who have a genuine affection for the 1973 version may resist this the same way fans of the original The Hills Have Eyes fought against what I feel was a far superior film in Alexander Aja's retelling. That is quite understandable. Although not without it's flaws, The Crazies(2010) has a lot going for it: a respectable cast, an enjoyable visual flair, and most importantly: thematic execution that pushes the narrative along quite nicely. Eisner does, at times, seem to rely too heavily on the jump scare; A technique I believe is there for the less seasoned horror fan. It's a crutch for sure, but doesn't fail every time in this instance. Despite having it's heart firmly in the horror genre, it might be described better as action adventure with some horror elements sprinkled in for good measure. That's not a bad thing, because this balancing act works quite well. So where does this leave us? It leaves us with a film that is well worth the trip to your local multiplex, a film that drastically improves upon the former, and a film that will find it's way into my DVD library. Is it perfect? Nope... Is it a fun ride? Hell yes!!!

The Crazies
Director: Breck Eisner
Starring: Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, and Joe Anderson
7/10 Farmhouses ~ Chris Conduit

No comments: