Directed by Breck Eisner
Starring Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson
Review by Jordan
Some horror remakes are shot down in a burning heap of flames, some are praised and treasured for their originality, and others kind of come and go as if they were never made to begin with… I present to you Breck Eisner’s The Crazies.
Updating George A. Romero’s low budget, angry ’73 classic was never met with too much of an outcry from genre devotees, most of whom hold the Dead trilogy, Martin (1977) and The Dark Half (1993) in higher esteem, and despite this remake being respectful, accomplished and satisfyingly bleak (though not as bleak as the outbreak in Evan’s City) it remains unrecognised alongside Dawn of the Dead (2004), The Hills have Eyes (2006) and The Ring (2001). Moving the water infection to the town of Ogden Marsh, Iowa, Eisner’s (Sahara) take sees the local Sherriff David Dutton (Olyphant, as charming as always), his wife Judy (Mitchell), Deputy Russell (Anderson) and young Becca (Danielle Panabaker) trying to stay alive and escape the panic and resist the homicidal urges, with very little attention directed at the military and scientists; a noticeable deviation from Romero’s vision.
Where the original placed an emphasis on a scientist (Richard France, see Dawn of the Dead also) striving hopelessly for a cure, here the audience’s gaze is almost solely directed at our hopeful group of survivors, with far more scenes of impressive tension, but less striking images of the American army and its white-clad, flamethrower wielding soldiers murdering the people they’ve sworn to protect. This however is a change that needed to be made to ensure relevance, and at least Lynn Lowry appears as an Easter Egg for the fans, riding a bicycle down a deserted main street singing a children’s hymn. Another aspect that demands recognition is the crisp, pleasing cinematography, harnessing the ability to transform any scene into a heart-in-mouth moment; from the image of a domineering harvester rotating in a barn, to the revelation of a submerged plane in the nearby lake and one of the opening shots of a shot-gun wielding local storming across a baseball field during a game. The Crazies has been likened to an American (and lesser) take on Danny Boyle’s masterful 28 Days Later, which is decidedly unfair… enough energy and skill has been utilised to ensure it never feels like a zombie movie (which 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later do), but rather a captivating thriller about the nature of Man, our will to survive and ultimately, our capacity to destroy.
The vocal (vocal being the important word) consensus among passionate genre fans is that modern horror sucks, and remakes suck harder. I disagree. Remakes have been commonplace for the last 50 years, and its only when one is truly unnecessary (Halloween, Let Me In) or made solely as a marketing product (Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street) that it should be opposed. This re-imagining of one of Romero’s personal favourites does not fit into either of these categories, and was made with care, precision and artistic merit, and can be appreciated by all, whether familiar with the source material or not.
4 ruined baseball games out of 5
Stay tuned for my review of George A Romero’s original next week!