The one downside in technology used in Hollywood is that now nearly every film can really bring a terrific atmosphere to the occasion. It’s more noticeable when a film doesn’t have it then when it does; it’s come to the point where even a bad movie can be utterly fascinating because of its atmosphere. Or even mediocre ones like The Crazies.
A remake of the 1973 George Romero film of the same name, the film has a straightforward premise. A small town in Iowa is going mad because of something unknown, and the military comes into town to figure out why. When David Dutton, the local sheriff, and his wife (Radha Mitchell) get caught up in the roundup of the local citizenry, the two have to make a mad dash to try and exit while avoiding the military on top of dealing with town-folk who are under control of the virus (causing them to go crazy with a bloodlust). Their survival is going to take some luck, though, because time us not on their side.
And while it remains faithful to the spirit of the original, and looks infinitely better then Romero’s low-budget film ever could, the film banks on its atmosphere so much that the film sputters along after the immaculately done setup.
For the first 30 minutes, The Crazies mainly sets up for its grand reveal: the military and the townsfolk going nutty and killing anyone in sight. Instead of jumping into the situation right away, there’s a bit of a delay as David (Olyphant) doesn’t know what’s happening. As he discovers the cause of the “craziness,” and his findings fall onto deaf ears, the film has an airtight pace. This is methodical and well-done, giving us an introduction to the proceedings that isn’t insulting or rushed. It’s not brilliant, but it is engaging and has an aura of unpredictability to it. We know what’s going to happen based on the name of the story alone but the ramifications are as yet unknown.
The problems begin once the film settles into the meat of the story, of David and his wife trying to stay alive, as this sort of table setting is pulled away to reveal a standard action thriller with grisly horror elements. There isn’t anything that wouldn’t be out of place in a Resident Evil film, with much of the big dramatic moments becoming unintentionally hilarious. There are good moments of levity between Olyphant and Mitchell, who have terrific chemistry with one another. It elevates what could be the standard “evade and elude” formula of relationships in the zombie/pseudo-zombie genre but doesn’t quite lift it high enough.
The Crazies is a nice, big-budgeted horror thriller that pays homage to the little known film from which it was remade from but ultimately doesn’t have a significantly high ceiling of quality. While it is about as good as it could be, it’s nothing special.
Director: Breck Eisner Notable Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell Writer(s): Scott Kosar & Ray Wright based off the script for The Crazies (1973) by George A. Romero