The Crazies is a good, but not great, entry into the bloated zombie genre.
It has all the elements of a good horror movie: the monsters are scary, the atmosphere nice and oppressive, but for some reason it just doesn’t come together for me. I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy the movie—I did—but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought. It could be that I’m simply burnt out on zombie flicks. It could also be that some of the inconsistencies in the movie held it back.
First of all, there was nobody I really identified with. Timothy Olyphant plays the hero, the sheriff of the small Midwestern town Ogden Marsh, and it was refreshing to see a competent sheriff. Too often in horror movies the sheriff is a fat, slovenly, corrupt idiot that just gets in the way or even terrorizes the protagonists. Olyphant’s Sheriff Dutton is none of those things, but that’s about all I can say for his character. There’s nothing wrong with his performance, but there’s nothing memorable about it, either. He’s pretty much a generic hero from a generic town being attacked by a monster that’s increasingly becoming generic. This is nothing against Olyphant’s ability as an actor—to be honest, I haven’t seen him in enough films to really judge his talent—I think it’s more a symptom of a lackluster script.
My other major problem with this movie is that the government loses control far too easily far too quickly. The military sees everything with an omnipresent spy satellite, swoops in with the brutal efficiency of army ants (no pun intended), and rounds up the populace in almost no time. This all falls apart when a truck driven by maybe five people breaks through one of the flimsy, chain fence encampments and shoots maybe two or three people before being taken down. Somehow this single incident causes the government operatives to flee like frightened children, leaving their hastily-appropriated HQ, and making it almost ridiculously easy for the main characters to reunite and run for the hills. Even Blackwater isn’t that incompetent.
Finally, the way the zombies act is highly inconsistent. I know that these are infected individuals and that viruses can affect people differently, but that’s not mentioned in the movie, and I don’t know if the screenwriter even had that in mind when writing the movie. They only passingly mention that some people are immune and others aren’t. Other than that, I can identify three different types of infected: 1. the low-level that somehow retain some semblance of reason, 2. the froth-mouth, out-of-control lunatics, and 3. the ones that retain their intelligence, but suddenly enjoy the sweet, gamey taste of killing. Who falls into what category seems to be completely random and more dependent on what’s most convenient for the story.
To its credit, the movie does have two very intense scenes; unfortunately, both scenes were also featured in the trailers, lessening their shock value. The first scene occurs in the make-shift government triage where potential infected are strapped to hospital gurneys. After the military goons run away, a crazy makes his way into the triage, dragging a bloody pitch fork behind him and eyeing the people strapped to gurneys like a fat guy eyes a buffet. It’s an intense scene that does well in creating an oppressive, helpless atmosphere.
The second scene happens later in a car wash. At this point the main characters are reunited and are in a car, high-tailing it out of town. A government helicopter spots them, and they try to shake it by driving into a car wash. The wash starts and the car is trapped on the rails, and the people inside star seeing dark figures from behind the suds. Like the triage scene, it’s very suspenseful and capitalizes on our dread of feeling out of control, of not knowing what’s out there in the dark. It’s a pity that the rest of the movie couldn’t be more like these two scenes, because it would have elevated it to something memorable.
As it stands, The Crazies isn’t a bad movie by any means, but it is forgettable. Because of the virus and military elements, I can’t help but compare this to 28 Days Later, and I really find it wanting. Either because of the issues I mentioned or of some indefinable “X” factor, The Crazies just doesn’t stand up to the greats of the genre.
The movie looks and sounds great and is presented in Widescreen 2.40:1 aspect ratio with the audio in Dolby Digital 5.1 and PCM 5.1. Spanish subtitles are provided for the hearing impaired.
Man, do these guys love George Romero. I mean, I love the man’s work, and I know that I’ve written some reviews that basically amount to love letters to certain artists, but damn do these guys love Romero. Most of the extras here are Romero lovefests, but there are some interesting items, especially the two motion comics. Although the internal dialogue in the comics are rather heavy-handed, they do provide some important insight into the infected that I think should have been put into the movie. The rest of the stuff here, though, is standard extra boilerplate.
Audio Commentary with Director Breck Eisner
Behind the Scenes with Director Breck Eisner
The George A. Romero Template
Make Up Mastermind Rob Hall in Action
The Crazies Motion Comic Episodes 1 & 2
Visual Effects in Motion
Storyboards: Building a Scene
Digital Copy of The Crazies for Mac & PC
This is a solid rent, but I don’t see anything here to recommend buying. I enjoyed it well enough, but there’s nothing that sets it apart from the general rabble of zombie movies.
Overture Films presents The Crazies. Directed by: Breck Eisner. Starring: Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson, and Danielle Panabaker. Written by: Scott Kosar and Ray Wright. Running time: 101 Minutes. Rating: R. Released on DVD: June 29, 2010.