June 30, 2010

The Crazies (2010)

"As a toxin begins to turn the residents of Ogden Marsh, Iowa into violent psychopaths, sheriff David Dutton tries to make sense of the situation while he, his wife, and two other unaffected townspeople band together in a fight for survival."

Yes, it's a remake of George A. Romero's 1973 movie of the same name but, in my opinion, it's one of the better remakes owing to how awful the original actually was. In fact I've never even made it through the 1973 version because it bored me to sleep every time I tried to watch it.

Having said that, this is not exactly a brilliant horror film either. There are some good action scenes every now and then but for anybody who has read Guy N. Smith's novel called "The Thirst" (with hindsight also a ripoff of George Romero), there's nothing new here and a lot that could have been done so much better.

Apart from the obvious social commentary about how the government will step in and control everybody to cover up their mistakes (yes, it's "Right at your Door" all over again), there's nothing very frightening for the not-so-paranoid at all. The make-up effects are pretty good but you don't see enough of people being affected by the virus to feel any sympathy for them. One minute they are okay, the next it seems that they are transformed into insane almost zombie things. The transformations should have been more drawn out.

The pacing is actually the biggest problem overall. Everything starts off well and it has a kind of Stephen King quality to the town's inhabitants. But, just as you get involved with the small group of characters that will be the survivors, everything jumps forward too quickly. I can even pin it down to the funeral home scene where I wanted to see if the priest was going to get his mouth unstitched but nothing ever came of it. All of a sudden the army were all over the place and people were being rounded up. Yes, that's a spoiler but you'll notice the big change of pace there too because it's so jarring.

There is also a lot of weird stuff between the sheriff (Timothy Olyphant) and his deputy (Joe Anderson) who just seem to be in the right place at the right time to save each other. It's almost comical because it happens far too often. Their characterisation is a bit thin but at least there was some attempt at it unlike for any of the other characters. Rhadha Mitchell who plays the sheriff's wife isn't very memorable at all even if she does look beautiful. I thought she was much better in "Surrogates". Absolutely any other actress could have played her role but that's true of every other actor in this movie too. Nobody really stood out or even had chance to.

I think "The Crazies" does look good. At the start I wondered if I was watching a new movie or the 1973 version. I blame most of that on the way that small town America doesn't ever seem to change more than obvious set dressing. I found myself wishing that it had been set in the 1970s though and not modernised because it might have made the whole thing more interesting.

It was all just way too predictable and I'm getting tired of all the apocalyptic virus movies that I've seen. It's not just "28 Days Later", "Carriers" or "The Horde" that ruined it but everything goes back to "Night of the Living Dead" anyway. There really can be nothing overly original after that.

The downbeat ending (think of "Return of the Living Dead") is de rigeur for nearly all these "infection" movies too. I still sat and watched the whole thing like an idiot even though it was telegraphed with the satellite targetting shots right from the beginning.

So how should "The Crazies" be judged? As a standalone film it has nothing new to offer but as a remake it isn't a bad one. I'd probably rate it as "just average" in the great scheme of things. The latest generation of moviegoers seem to enjoy it but then I question their tastes about liking the remakes of "A Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Halloween" more than the originals too.

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