a critiQal film review The Crazies (2010)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: One by one the townsfolk of Ogden Marsh are falling victim to an unknown toxin and turning sadistically violent. While Sheriff Dutton (Olyphant) and his pregnant wife, Judy (Mitchell), try to make sense of the escalating violence, the government uses deadly force to close off all access to the town, letting no one in or out. Now, an ordinary night is turning into a horrific struggle for the few survivors making a desperate attempt to leave this once peaceful town with their lives.

859 words (Est. Reading Time 4m 17s)

With the slew of horror remakes heading down the Hollywood pipeline, how do you know which one to see? We couldn’t decide, so we waited for some of them to arrive on DVD. Now, one of those, The Crazies, a remake of George A. Romero’s 1973 film of the same name, has arrived on our NetFlix® Instant Queue. So, we decided to give it a shot.

Would Timothy Olyphant (who was just plain awful in the big-screen Hitman (2007)) be able to impress us as a small-town sheriff caught up in a crazy situation? Or would this remake be sadly lacking without George A. “Night of the Living Dead (1968)” Romero behind the helm?

Timothy Olyphant has recently found success on the small screen playing a sheriff in the western-themed TV show “Justified” (TV). But, without actually seeing that, viewers may not be convinced he can play a small-town sheriff. Thankfully, “Justified” (TV) seems to have gotten him acclimated to playing sheriff, and he comes across entirely believable in The Crazies. From his first encounter with the suddenly psychotic population of the once peaceful town, the viewer can see the warring emotions playing across his face. Sure, he may have to shoot a citizen, but it’s obvious he feels regret about it, and still sees these people as some of his friendly neighbors.

Radha Mitchell, whose face may ring a bell after her lead role in another horror flick, Silent Hill, doesn’t show her true potential here, and fans of her previous horror film performance may be a bit disappointed. She’s already shown she can take the reins and lead a horror flick. Seeing her reduced to basically the terrified female longing for her male protector type of role seems like a step backward for her. Still, with Milla Jovovich hogging up the best female horror role lead with her Resident Evil (2002) performances, maybe this is all Mitchell can get at the moment. In The Crazies, Radha does the best with what she’s given.

Danielle Panabaker is an actress with a familiar sounding voice but not a familiar face. Sadly, she barely has a chance to contribute at all. The storyline quickly reduces her to not much more than background noise.

Joe Anderson, on the other hand, steps up to the plate and very nearly steals the show from Olyphant and Mitchell. His character, at first barely a blip on the viewer’s radar, suddenly gets a spot in the limelight after the town goes nuts. He quickly turns out to be one of the most memorable characters in the film.

The film starts out seemingly slow, but once the first person goes crazy, the film escalates rapidly. The film moves the characters from scene to scene quickly and without much downtime in between the violence. Then, just as quickly, most of the population is quickly dispensed of, and suddenly The Crazies becomes more about the few remaining stragglers in the town. While the viewer gets to know the remaining characters much better, it’s a bit disappointing that there’s almost no build-up to the psychosis that sweeps over the town. It starts out well, with an encounter on a baseball field, and follows that up nicely with another encounter. But, after those two glimpses of insanity, the next thing the viewer knows, most of the town is insane. In fact, the viewer may get the wrong impression that most of the town actually didn’t go crazy, just a select few, based on those few the film highlights. It’s disappointing, but since the original film was most likely done on a low-budget, it was probably the cheapest way to make the film.

And that’s the problem with remakes like The Crazies. Too many remakes are not breathing any new life into the storyline – or expounding on the basic premise. Instead, they are just re-shooting the original and replacing the actors with new ones. That’s it. If you’re going to remake a film, do it right. Call up the original filmmaker and ask them what they would have done had they had the budget for it (since most of these are based on lower-budget horror flicks). Expand on the original idea, don’t just replay it.

That being said, The Crazies, while not giving us more than a few glimpses into a town gone insane, still manages to work, thanks to some decent performances by Timothy Olyphant and Joe Anderson. Those two keep the viewer anchored to the film’s version of sanity, and welcome them back after every insane incident that occurs. Without them, the viewer wouldn’t have that solid base to come back to, and the film would probably get a bit boring, despite the acts of insanity interspersed throughout. Sure, it would have been nice to see more samples of that insanity, but thanks to Olyphant and Anderson, the film, while stuttering in tempo, is still worth a look.

Of course, I’ve never seen the original, so maybe that is the better version, but Olyphant and Anderson help make this version of The Crazies worth checking out too. Thankfully for Olyphant, the film may also garner a bit more interest in “Justified” (TV) as well.

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