Rather than come up with their own ideas anymore, Hollywood executives have fallen in love with the remake over the past decade, essentially recreating and retooling movies, that in some cases, were nothing special to begin with. In the case of “The Crazies,” originally a work of horror from George Romero in 1973 that is easily one of the weakest films in his portfolio, it may not be the first choice for many fans of the genre, but it’s re-tooled return to the big screen is far from a terrible effort overall.
With solid performances cast-wide, throwback cinematography [that will remind many of the work of Romero, who is also the executive producer] and just enough action, Breck Eisner’s rendition of “The Crazies” is worth a look for any fan of the genre, or anyone in the mood to sample something a bit different. Funny at times and gruesome at others, this picture casts a good balance that is mainly hampered by a lack of real charisma and a sometimes loss of logic.
Even though lapses in continuity and reality are expected in flicks of this type, after seeing characters pop up out of nowhere and then fire shots from angles where magic bullets would need GPS, “The Crazies” loses its scare factor and becomes silly at times, rather than spine-chilling. The same thing goes for the psychological elements of the film, which are tampered with, thanks again to stale dialogue, making it less of shocker and more cliché and cookie cutter.
In spite of their small town in Iowa falling victim to a biological weapon and 99.9 percent of the population effectively “going crazy,” the sense of despair from the characters isn’t nearly as catastrophic as you’d expect.
While Timothy Olyphant [Rock Star, Deadwood] and Radha Mitchell are fully capable and are a more than passable pair as David and Judy Dutton, the local sheriff and doctor, the lack of sexiness in the script robs them of any extra passion they could have exhibited. Sure, it’s an attractive offering at times, especially towards the end, when you see how far the government is willing to go to keep the “situation” under control, but with straightforward plot development and paint by numbers dialogue, “The Crazies” ends up being a fun, yet somewhat predictable experience.
Considering this, it’s ironic that Joe Anderson and Danielle Panabaker, the two actors in supporting roles, end up having more entertaining roles than the stars, as they serve as plot devices with attitude. Anderson [Across the Universe] serves as Olyphant’s deputy, who is not only tough, but is hilarious to boot, shooting “crazies” dead like Clint Eastwood, while simultaneously losing his sanity. Panabaker is cute as Mitchell’s teenage and wide-eyed assistant, who must deal with the world crumbling around her.
Both character types are Romero staples and are pulled off well-enough and help keep the film afloat and make up for many of the film’s shortcomings.
After all, in spite of all the blood and fright, a true Romero film [and great horror flick] is about the people going through the horror, and not the horror itself. In a few scenes, we truly see this and that is when “The Crazies” shines and becomes a crafty cult-hit. The rest of the time though, it feels like a scaled-down knock off of “28 Days Later.”
When it’s all said and done however, the humor, blood and thriller elements are executed just well enough to keep the film above water.
Fans of Romero’s work may not be enthralled by this adaptation, but they certainly wouldn’t be “crazy” if they ended up liking it in spite of its flaws.