Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Crazies (2010)

Fear 3/5
Gore 3/5
Entertainment 4/5
Creepiness 3/5

Thanks to the fine folks over at Texas Frightmare Weekend, I was able to catch an early screening of the eagerly anticipated remake last night. This is relatively spoiler-less, however a few plot points are mentioned. Instead, I'm going to talk a bit about the differences between it and Romero's original. Ultimately, I think that it's a better film and improves upon in areas where the original lacked.

Romero's 1973 film was high on hysteria along with his usual commentaries regarding military and the police state. Undoubtedly, the scares of the Cold War were front and center in the minds of many a viewer. And although it did a fair amount of tension building and you were constantly guessing and second guessing who was infected, it failed to connect on an emotional level with me. The focus on mass hysteria and the concept of unchecked martial law certainly made for a tense film. And there were also some pretty icky scenes (knitting needles, blech!). But the overall lack of an emotional connection to the characters is what killed it for me. Repeated viewings haven't changed my mind and this is a film I simply can not get into. So when a remake was announced, I definitely thought it was one of those films that could use one. I didn't consider it a sacred cow like some other films. The remake has a nice balance between tension and character development. You empathize with our small group trying to survive and are thrown into a state of fear and tension right along with them as they try to avoid a trigger happy, ask questions later and don't provide answers military presence.

The set-up the same as the original: an airplane carrying a biological weapon crash lands near a small town, infects the water supply and makes people go cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. The town sheriff and his deputy are trying to figure out what the flippin' hay is going on as people are piling up at the local morgue. Initially, I was worried that this would go more of the zombified route but thankfully, it did not.

From the start, we're quickly thrown into a state of tension. We see a man show up at the local high school baseball game toting a shotgun and he's confronted by the sheriff. After committing a particularly heinous act against his family, a husband and father stares blankly into space and whistles to the tune of When Johnny Comes Marching Home.

The shift from people going nutso to complete chaos caused by the military force is done startingly well. You're swept away and feel thrown right into the mix with our main characters. As people are ushered into a holding area near the local high school, you can't help but share the same anxieties and 'What the hell is going on?' thought process as they're being led like cattle. Some are slaughtered without question while others are shoved into buses and transported out. Pretty brutal stuff. The sheriff and his deputy manage to elude their captors and escape the heavily guarded area. After they've gone back to their station and load themselves up with guns and ammo, they return to the site to spring the sheriff's pregnant wife.

Without getting into the twists and turns that the rest of this film takes, I will say that it keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout and never lets up until the very end. The themes of military rule were also updated for this generation and I heard one movie goer as she exited the theater exclaim 'Perfect film given our times.' And there are some genuinely terrifying and original scenes and set pieces that I also won't go into. Lets just say I'll never view a car wash the same way again.

Cortez the Killer

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Chris Hallock said...

Good review, man! I think I'm seeing this tomorrow night. I appreciate the spoiler light review.

I think the filmmakers intended to explore this more emotional aspect of The Crazies that you felt missing from the original.

Bill said...

solid review - definitely agree. Some very inventive "thrill scenes". I also found myself trying to decide if the characters were losing it due to being infected, or due to madness created by government intervention, which speaks to solid filmmaking.

Matt-suzaka said...

That's really cool that you got to see it early and even cooler that the movie delivers the goods. I'm way behind on theatrical horror and it sucks balls.

Bryce Wilson said...

If the movie stayed like the script I read, it sounds like you nailed it.

Planet of Terror said...

@Chris and Bill, thanks! It was a fun ride and definitely a solid remake, one that takes the themes of the original and kicks things up a notch.

@Matt, definitely recommended. A fun one to see in a theater too to catch people's reactions.

@Bryce, thats cool that you got to read the script beforehand. And the focus on character development really went a long way in terms of being a more effective film.