“Welcome, “Russell says, “To Pierce County; the friendliest place on Earth.”
Ogden Marsh is a small town, with a population just over 1200 people. David is the Sheriff. Judy is the town doctor. The opening day of baseball season is a major event for everyone in town. It’s a perfect rural slice of America, right down to the hot dogs and hot coffee.
Until baseball, town pride and the peace of American farmland is interrupted by a silent, vacant figure with a shotgun.
Ogden Marsh has been exposed to a pandemic; an infection spreading through its population one at a time, at a constantly accelerating pace. The first is a lone gunman on a baseball diamond. The second is an aloof farmer who burns his family home to the ground, with his wife and son inside. Soon, these random acts of violence aren’t random at all. They’re the overwhelming behavior of the town’s population.
Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant (“Live Free or Die Hard”)) faces the changes to his friends and neighbors with curiosity and caution. He relies on his steadfast deputy, Russell (Joe Anderson (“Amelia”)), to back him up as the violence and chaos spreads through the town. David’s pregnant wife, Judy (Radha Mitchell (“Pitch Black, “ “Surrogates”) anchors him as he investigates the actions of Ogden Marsh’s suddenly insane citizens, and the crackdown by masked members of the military.
David, Judy, and their supporting characters go through absolute hell to survive. Some win. Some lose. The real message of the film is its relativity to the typical American family. We live our lives in hope and optimism, yet there are always factors beyond our control. In the case of “The Crazies, “one mistake…one uncontrollable mistake…can impact thousands of lives. George Romero’s original social commentary survives to this day, though it is just as applicable to illicit pharmaceutical companies as it was to government conspiracy in 1973.
“The Crazies” stakes its thrills on tension and scares. The film uses tried-and-true techniques, but never at the risk of insulting the audience. There are plenty of “just out of sight” character scares that will have viewers gripping the arm rests. Once the action starts, the film is scene after scene of increased tension. Viewers will be watching shadows and holding their breath, knowing that the next scream is just a moment away.
“The Crazies” is a remake of Romero’s 1973 release of the same title.
Horror viewers worldwide have been disrespected for the last ten years.
Raise your hands if you’re familiar with the environmentally friendly phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle.” It’s what we’re taught about the environment, but it’s what we’re fed in the horror genre in modern cinema.
Far too often, studios take a proven commodity, strip it down, thin the plot and increase the action and gore, and expect the audience to gobble it up.
“The Crazies” is not guilty of this screenwriting crime. There are plenty of kills, more jumps than you can shake a pitchfork at, and probably the scariest car wash scene since, well, Car Wash. This is not a film that has to present boatloads of on-screen kills and violence to get the audience squirming in its seats.
Look at the contrast between the 1974 and 2003 versions of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” In the original, there is nearly no on-screen killing. In the remake, almost every kill and cut is front-and-center. There’s even a scene where Leatherface jumps into screen with a fully revved chainsaw, and Jessica Biel never even heard it coming.
“The Crazies” has found the right mix. The plot doesn’t break new ground, but the characters are enjoyable and viewers will relate to them. Dave, Judy and Russell aren’t caricatures. They’re small-town people we’ve met, and they’re put through Hell at the behest of director Breck Eisner and writers Scott Kosar and Ray Wright.
Horror fans are presented with a seemingly endless influx of remakes. “The Crazies” is the best I’ve seen so far.
For more information, check out the official site: The Crazies.