By JP Chapman | February 27, 2010
Director: Breck Eisner
Producers: Michael Aguilar, Rob Cowan, Dean Georgaris
Writer(s): Scott Koser, Ray Wright, George A. Romero
Starring: Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson, Danielle Panabacker
I start this review by throwing Smells Like Screen Spirit founder, Dave, under the bus a bit in his foray of getting me to watch and review The Crazies. I am probably the least knowledgeable staff member on the zombie genre, and have a history of not being too “adept” at coping with horror films. Nevertheless, it was probably his subversive goal to get a perspective on the film from someone that doesn’t typically jump into horror movies (but I prefer to assume he was just being lazy). I hope you’re happy, Dave…
A remake of George A. Romero’s film of the same name from 1973, The Crazies isn’t a terrible zombie film, but still remains far from perfect. Throwing in the requisite gore, jumpy moments, and tongue in cheek over-the-top violence present in most films of the genre, it’s a fairly fun movie to watch. However; in the course of viewing it, you can’t help but get the sense that this is a somewhat shallow imitation of not only the original film, but also other films in the zombie canon.
Set in a small farming community in Iowa, The Crazies follows the lives of the town sheriff (Timothy Olyphant), his pregnant doctor-wife (Radha Mitchell), and deputy (Joe Anderson) as they begin to investigate oddly violent behavior amongst different members of the community. One by one, members of the town are beginning to lose focus and lash out at those closest to them. In the course of their investigation, a body of what appears to be a military officer that parachuted out of a plane is discovered in a nearby swamp. While attempting to ascertain the identity of this officer, Sheriff David Dutton and his deputy, Russell, trace the clues left by the body to the wreckage of a plane that has crashed in a local body of water feeding the town’s water supply. Sheriff Dutton begins to suspect the cargo of this plane is what may be leading to the erratic behavior of the townspeople, and urges the mayor to shut off the town water supply. It may be too late for this course of action though, as the town is woken in the middle of the night by huge numbers of soldiers suddenly appearing and herding people they deem as “infected” into quarantine at the local high school, while the “uninfected” are evacuated to safety. Chaos ensues as the townspeople grow increasingly violent, and eventually escape from the high school. Dutton, his wife, and Russell rescue a young teen girl and begin an attempt to elude both their former friends and neighbors, as well as the soldiers that are prepared to kill any remaining townspeople. The duration of the film follows this small group of survivors as they attempt to make it to the outskirts of town, and what they hope is safety.
In many ways, it’s fitting that director Breck Eisner (son of former Disney CEO Michael Eisner) got his start via a combination of commercials and sci-fi channel movies. While they can be creative, commercials are not necessarily known for much depth, and hold to primarily being eye-candy. Additionally, sci-fi channel movies aren’t typically known for their “originality”. This lack of originality and focus on flashiness manages to bleed into The Crazies in a big way; resulting in a derivative film that while somewhat fun to watch, is nothing to write home about. This is not to say that the directing, cinematography, etc. are lazy or bad; they just don’t stand out. The same things could be said for the acting present in much of the film. While it’s not terrible, there’s nothing memorable about any of the performances. In fact, the performances disappointingly feel like Xeroxed versions of other survivor performances in previous zombie films.
I don’t mean to be too harsh on this film. If you like horror movies, and you enjoy zombie movies, you will likely have fun at this movie. It’s just that with the flood of zombie movies in recent years, I can’t help but compare this film to the inventive new takes on the genre such as 28 Days Later or even Zombieland. With all those factors taken into consideration, feel free to check this movie out if you want to jump up a bit and laugh at its moments of ridiculousness; just don’t expect to have a life changing experience.