Director: Breck Eisner
Screenwriters: Scott Kosar, Ray Wright
Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Danielle Panabaker
Distributor: Momentum Pictures
Running Time: 90 mins
Taking its cues from the 1973 George A Romero cult film of the same name, Breck Eisner brings us an updated version of The Crazies that manages to hit the right notes artistically, thematically and dramatically.
Set in the town of Ogden Marsh, a typical Mid-American settlement where people are raised, live their whole lives and die there, a plane crash is covered up by the Government due to the accidental release of Trixie, a biological weapon designed to ‘destabilise populations’. In the common vernacular, that means turning people into raving lunatics who’ll either hum show tunes at you inappropriately or shove garden tools through your solar plexus. That is, if the soldiers sent to contain the outbreak don’t shoot you in the face first.
The film wastes no time getting into the main plot, and the pacing is kept up through the initial investigation and the eventual conflagration that consumes Ogden Marsh. Eisner imbues proceedings with a sense of sustained tension and some particularly artful shots that, if we’re honest, we weren’t expecting. It’s surprisingly enjoyable as a horror film and as an escape thriller. Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell put in excellent performances as the leads, and the chemistry between them, for once, is actually quite palpable. Further ominous friction comes from the main characters never being quite sure if they’re all infected or not, leading to some genuinely emotional scenes. Drawbacks lie in the corny US Military screens that pop up from time to time, and a few weak special effects in the climax, but overall this is a nicely balanced film that manages to keep its propensity toward gore in check, unleashing brutality at just the right moments before pulling back in a disciplined manner.
Eisner has done himself proud with this adaptation, and fans of the original will find more than a few nods and winks to it in places. In as far as horror remakes are generally rubbish (hello, Friday The 13th), this surpasses most of them as an intelligent, thrilling and competent piece of cinema, one that has more than a few uncomfortable parallels to our own world as well.
The Crazies is a genuinely good film, deserving of its namesake and bolstered by confident, muscular direction and some fine performances from the cast.