George Romero. His name is held amongst the masters by nearly every fan of horror and deservedly so because the man is the father of the modern zombie. However despite his contributions to the genre, there is little denying that his film-making skills leave a lot to be desired and thus some of his work is prime remake material.
Depending upon who you are talking to though, the word remake is sometimes treated as borderline foul language. Over the past few years more and more remakes have been coming out of Hollywood and for many, when combined with the constant flow of sequels, it has been confirmation that the industry has lost its creativity. I personally fall into a separate camp that just wants good film, regardless of if it is based on original material or a remake of something already done. This all of course brings us to the remake of George Romero’s 1973 film, The Crazies.
Some have called The Crazies a zombie film and I believe this to be either a misunderstanding of what a zombie is or a purposeful misdirection depending upon who is saying it. Suffice it to say though, The Crazies is not a zombie film. It is however a film about biological disaster, government “clean-up” and the human will to survive.
Timothy Olyphant plays David Dutten, the sheriff of Ogden Marsh, a small farming town in Iowa. David encounters a vexing situation during a high school baseball game when the local drunk walks onto the field carrying a shotgun. Dutten puts him down in an act of self defense and thus the Crazies kicks off.
Unlike the original film, which has the subtlety of a a sledgehammer, this remake carefully and deliberately introduces the viewer to the cause and effects. By keeping the viewer in the dark just as much as the townsfolk are in the story, the film is able to build a good line of tension. Director Breck Eisner puts this tension to good use, delivering a steady stream of legitimately nightmarish situations for the primary protagonists to endure.
The Crazies deals with some heavy material, including the government’s involvement in biological weaponry and how they would deal with cleaning it up. Like a lot of Romero’s work, it is sobering subject matter but unlike Romero’s work, the allegory here is not assaulting the viewer and it never interferes with the films primary goal of taking the viewer on a terrifying ride.
As terrifying as it is though the film is not without its flaws. The ending in particular frosted me a bit on the film. While suspension of belief is always needed for a film of this sort, the ending of The Crazies asks the viewer to suspend it nearly completely and after an entire film that seems somewhat grounded in a nightmarish reality I didn’t buy it.
In the end though The Crazies is a good horror film. It has some very solid performances, a good sense of direction and most importantly it is able to build tension within its audience and use that to scare them. Remake or not, this film is top notch terror.
4 out of 5.