Movie Throwback: The Crazies (One of the Few Times Where I Like a Remake More Than the Original)

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In this terrifying glimpse into the “American Dream” gone wrong, an unexplainable phenomenon has taken over the citizens of Ogden Marsh. One by one the townsfolk are falling victim to an unknown toxin and are turning sadistically violent.  People who days ago lived quiet, unremarkable lives are now depraved, blood-thirsty killers. While Sheriff Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) and his pregnant wife, Judy (Radha Mitchell), try to make sense of the escalating violence, the government uses deadly force to close off all access and won’t let anyone in or out – even those uninfected.  In this film that Pat Jankiewicz of Fangoria calls “disturbing,” an ordinary night becomes a horrifying struggle for the few remaining survivors as they do their best to get out of town alive. (Synopsis from Amazon).

I am a huge fan of George Romero. I love the unholy trilogy, but I do have to admit something. There are times when the political overtones do push me the wrong way. That is the same for any movie that has an overriding political message. I’m just not a fan. This is one of the reasons why I did enjoy the 2009 remake of The Crazies more than I enjoyed the original film. Don’t get me wrong: the original is a classic film that all Romero enthusiasts should see. The remake is more of a true horror movie with some real scares and a variation on the original plot.

A plane full of nasty chemicals crashes into a marsh, which is the source of drinking water for the citizens of Ogden Marsh. As a result, the normally small town, peaceful townsfolk begin slaughtering each other or dying. The chemicals make people go into a semi-catatonic state until they reach a snapping point where they begin to horribly kill other people. They kill their loved ones, they kill strangers, and they kill lots of both.  It looks like everyone is fair game as a carrier or a victim.

One thing I really enjoyed in this film was the creative kills and how some of the kills accurately reflected the killers job/hobby when they were “normal”. Hunters ended up stalking the streets, hunting down the uninfected with shotguns. A doctor stitches a victim’s eyes and mouth shut. Then you have a complete change when it comes to some of the infected. The town mayor walks through a ward of restrained people, stabbing them in the torso with a pitchfork (the pitchfork in the poster above).

I appreciated the opening sequence to the film. A town is sitting in the stands, watching a local baseball game. A slice of Americana. Out in the distance, a man armed with a shotgun strides into the outfield. The feeling of wrongness just emanates from the film. It’s this wrongness that the film builds upon, as what we expect to be a “normal” American Pie, Sweet Home Alabama type of community turns into a nightmare of insanity and murder. The local sheriff walks out into the field and attempts to defuse the situation and disarm the man. The man stares blankly at the sheriff until he raises the gun to his shoulder. The sheriff takes him down. Once again, another jarring scene that includes the townspeople reacting to the killing.

The relationship between the sheriff (Timothy Olyphant) and his deputy (Joe Anderson) was interesting, but it also presented a little issue. The duo did have a very natural chemistry and backed up each other during action or power scenes. The issue was identified to me by a friend. She noted that the sheriff would get into life or death situations over and over and the deputy was ALWAYS there to save the day. At first I disagreed, but then I thought back on it. She was right. It was getting to the point of ridiculousness.

 Rhada Mitchell’s role as the sheriff’s wife was interesting. Her pregnancy and the disease mimic some of the pregnancy side effects was a new area for the film. The CDC scientists misdiagnosed Rhada as being infected due to an elevated body temperature. Rhada did an excellent job in the movie and really portrayed the fear and confusion of her character well.

The look of the infected was different, but it also seemed to be a precursor to zombie infection films. The disease almost mimicked a slow physical deterioration of the human body as the infected became more and more bloodthirsty. Maybe this was less of a reference to zombies and more in homage to infection movies like 28 Days Later, but the overall feel was very well done.

All in all, I would have to rate this movie a 7 out of 10. There were some plot issues and some minor acting issues, but the storyline was well done and the apocalyptical feel to the movie was truly impressive.

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