Every once in a while, you’ll hear a disturbing news account of some mild mannered office employee who suddenly opened fire on his coworkers, a quiet student who abruptly turned his classmates into target practice or a nice father who shockingly hacked his family to pieces. The Crazies preys on our fears of these random, unexpected acts of violence, most effectively in its opening sequence, in which a small town father shows up at a local baseball game presumably loaded and carrying a loaded weapon. More after the jump:
Thankfully, Sheriff Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) is on hand to stop the eerily placid man from victimizing his fellow townsfolk (although shooting him in the head at point blank range probably resulted in a few post-traumatic stress cases). When the coroner’s report reveals that the father was actually sober, the Sheriff sets out to understand the man’s sudden violent impulse. But what begins as a possible study of the nature of human violence quickly devolves into standard B-movie horror fare when the explanation offered up ends up having something to do with toxins in the local water system. Then again, we’re not in Cronenberg territory here, but in the land of suspenseful, if unexamined, horror courtesy of Breck Eisner’s slick remake of one of George A. Romero’s lesser-known works.
While not as effective as 2004’s Dawn of the Dead, this Romero redux does feature a few terrifying sequences, nightmarishly stark cinematography by Maxie Alexadner (The Hills Have Eyes, High Tension) and a likable enough cast of genre-friendly stars. In addition to the reliably cool Olyphant, the cast includes Joe Anderson (The Ruins) as the local deputy, Radha Mitchell (Silent Hill) as Olyphant’s doctor wife and Danielle Panabaker (Friday the 13th) as her assistant. Over the course of one “crazy” day, the quartet struggle to escape government quarantine and flee their newly demented hometown before they fall victim to “The Crazies.”
What makes this film fresher than Dawn and the recent crop of zombie movies is that its antagonists are far less predictable than their flesh-eating counterparts. The “crazies” possess enough motor skills to wield such latent murder weapons as pitchforks, bone cutters and kitchen knives, which make the proceedings a bit less routine. For these monsters, it’s all about the creative kill rather than noshing on human innards.
I guess my one gripe with The Crazies is that I viewed it with inflated expectations. This is, after all, that rare horror film that received positive critical consensus upon its initial theatrical release. The surprisingly high 72% on RottenTomatoes.com left me expecting something groundbreaking and masterful. What I got was something serviceable and efficient, which may be enough to drive other horror fans “crazy” for the film.
The 1080p High Def picture fully exploits Alexandre’s richly detailed cinematography. Audio options include English Dolby Digital 5.1 and PCM 5.1. Subtitle options include English SDH and Spanish.
Disc One includes comprehensive bonus materials, including commentary with Director Breck Eisner, the featurettes “Behind the Scenes with Breck Eisner,” “Paranormal Pandemics,” “The George A. Romero Template,” “Make-up Mastermind: Rob Hall in Action,” “Visual Effects in Motion,” “Storyboards: Building a Scene,” plus “The Crazies Motion Comic Episodes 1 & 2.”
Disc Two includes a bonus digital copy for Mac and PC.
A modestly effective horror thriller featuring a few terrifying sequences and striking cinematography. The Crazies is rated R for bloody violence and language. It has a run time of 101 minutes.