Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Town Gone Mad

Movie Review
The Crazies (2010)

"The Crazies" is a streamlined, exquisitely-shot and good-looking horror movie. It is a remake of the 1973 George A. Romero movie of the same name about a virus that takes over a small town. This time, though, it's the small farming town of Ogden Marsh in Iowa. As the inhabitants soon find out, there's something in the air that is making everyone go crazy. A plane has gone down into the town's water supply creating a seething source of biological warfare viral infectiousness. The citizens don't necessarily get turned into zombies, although their flesh obtains the look of a zombie. In behavior they are coherent and communicate with each other and act more like murderous sociopaths. This, in effect, makes the movie all the scarier.

What's so effective about the movie is the level of genuine thrills and scares it provides. There are a string of action sequences including a particularly well-executed one involving a car wash and another inside a morgue, and they all involve a hefty dose of surprise, gore and wit. Director Breck Eisner ("Sahara") keeps these chills coming amidst an oddly dreamlike atmosphere thanks to cinematographer Maxime Alexandre.

It all begins when, during a community high school baseball game, an ominous town resident comes trudging onto the field wearing overalls and wielding a shotgun. He stands off against the town sheriff (Timothy Olyphant), and when the resident shows no sign of backing down, he's shot dead. Within the next couple of days, more and more residents start to demonstrate similarly strange behavior. The slick thing about this infection is that the transformation is subtle enough to the point where people make the mistake of waiting until it's too late to recognize an infected person.

The government begins implementing a violent exile in what they call "containment protocol," and the process begins killing mass amounts of people in order to stop the spreading virus. Things get interesting as the movie becomes a hybrid switching between political conspiracy, zombie genre flick and a runaway tale of survivalists. It comes down to the sheriff, his pregnant wife (Radha Mitchell), his deputy (Joe Anderson) and a teenage girl (Danielle Panabaker) all fending for their lives as they try to escape not only the crazies but also government military figures. And while that premise sounds like every other apocalyptic horror film ever made, such as "28 Days Later," Eisner manages to keep things fresh.

"The Crazies" may not be the most original zombie-like movie or even the most necessary remake, but for what it is, it's a whole lot of fun.

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