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The Crazies

July 19, 2010

Ever wondered what a horror movie would be like if the protagonists a) worked out what was happening early on, b) made sensible decisions at the right times, c) started off connected rather than having to go through all that sickly bonding shit via the trauma, and d) showed their vulnerabilities in natural and understandable ways? If so, you’ll welcome The Crazies, a notional remake of George Romero’s 1973 movie of the same name, and, surprisingly, a really rather good one.

I haven’t seen the original and I don’t want to; for a horror fan I have an unusual position regarding the Master of the Undead, and that position is ‘meh’. I guess I’ve seen all the ones of his I should (the zombie sequence that made his name and which he now leans on rather too heavily, Martin, Monkey Shines, The Dark Half, Creepshow) and I think that’s enough research right there, thanks. He’s OK. You know, I suppose. I’ve never got the fanboy stuff, like at all.

So, I don’t know if the new film sticks to the old one well or not. Reading the synopsis off IMDb just now it would appear to. “The military attempts to contain a manmade combat virus that causes death and permanent insanity in those infected, as it overtakes a small Pennsylvania town.” Well, swap Pennsylvania for Iowa and you have the story pretty much in a nutshell.

The film starts with sinister intent, as a gunman shuffles across the outfield of a baseball game on the first day of the season. Sherriff Dave (Timothy Olyphant) confronts the man and is forced to drop him when the gun is raised. At around the same time, Dave’s wife, Judy (lovely Radha Mitchell), the local Doctor, sees a patient exhibiting disturbing characteristics. When the same guy wastes his wife and child a few hours later, Dave and Judy put their shit together and work out a pretty feasible explanation – a shared psychosis, possibly water-borne – which later proves fairly on the money. We’re a quarter of an hour in and clearly the Dave and Judy show is none too shabby.

The Crazies has a lot to fit in, and so there’s not much dicking about, and no-one goes down dark basement stairs in their panties, or puts a gun down at an inopportune moment. Dave and Judy have a believable relationship, and despite a Desperate Dan jaw of epic proportions, Olyphant doesn’t mind looking shit scared when, well, when any normal person would have good reason for looking shit scared. Fair play.

Ultimately, it tries to pack a wee bit too much in and the ending is a tad overblown (there’s a pun there), but as an action movie, this works pretty darn well. It says good-bye to the horror at around the half way point, but then it would be difficult after making a lot of smart decisions to go back and undo what it’s manged to put in place. Not a great film, by any means, but way way better than you’d expect, and the two leads are likable and worth rooting for.


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