New horror film ‘Crazier’ than it appears

By Kate MacDonald

If the new Breck Eisner movie “The Crazies” has a moral to it, it’s that sometimes you have to do whatever it takes to keep yourself and your family safe. That, and don’t always trust the government, but that’s just another aspect to the horror film.

Eisner and casting director John Papsidera brought together a pretty decent cast for the remake of George A. Romero’s 1973 movie of the same name. Timothy Olyphant (of “Deadwood” and “Live Free or Die Hard” fame) stars as David Dutton, the sheriff of some podunk town in Iowa called Ogden Marsh. He’s married to the cool and collected Judy (played by Radha Mitchell, known for last year’s “Surrogates”), who is the town’s only doctor. Accompanied by Deputy Russell Clark (Joe Anderson), the sheriff uncovers a sinister virus spread throughout the tiny town that turns its residents into “The Crazies.”

When the residents of Ogden Marsh become infected, they transform not into the undead, as in usual Romero hits, but homicidal maniacs who commit the most disgusting murders against their friends and family, prompting the movie’s official tagline, “Fear Thy Neighbor.”

When Dutton discovers that this is all due to a military accident, the plot thickens. The military storms the town, seemingly to protect the citizens and fix the mess they made. When David and Judy are forcibly separated, however, it becomes apparent that something more sinister is at play. They must then escape their hometown, now turned into Hell, along with the only other people who aren’t infected. When it’s four against the whole U.S. military and the 2,000 crazed inhabitants, they have to get creative or get killed.

When it comes to remakes of Romero’s cult classics, it seems like no one can do it as well as the “Grandfather of the Zombie.” “The Crazies,” however, seems to do a really good job, despite receiving many mixed reviews.

One problem is that the death and destruction begins right in the first scene. There isn’t really a buildup; the first maniac makes an appearance within the first five minutes, and the gruesome deaths begin 10 minutes in. Sometimes the plot comes off as a kill-fest, with its non-stop death scenes and somewhat cheap, jumpy moments.

But what makes “The Crazies” easily the scariest movie in theaters right now is the fact that maybe it’s not completely far fetched. It’s not about conventional zombies – it’s about regular people in rural America becoming infected by a man-made virus. They have the mental capacity to commit very disturbing murders against people in their daily lives, including their spouses and young children. The virus turns people everyone considers to be good guys into killing machines.

The cinematography only serves to complement the scary storyline. It is blunt, but without choppy cuts or angles, and fits in well with the plot. Viewers see the situation unfold mostly from an outsider’s point of view, but shots from the standpoint of the military help to establish the situation as bleak and frightening.

Additionally, the soundtrack and score adds to “The Crazies.” One of the first scenes of the film, showing Ogden Marsh as a hole-in-the-wall town where everyone knows everyone else is accompanied by Johnny Cash’s “We’ll Meet Again,” relating well to the fact that neighbors do meet again in a different setting when they brutally slay each other.

The music is the run-of-the-mill, classic horror-movie score. Usually that can be very redundant, but in the case of “The Crazies,” it builds up suspense most of the time. The only problem is that movie-goers know when a scary, jumpy moment is quickly approaching. It succeeds in creating a dreadful experience – knowing something bad is about to happen, but not knowing exactly when or what. Later on in the film, the creepy singing and whistling exhibited by the crazy citizens paired with the music produces a terrifying effect on the psyches of audience members.

With its stellar score, believable cast, not-so-subtle allusions to the Holocaust and a solid storyline, “The Crazies” is an exception to the norm in today’s Hollywood. With CGI effects, make-up, recognizable actors and other devices used to produce films, there just isn’t much left that genuinely scares Americans today. A testament to Romero’s genius and Eisner’s adapting skills, “The Crazies” is sure to tap into the psychological fears of its audience.

Kate MacDonald can be contacted at [email protected]