Have you ever had meatloaf? Or any sort of loaf-based food that isn’t bread? Basically, you take whatever you’ve got, grind it up, add a lot of spices, and bake it. In my meatloaf, I like ground beef, carmelized onions, bread crumbs, one egg, oregano, salt and pepper to taste, top with tomato sauce, not ketchup. (If you don’t know what meatloaf is, think stew). The Crazies, the modestly-budgeted remake of a George A. Romero classic from 1973, is kind of a movie version of meatloaf, brought to you by chef Breck Eisner.
First, you grind up the leftovers from The Crazies, original version. Then you add in some carmelized 28 Days Later, a sprinkle of 28 Weeks Later, a dash of Nightmare City, and top it all off with a liberal glaze of Children Of The Corn. Bake for 101 minutes at 2:35:1 aspect ratio, serves $16.5 million US box office. Like any good meatloaf, Breck Eisner’s remake of The Crazies offers nothing new, but it’s still a satisfying meal of a film if you’re just looking for tasty, comfort food cinema.
All Sherriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant, who is quickly becoming the Southern Bruce Willis in that he’s the go-to movie cop) and Deputy Russell Clank (Joe Anderson) want to do is keep the peace in their tiny little town of Ogden Marsh, Iowa. However, when the town drunk wanders onto the local baseball diamond with a shotgun, it’s obvious that something’s going wrong very quickly. Now it’s up to Dutton to protect his pregnant wife (and town doctor) Judy (Radha Mitchell), outwit the government forces trying to seal off the town, and, oh yeah, avoid the Crazies.
There’s very little that’s original about The Crazies, but what is there is well done. Very well done, in fact. The movie is well-paced, moves quickly and competently through the plot, has a couple of really interesting set pieces, and is very entertaining throughout its runtime. There’s the standard reliance on soundtrack scares, but there’s also some very well constructed tension and peril scenes of various characters being menaced by The Crazies, and not a single “cat jumps out of the closet with loud musical flourish” to be seen.
The film also makes great use of the wide landscapes of Iowa and Georgia, the two filming locations. There’s lots of wide shots of the characters walking through the Great American Nothingness mixed with lots of good, claustrophobic shots of the insides of closets and various other hiding places.
As I hinted earlier, Timothy Olyphant is just the kind of guy that’s designed to play a lawman or some sort of gun-toting character. He’s just a natural with that kind of required swagger that comes with knowing you can shoot pretty much anyone at any time. He’s as much a natural sheriff as Bruce Willis is a born-again police detective.
Joe Anderson also does really well as Deputy Clank, looking the part of the semi-goofy redneck deputy law dog. Radha Mitchell and Danielle Panabaker also aquit themselves well in the movie, which requires fairly standard horror movie acting from all involved.
The script from Ray Wright (Pulse) and Scott Kosar (The Machinist, remakes of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Amityville Horror) is a fairly good updating of Romero’s original. It’s not wickedly smart, but it’s not dumb, either. Which, I guess by horror movie remake standards, makes it smart by default.
Whether or not the movie is original, it’s taking the best parts of a lot of other movies and blending them together with surprising skill, especially for a guy whose claim to fame thus far is Sahara. To describe a film as competent is kind of damning it with faint praise, but that’s what The Crazies is. It’s just a well-crafted piece of film that doesn’t impress with its originality, but impresses with its entertainment value.
If you like this sort of thing (this sort of thing being zombie movies), then this is the sort of thing you’ll like.
US correspondent Ron Hogan generally does not drink tap water, if it can be helped. Not that a filter will stop anything other than the taste of old pipes. Find more by Ron at his blog, Subtle Bluntness, and daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.