2010, R, 101 min. Directed by Breck Eisner. Starring Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson, Danielle Panabaker, Lisa K. Wyatt, Larry Cedar, Preston Bailey.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., March 5, 2010
The Crazies, a remake of George A. Romero's 1973 film of the same name, taps so specifically and so immediately into the current national zeitgeist it might well turn out to be the tea partiers’ and Fox News folks’ favorite film of the year. It's a trip down Justifiably Paranoid Lane in Anytown, USA, deep in the heartland of the red, white, and blue, where the classic tropes of the slasher genre run up smack dab against the (presumed) New World Order, with its midnight totems of black helicopters, black Escalades, and eerily inhuman, biohazard-suited soldiers galore (but precious few black people). Eisner's update is, at heart, not much more than Grant Wood's American Gothic with little red dribbles of blood running down the pitchfork's tines. It's been dosed with a major expansion of Romero's earlier nihilistic themes and a much larger budget, but its decidedly anti-authoritarian tone is essentially the same. It's worth noting here that just as this remake sets itself against a backdrop of economic uncertainty and endless war, the original arrived in theatres not long before the OPEC oil embargo, the fall of Saigon, and the exit of American military forces from Vietnam. We have met the enemy, and he is a) our own government, b) the corporatization of our own government, c) the Illuminati, d) us, e) all of the above. If you picked "e," congratulations, you get the Andromeda strain. With The Crazies 2010, Eisner and co-writers Scott Kosar and Ray Wright have crafted a thriller that's quick on its feet (Romero's, hamstrung by budgetary concerns, plodded), efficient in its setup, and chock-full o' nuts. Unknown to the townspeople of the drowsy Midwestern farming community of Ogden Marsh, an experimental military bioweapon code-named "Trixie" has landed in their water supply. As the title suggests, soon enough there are infected townspeople nattering to themselves and playing with threshing machinery. When the guys in hazmat suits finally arrive in the quarantined and dying township, Sheriff David Dutton (a very well-cast Olyphant), his physician wife (Mitchell), and Deputy Clank (Anderson), are virtually the only survivors. The trouble is, of course, that the “Man” (as they said in Romero's day) doesn't want anybody to survive. To call The Crazies the most original horror film in a long while only serves to point out just how lousy mainstream, studio-released horror has become. It's a solid thriller, sure, but there's precious little in it that hasn't been seen countless times before, and in the end, it plays it safe … by not playing it safe. It may be going too far to call this film a bellwether for the inexplicably popular populist mindset that so much of the country has right now, but it certainly feels like it. For some really freaky crazies, I recommend you go rent Pontypool (itself a genius updating of Romero's Night of the Living Dead) or the little-seen 2007 gem The Signal, both of which are far more unnerving than anything in Ogden Marsh.