Halloween Top 13: The Remake- #10: The Crazies (2010)

George Romero, you’ve got to love him, (Seriously, you have to or they kick you out of the secret societies.), and there’s no denying that he’s made some good films. Not recently, but every so often Romero has delivered the goods. Five years after Night of the Living Dead, he made his second horror film, The Crazies (1973), and he didn’t so much deliver the goods as the interesting. Focusing on the military, paranoia, and government power, I always see the twin specters of Vietnam and the Kent State shootings hovering around the edges of Romero’s film. The problem is that he ran into trouble with the execution of these big ideas. It’s an enjoyable film to watch, and thirty-seven years later, it feels prescient in the face of political division, the threat of terrorism, and the rise of the pandemic.

So, it didn’t really surprise me all that much when The Crazies was tapped for a remake. It seemed like an off the wall choice, but more surprising to me was the unexpected source, Breck Eisner. Breck, the son of former Disney honcho Michael Eisner, previously directed several things I’d never heard of, and oh, yeah, the Matthew McConaughey film Sahara. Now, I’d seen Sahara, and not because I’m a huge Clive Cussler fan.  It’s because I’m a huge Penelope Cruz fan, but that is beside the point. The whole film was dreadful… except Penelope Cruz, of course. With Eisner remaking The Crazies, I kind of tuned the film out until I saw the trailer. Not only did it look like Eisner had shot a slick, stylized horror film. It also starred Timothy Olyphant and Rhada Mitchell  actors who are always a welcome sight to me.

Olyphant stars as David Dutton, the sheriff of Ogden Marsh, Iowa, a sleepy little community where nothing ever really happens. That is until one day at a little league game when the town drunk shows up with a shotgun and David has to kill the man. People all around town start to act strangely, and he soon discovers that the town’s water supply has been contaminated with something due to a crashed plane. The military quarantines the town separating anyone with an elevated body temperature, a sign that they are infected, including David’s wife Judy (Mitchell), who has a fever due to her pregnancy. When the military fails to control the spread of the infection, they turn to mass exterminations, piling up mass graves with anyone suspected of even having the disease. David finds Judy and together with his deputy, Russell (Joe Anderson), they attempt to make it out of town avoiding the infected, the gas masked troops, and hunters killing for sport.

Ever since 1999’s Go, I’ve been a fan of Timothy Olyphant, though it was his 36 episode run as Sheriff Seth Bullock on HBO’s Deadwood that really sealed the deal for me. It also illustrated the kind of character he plays best, the tough, but sensitive moral smart asses who are men of action, when pushed, but prefer to use their wits instead of violence.Not that he won't get violent, because he always does. If you look at Deadwood, FX’s Justified, or 2010’s The Crazies, that’s the kind of character he plays, and he does it so damn well. I could go on and on about him, but I really have limited space. So let’s just say that he delivers exactly what is needed here and it’s what I love to see him do. Rhada Mitchell once again endears herself to horror audiences with another solid performance once again proving that she is the best actress in recent scream queen history. The only thing I had seen Joe Anderson in previously was Across the Universe, but he really impressed me here. His character gets a late start, but adds significantly to the ending of the film. The Crazies also features a quick cameo from an original cast member when Lynn Lowry, Kathy in the Romero film, rides by Sheriff Dutton on a bike and becomes one of the first crazies he encounters.

The Crazies is a stunning film to look at with great movement and depth of frame throughout. Having seen Sahara, I knew that couldn’t have been the work of Mr. Eisner. I was right. It was none other than Maxime Alexandre who I just spoke about yesterday when I praised his work on the remake of The Hills Have Eyes. In both cases, he was on hand to inject style and atmosphere into these films that were not known for their reputation as visual feasts. There is also a wonderful score by Mark Isham (Bad Lieutenant- Port of Call: New Orleans, Blade, Point Break) which is punctuated by some great songs to bookend the film, Johnny Cash’s ‘We’ll Meet Again” and Willie Nelson’s “Bring Me Sunshine”. I also have to tip to my hat to Editor Billy Fox (Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, Hustle & Flow). Without using any of the a jerky, music video style cuts, he helped imbue the film with a perfect breakneck speed even in moments of silence.

What I have left out of this review is much heavy rumination on the politics of this film. As a die-hard left wing wacko, this film is catered to my own paranoia about government power, enforcement of martial law, and restriction of personal freedoms. It was almost like Enemy of the State plus zombies minus Will Smith. To me the politics added on an extra layer to a film that could be deemed a pretty successful “infected” film in the first place, but I wondered how successful the film would be for an audience with an opposing viewpoint. Eisner definitely did not bury his message so it would be hard for it to go unnoticed.   Currently Breck doesn’t have a project upcoming, but I will be curious what he picks to be his next film. The chances of making two great remakes seem slim so I really hope he doesn't go down that road.However, if he sticks to heady material that gets a good coat of gore and a well shot presentation, someday people won’t even remember Sahara and if you mention it people will think that you're crazies.

Bugg Rating 

Today’s guest list comes from someone who is near and dear to me, my good friend and LBL contributor, Fran Goria. Fran and I have been friends for ages, and it’s so good to have a gorehound friend in your life that you can share movies with. Fran will also be coming with my wife, Kathy, and I to Horrorhound Weekend next month so you For the Love of Price Fans look forward to meeting her as well. Fran took the time to not only let me know her favorite remakes, but also her top five least favorites. So without further ado…

Fran Goria's 5 fav remakes: 
1-THIR13EN GHOSTS (2001) 
3-THE FLY (1986) 
4-FRIDAY 13TH (2009) 
5-WIZARD OF GORE (2007) 

Fran Goria's 5 least fav remakes: 
3-HOUSE OF WAX (2005) 
4-PSYCHO (1998) 
5-DAY OF THE DEAD (2008) 

As you can see Fran likes her Dark Castle, but some movies are better left alone. While I don’t agree with everything on her worst list, one of those titles is still forthcoming, for the most part she is right on as always. Thanks for taking part, Fran, and thanks to all you folks for continuing along with me though HT13: The Remake. I’ve still got nine more titles lined up, and things are about to get real…real scary.

1 comment:

  1. jervaise brooke hamsterOctober 23, 2010 at 5:44 AM

    There is only one thing you ever need to say about George A. Romero and that is: "GEORGE A. ROMERO IS GOD", remember thats "ALL" you ever need to say about George A. Romero. By the way, i thought the remakes of "My Bloody Valentine", "House Of Wax" and "Day Of The Dead" were quite superb and ludicrously under-rated and even though "Nightmare On Elm Street" and "Psycho" were dodgy they were still 100 times better than anything the British film industry has ever produced. Remember dont be to keen to knock American films (no matter how supposedly bad they are) because even at their absolute worst they are still by far the best that the world has to offer.


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