I guess it’s hard these days to make original films. Buzzwords in the movie industry consist of remake, reboot and redux. Here is yet another by-the-numbers remake of a 70’s horror flick.
“The Crazies” opens happily to shots of wide-spanning farmland under a welcoming blue sky while an upbeat Johnny Cash tune plays.
Viewers are quickly familiar with the setting; a small farming community where the 30-something-year-old sheriff knows everybody’s name, they have one (yes, only one) doctor, and the town is seemingly secluded from outside populations. We as moviegoers are being lead down a very familiar road.
While the young sheriff, played by Timothy Olyphant (“Live Free or Die Hard,” “Deadwood”), is at the town baseball game, a man strolls onto the outfield with a shotgun in hand. Yes, we all know he is a “crazy” before the movie tells us, but he forces the sheriff’s hand and is shot and killed (don’t worry “Crazies” film-virgins, it’s in the movie trailer).
After several accounts of “man goes crazy, kills someone, then sits and stares” pattern, the sheriff knows something’s up. Through some slowdown time in the movie, the sheriff discovers something is in the town’s water supply that is making them go bonkers. The people who went all Charles Manson first, are on the maps to receive the water first into their pipes. That is the movie’s explanation of why our main character is still sane.
Prematurely, machine gun wielding, gas mask wearing troopers show up to quarantine the small town. It would have been entertaining to see more of the townsfolk on their own against the madmen, but it did give it a slight non-cliché feel. They roundup the civilians into concentration camp-like tents and do quick checks for signs of infection.
Naturally, the main character’s wife is thought to be infected, but her symptoms are caused by her being pregnant, and they cart her back to the town. He escapes the “safe-zone” and heads back to save her. Now the real storyline begins.
The movie picks up a bit at this point, showing you how crazy the “crazies” can get. It’s cool, graphic and can make you squirm and jump a bit. You get a creepy feeling of not really knowing who the worst of the two villainous groups are– the crazies or the seemingly cold-hearted military clean-up crew.
A long span of the second half is the sheriff and his posse trying to get out of the quarantine alive while dodging cleaning crews–who shoot on sight–and killing the crazies.
My biggest complaint spawns from my favorite aspect of the film. There are way too many of those classic wide-angle shots showing something ominous in the background while the character is oblivious in the foreground. It really does make for some intense scenes (someone in my theater yelled “Aw, hell no” more than once throughout the 101 minutes). It does happen too often though, taking the thrill away a bit more every time.
There are plenty of scenes where things pop out to scare the audience, succeeding more than once, but the overall familiarity and cliches make it too easy to tell what will happen next. The end was kind of cool, but lacked the realistic tone of the rest of the film. So overall see it, but rent it– 6.5 out of 10.