Movie Reviews: The Crazies




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     Overture Films (1 hr. 41 min.)
     A husband and wife in a small Midwestern town find themselves battling for survival as their friends and family descend into madness.
     Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson, Danielle Panabaker
Bottom Line:

Jonathan McMillan

Category: Adrenaline Rush
Answer: Roller coasters, Halloween haunted houses, George A. Romero zombie movies.
Question: What are things that we enjoy because they scare us?

It’s pretty much impossible to make a zombie movie that’s not predictable, but it is possible to make it amusing. The entertainment of watching these films is not so much the startle that we know is coming, but the moments that build up to the inevitable bloody decapitation, nasty mutilation, or ghastly transformation. So to do it right, you should call in the “A-Team” as in George A. Romero.

George A. “of the dead” Romero is the man who practically invented the modern day zombie movie genre when he made the cult classic “Night of the Living Dead”(’68). That one movie has spawned over a dozen copy-cat remakes, re-issues, video games and in recent years, a whole comic book series. The new film “The Crazies” which Romero was executive producer is a remake of his third film originally made in 1973 and like the original, the zombies aren’t necessarily the bad guys.

The setting for this tale is common small-town USA, Ogden March, Iowa, population 1260. That number begins to dwindle within the first five minutes of the movie, when Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant of Live Free or Die Hard) has to shoot down Rory, the town drunk when the latter staggers onto the high school baseball field in the middle of a game with a loaded shotgun.

Across town, David’s pregnant wife and town doctor, Judy (Radha Mitchell of Phone Booth) is examining farmer Bill, who is, as his wife explains “just not right.” Later that night, Bill ultimately shows just how wrong he is - when he burns down his house - with his wife and son locked inside - and then mows the lawn like nothing is out of sort.

Eventually, Sherriff Dutton, his deputy, Russell Clank (The Ruins’ Joseph Anderson) Judy and her assistant, Becca discover the increasingly homicidal behavior of normally Ma and Pa Kettle townsfolk, is due to the town’s drinking water. Recently a military airplane crashed and its cargo has leaked into the nearby wetland, which, by-the-way is the favorite duck hunting ground for the gun-toting rednecks.

Of course, unnamed government officials know they’ve lost a plane and just how dangerous the bio-engineered toxin (read chemical weapon of mass destruction) on board is. Soon, the entire town including Team Dutton find themselves at odds against a government initiated containment where soldiers dressed in biological protection suits and armed with machine guns are ordered to gun down anyone showing the slightest bit of infection or the unaffected trying to escape quarantine. Add in the fact the above mentioned armed duck hunters - now zombified - are laying in wait to kill any live body, military or otherwise.

Screen writers Scott Kosar (The Machinist), Ray Wright (Pulse) and director Breck Eisner (son of former Disney head Michael Eisner) do a remarkably good job adding substance to what could have been just another “actor screams-runs-falls-gets caught and killed-by-the-zombie” movie. There is surprisingly at times, real suspense, which is worth noting in a movie genre which you know just about every one dies. Yes, there are some obligatory clichés added for shock value but not so many that the movie becomes absurd. The mandatory killings thankfully aren’t particularly gory or graphic but some scenes do make you flinch a little and others make you literally jump a bit. The suspense leading up to the scare was pretty much perfectly timed by the entire production crew from director to editor. Every actor nailed their part - especially John Anderson, making the film as close to believable as a movie about the government efforts to contain a chemical bio-weapon leak can be.

Romero’s films are known for their social commentary, and conspiracy theorist will say there’s more truth to this movie than anyone knows. As a matter of fact, at the screening I attended Greenpeace had set up a table, literally, just outside of the theater.

Now I don’t know how much reality was injected into the script, but as horror movie, it does a great job making you kind of root for the zombies.



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