George Romero is a god in the horror community. With a legendary filmography, he single handedly brought zombies into mainstream cinema. While most are familiar with the ‘Dead’ series, Romero has quite a few films that get a fraction of the attention. One of his lost treasures is a 1973 film titled ‘The Crazies’. The movie has flown under the radar for decades, but recently surfaced as part of the ‘remake/re-imagining’ era that seems to be overtaking theatres today. What happens when Breck ‘Sahara’ Eisner is given free rein in Romero’s world? Things get a little crazy.
Imagine living in the small town of Ogden Marsh, Iowa. It’s a farming community where everyone knows everybody. One day, while enjoying a high school baseball game with the majority of the townsfolk, a member of the community randomly walks on to the field with a shotgun. He looks dazed and confused when approached by the local sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant). After a few words, Sheriff Dutton has no choice but to fatally shoot the man. There is no explanation for the unusual behaviour. The next day, David’s wife Dr. Judy Dutton (Radha Mitchell), treats another man who was brought in by his wife. His behaviour is odd as well and turning worse by the minute. All of the sudden this once peaceful town is unravelling with confusion, chaos and violence. The military steps in. Rather than help, they seem to be covering things up and doing whatever it takes to reduce the spread of this mysterious outbreak. It is up to a few locals to try and deal with not only the military, but ‘The Crazies’ as well.
The opening scenes in ‘The Crazies’ are outstanding. The film starts of very strong by unfolding the problems quickly without giving many answers to the odd behaviour and violence. There is a lot of tension and genuine fear that helps provide a solid foundation for the movie. When the military steps in, the intensity drops off a bit. While the rest of the movie has a good pace, it never quite gets back to the quality provided in the first thirty minutes. Holding the film together throughout is Timothy Olyphant. Eisner couldn’t have gotten a better lead. Olyphant is an outstanding everyman. He loves his wife, cares about his town, and strives to do the right thing regardless of the situation. Sheriff Dutton is the backbone of the film and provides an element that is missing from a lot of horror movies – heart. Another standout is Dutton’s right hand man Russell Clank (Joe Anderson). Does he have the virus or is he just crazy? While everyone else seems to be quickly losing their minds, Clank keeps clinging to his sanity. Anderson balances the emotions perfectly and gives another layer of horror to the film. The rest of the cast does well in their respective roles, but without Olyphant and Anderson, the film would lack depth and find itself searching for an audience.
Horror movies typically utilize the full sound field to enhance the scare factor. This DVD wants you to know that ‘The Crazies’ are all around. While a great deal of the sound is up front, the rear speakers which typically don’t get used much will be thumping with music, effects, screams and more. There is great use of directional activity that gives more depth to the on-screen action. Even with this aggressive mix, the dialogue is mixed well and understandable throughout the film.
One complaint about the original 1973 version of ‘The Crazies’ is that it can be a bit too slow at times. Breck Eisner certainly took care of that problem with his 2010 re-imagining. Scaling back a bit on the social commentary, it hits the ground running and doesn’t let up. The beginning of the film is excellent – some of the best horror that can be seen. Once the military plot starts to settle in, the movie loses some of its intensity. As far as remakes go, ‘The Crazies’ is one that makes the cut. The DVD has good video, aggressive audio, and a lot of extra features that add value to the disc. Horror fans won’t be disappointed with this release.