The Crazies Review
Ogden Marsh, a small town in Iowa, the kind of place where everyone knows everyone else. But something is happened. A biological weapon, codenamed “Trixie”, has got into the water supply, causing violent insanity in all it affects. Soon Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) and his wife Judy (Radha Mitchell) are among a small number of uninfected townsfolk fighting for survival.
In the past few years, there have been many remakes or “reimaginings” of notable or classic horror films from the 1970s – which has also moved into the 1980s with Halloween II and A Nightmare on Elm Street - and there will be more, I have no doubt. It's inevitable that the work of George Romero would become grist to the remake mill. With all three of his first zombie trilogy now redone, it's no surprise that filmmakers are turning to his non-zombie Seventies films. While I'm not aware of a new version of Martin in the works, I wouldn't be at all surprised if there was one. But in the meantime we have the 2010 iteration of The Crazies, which carries a Romero endorsement in the form of an executive producer credit.
Too many horror remakes simply add CGI and gore, not to mention a loud multichannel soundtrack...but at the same time remove any of the ideas, the subversiveness and the edginess that made the originals stand out. That said, there are also some entirely capable pieces of work that make you look forward to what their makers can do given something more original to work with, and this version of The Crazies is one such.
Romero's film is actually a couple of minutes longer than the remake, but watching it on DVD in preparation for this review I was impressed by how fast paced it was. It's comparable to the opening and closing segments of Dawn of the Dead without the slow movement in the middle. (N.B. I'm referring to the theatrical cut of Dawn, not any other version) Breck Eisner's remake by contrast builds up to its big setpieces with hints of wrongness early on, before pressing its accelerator to the floor. Despite its 15 certificate it's if anything gorier than the original. (Romero's film had an 18 last time the BBFC saw it, for the 2003 Anchor Bay release reviewed here by Mike Sutton.) Romero made his film in a paranoid age – one where you couldn't trust your neighbours, let alone the government – and he made an explicit nod to Vietnam in a scene where a priest sets himself on fire. Eisner's film inevitably softens this, though still delivers a suitably bleak ending. The dark-toned photography of Maxime Alexandre is another plus, and the actors' performances are solid.
If it didn't have the shadow of its famous original hanging over it, the 2010 The Crazies would go down as a taut, efficiently done horror film that sets and meets expectations. It certainly doesn't disgrace Romero's film.
Metrodome's DVD release is encoded for Region 2 only. (There is also a Blu-ray edition, not reviewed here.) It begins with trailers for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Season of the Witch and an advertisement for Snickers. These can be skipped using the chapter button on your remote, or by fast-forwarding them, but you can't otherwise go directly to the main menu.
Shot in Super 35, The Crazies comes to DVD in the ratio of 2.40:1, anamorphically enhanced. Given that this is a new film from presumably a HD master, this seems a little soft, though as I didn't see the film in a cinema I can't say if this is intentional or not. Some scenes are very dark, but shadow detail is good.
The soundtrack comes in Dolby Digital 5.1 and, played loud, it's certainly immersive and effective, with the subwoofer coming in to play with a few explosions. English subtitles for the hard-of-hearing are available for the feature, but not the extras.
Breck Eisner provides a commentary, and like his film, it does what it says on the tin. He's open in his love for Romero's film, and points out some direct references to it, such as a cameo appearance from Lynn Lowry. He also spends a lot of time on how he was keen to make his infected not look like zombies.
There are several other extras, but they are mostly lightweight, EPK-style filler, which fills out their running times with clips from the film. Despite its title, “Behind the Scenes with Director Breck Eisner” (10:35), is a standard making-of featurette. Eisner is certainly interviewed, but so are several other people.
“Paranormal Pandemics” (9:40) describes how the filmmakers modelled their fictional disease on real-life ones, and how they used makeup to distinguish the various stages of illness. Again, Eisner says that he didn't want the infected characters to look like zombies.
“The George A. Romero Template” (9:55) is a look at Romero's brand of politically-themed horror, with plenty of clips from Night of the Living Dead (in the correct 4:3 ratio) and some rather murky ones from the original The Crazies. Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead would have been appropriate here, but maybe licensing issues prevented clips from those films being shown.
“Make Up Mastermind: Rob Hall in Action” (11:26) and “Visual Effects in Motion” (3:42) are likely to be of more interest to filmmakers than others. The former describes how the make-up effects were achieved, and is pretty familiar from similar featurettes on other discs. The latter shows scenes from the film, starting from the original shots and adding layer after layer of CGI. The extras are completed by a trailer (2:35), a photo gallery (3:20) and the original storyboards (7:45) for three scenes.