Friday, 17 August 2012

The Crazies (2010) - review

2010 (USA)

Contains spoilers.

Ok and I promise not to make a habit of this, but I'm afraid to admit that The Crazies isn't a zombie film either. After 28 Days Later this makes two in a row and not a good start for a zombie blog.

It does have a highly infectious virus turning a small US Heartland town's regular citizens into homicidal mindless killers, and it does focus on a small band of survivors trying to escape first the infected's attempts to kill them in as violent and bloody a way as possible and later a gas-mask clad military attempting to contain the pandemic by any means necessary; but no zombies, not one.
I think I was taken in by the back cover's description of Sheriff David Dutton's (Timothy Olypant) and his pregnant wife Judy's (Radha Mitchell's) desperate struggle to survive against mindless infected killers and the co-writing and executive producer credentials of George A. Romero. I was expecting more zombie like behaviour which does appear from time to time but for the most part the infected residents' slow decline to this base zombie-like state is where the action takes place and the residents retain much use of their faculties able to shoot guns, hunt in packs, turn electricity on and off etc. So not zombies.

Anyway, I might as well review it and you'll have to forgive its inclusion on WTD based on some thin zombie like behaviour. Ahem. The Crazies is directed by Breck Eisner.  The film is a remake of the 1973 film by George A. Romero, which I haven't seen and was written by Scott Kosar and Ray Wright along with Romero which I mentioned above. Like 28 Days Later the cause of the apocalypse is a man made virus, this time called Trixie, which is introduced to the water supply from a plane crashing in a nearby creek. It reduces people's base functions to that of inhuman mindless bloodthirsty killing machines and spreads like wildfire.

The film did share some similarities to 28 Days Later which I reviewed yesterday. Firstly it spends time contrasting a small fictional town of Ogden Marsh, Iowa and its peaceful community with the burning, desolate hell of what remains 48 hours later. Eisner does a tremendous job pacing this decline, introducing the crazies slowly and building the viewers relationship towards the trials of a small group of some-how survivors. In true horror film style some of the self contained set pieces are gruesome, dramatic and genuinely scary and you're right behind David's early proclamation that they're in real trouble.

The second section introduces the military as a new additional faceless enemy to have to deal with, Eisner even consulting with the CDC on protocol to portray as realistic a response to a major pandemic as possible. Ruthless and inhumane, efficient and ordered all come together when a major crisis is being dealt with in as quick a timescale as possible and there are some intense, confusing and shocking evacuation scenes. The film is from the perspective of the survivors so you side with them but it's hard not to accept, in some way, that such a firm response might actually be the preferred one. Eisner wanted this ambiguity and it's hard not to feel sorry for the soldiers too as their control starts to fall apart.

The main focus of the film though is always on the Sheriff, his wife and their two main companions, Russell his deputy (Joe Anderson) and Becca (Danielle Panabaker) and their attempts to survive and ultimately, believing they're all clean, get as far away from the shit-storm as possible. There's some great have-they/haven't-they got the virus tension and the pace never relents as they deal with one set piece after another, including a truly fabulous car wash sequence. You're never bored, there's no time.

As I've said, Eisner has made and set out to make a horror film full of shocks and it's fear that drives the film and its characters. The survivors fear the crazies and the military, and the military fear the pandemic spreading. Fear motivates the action: the survivors' attempts to escape at all costs and the military's use of any method available to contain it. Eisner even shows us fear is the motivation on the ground for the soldiers too. When confronted, a young infantryman shows he's just as scared and confused as everyone else and only deals with it by obeying his orders; it's a nice touch.

The Crazies isn't a zombie film, it's a well paced, bloody, scary, edge-of-your-seat film that people who like zombie films will enjoy thoroughly. It's not a classic but it's well acted, well presented and recommended 7/10.


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