Breck Eisner’s The Crazies is a tense, fun little horror thriller that is heavy on the scares and light on the cultural subtext. Executive produced by horror legend and director of the 1973 original, George A. Romero, the remake steers clear of any obvious agenda about “zombiefied” Red State denizens and focuses its attention solely on the chills the citizens induce.
Outside the small, rural town of Ogden Marsh, a government-engineered virus crashes into and contaminates their drinking water. Exposure renders the infected with “the crazies,” a catatonic state followed by bursts of irrational violence towards their friendly neighbors and even their own family members.
Caught up in the chaos of the spreading plague and the government’s failed biohazard containment are Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant), his wife (Radha Mitchell), his deputy Russell Clank (Joe Anderson), and a few scattered disposable tag-alongs. A decent enough script sends them wandering between horrific set pieces in search of safety from the townspeople and the quarantine alike.
The otherwise enjoyable chase through Crazy Town suffers from a disturbing lack of rules for the “sickness” plaguing its characters. Some seem incoherent while others are capable of elaborate set ups for the heroes to thwart based on coincidence alone. Not to mention a crude set of guidelines for how the virus is transmitted and “incubated” that shifts when its convenient to the story. Turn off your brain and follow the crowd.
A death toll is to be expected from the R-rated flick, but Eisner’s film is clever in its ability to consistently blend the subcategories of horror scares: the relentless pursuit of bloodthirsty “zombies,” the unsettling, paranoid eeriness of inevitable terror lurking in the shadows, and the gruesome gore at each vicious encounter. An autopsy room scene and car wash escape stand out as memorable moments in this tightly-edited ride.
3.5 out of 5.