Anchor Bay Entertainment should've made a promotional deal with one of the makers of bottled water to celebrate the release of The Crazies on DVD and Blu-ray since after you watch director Breck Eisner's remake of the classic creeper from George A. Romero, it's pretty safe to say you won't want to even brush your teeth using tap water.
Unlike the big city panic of London or New York in thematically similar films such as 28 Days Later and I Am Legend, The Crazies is perhaps even more frightening because the setting is so idyllic and tucked away from society where governmental testing labs and biological weapons creation doesn't exist in the one doctor town of Iowa's Ogden Marsh.
Initially the film offers the viewer very little information regarding what's happening to the town's citizens as, similar to the characters, we just start getting the sense that something very dangerous is lurking in the community which is signified by a startling sequence near the beginning when a man coolly walks onto the baseball field during a high school game with a shotgun in his hand.
Putting the kindly Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) into a disastrous standoff situation wherein the officer is forced to kill a man whose family he knows all too well in the tight-knit town, the lethal confrontation is only the first indication that something has altered the chemistry of the citizens when the same five yard stare and statue like movements of the gunman can be seen on the faces of other Ogden Marsh residents.
After a series of deaths, the discovery of a downed military plane, the loss of phone and satellite reception lead the sheriff and his deputy Russ (Joe Anderson) to suspect the water supply, it's only a matter of time before everything culminates in an extreme us vs. them panic.
With the military moving into quarantine the residents, forcefully restraining anyone who has the slightest fever including David's pregnant doctor wife, Judy (Radha Mitchell) and the woman's young medical assistant Becca (Danielle Panabaker), David and Russ embark on a dangerous mission to rescue the women.
In doing so, they try to somehow find transportation to get them from Ogden Marsh to Cedar Rapids, all the while trying to avoid being executed by soldiers on a mission to kill those infected or their former neighbors who've transformed into walking, stalking, near zombie-like maniacs.
Terrifically chilling and smartly executed, The Crazies is one of the strongest pure horror works I've seen in ages, mostly because it doesn't go so far to the extremes in trying to show us carnage galore or relish in torture. While like a majority of films in its genre, it's not for the faint of heart, it manages to thrill on another level precisely because of its innovative showdown sequences between hero and villain.
Despite a few protracted moments like the heroes rushing to pull the trigger just as a pitchfork is about to pierce flesh or managing to reach that extra inch in the dark for that split-second advantage over the crazed masses, director Eisner has a keen eye for knowing how to maximize fear in any given situation, which is evidenced in two of the most terrifying yet brilliantly directed moments.
As Olyphant struggles with a crazed man in the local funeral home, the weapon in question – a power saw – suddenly gets loose, taking on a life of its own as it devilishly races across the ground towards our hero as he tries to get out of the way in what must've taken some true talent behind-the-scenes both during production as well as post-production to carry off.
In the same turn, perhaps the best sequence in Crazies is not the final chase or extended fight but rather in a spooky scene that finds our four characters safely on the road but ducking for cover in an old car wash as they wait for a military helicopter to leave the area. While the car wash should technically stay off, somehow it clicks into full working order as, in between the sudsy soap bubbles and screams, the characters try to figure out just who and if so, how many “crazies” are also holed up in the same area.
Cleverly changing the color palette of the movie from the gorgeous healthy sunlight of the movie's opening to slowly draining out the brighter colors as things become more dire when the film continues, while purists will no doubt be scrutinizing this remake on a much more unforgiving level in adherence to Romero's first film, for those just looking for a nice fast-paced yet intelligent scare, you can't do much better this year than The Crazies.
Text ©2010, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.