Saturday, February 27, 2010

Review - The Crazies

A small farming town in Iowa becomes plagued by hysteria and violence when their water source is contaminated by a unknown toxin. As more and more of the town begin to show symptoms, the military quickly move in to evade any further spread of the toxin. Meanwhile the town's Sheriff and his Deputy create a plan to gather their loved ones and escape the containment perimeter safely.

Going into the remake of George A. Romero's "The Crazies" I hoped for nothing more than a scare induced thrill ride. What I got was a tension filled survival horror film that has just enough scares to keep your eyes peeled and is pleasantly sprinkled with two dynamite performances by Timothy Olyphant and Joe Anderson. Not to mention a superior score that houses all the right components to keep the viewer thoroughly engaged by Mark Isham.

From the get go "The Crazies" director Breck Eisner sets a quite tone that mirrors the small town farming communities demeanor. This pleasant feeling is quickly swept away by a unsettling mood that builds and torments throughout the 101 minute horror. Cinematographer Maxime Alexandre matches the unstable mood of "The Crazies" with massive sprawling shots of the quiet farming town as hysteria closes in. It helps that the spacious American landscape creates a feeling of solitude. A emotion that is compounded by the overwhelming sense of panic the survivors are meant to endure.

I've always been a fan of mission movies. People who are on a quest. Whether the quest is for survival, personal gain or forced, the plot devices lend themselves wonderfully to film. Here in "The Crazies" the quest is most definitely survival, and from the opening credits to the closing, I was attached to the town's folk and their plight. Actors Timothy Olyphant and Joe Anderson warrant most of the credit, although screenwriters Scott Kosar and Ray Wright penned a well focused survival yarn. The horror moves fairly well and houses numerous locations following the survivors as they try to break free from the military imposed quarantine. I was pleased to see a film with as many locations retain its frantic and panic effect throughout.

As far as the scares, "The Crazies" holds a very unnerved tone. Thankfully, the horror leans on jump or timing scares more so than gore. Not that the gore isn't there and utilized, it just not as predominate as the overbearing anxious tone that supersedes it. Not quite zombies and not quite dead, I really enjoyed the look and actions of the infected. Watching their progressions is a ton of fun. Furthermore seeing their unique personalities remain post-infection was an added treat.

"The Crazies" is very much carried by Timothy Olyphant as the Sheriff of the small Iowa town. Olyphant who is no stranger to a Sheriff role (see HBO's Deadwood), delivers a polished performance as the steadfast Sheriff determined to make it out alive. Olyphant picks up the emotional slack delivered by his on-screen wife Radha Mitchell playing the town's physician. Mitchell is the essence of panic amongst the survivors and unfortunately, her portrayal came across flat more times than not. The same can be said for Danielle Panabaker playing Becca Darling. Back on a positive note, Joe Anderson is outstanding as Deputy Russell Clank. Anderson makes a perfect compliment to Timothy Olyphant's determined persona, nearly stealing his thunder in the 2nd and 3rd acts.

Outside of a few minor gripes like, a military that did not seem all that diligent, I really enjoyed "The Crazies." The tension held throughout the film flawlessly. There are a few scenes that gave me a good jump, not to mention the dominating eeriness that prevailed. The performances, setting, score, design and tone of the film all come together wonderfully to make a compelling and thrilling ride to the end. For a remake, "The Crazies" is a well made and well executed piece of film that does what it sets out to do, which is give you a few good scares.