Starring: Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson, Danielle Panbaker, John Reegan

Director: Breck Eisner

Writer(s): Scott Kosar, Ray Wright

Cinematography: Maxime Alexandre

Original Score: Mark Isham

Running Time: 101 Mins.

The Horror genre, at its best, is/was renowned for tackling issues in society that were often seen as too controversial to present to the public head-on, so to speak. George A. Romero was one of the king’s of this thesis, his earlier zombie films (Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead) are clear parables for consumerism and the hugely materialistic society in which we reside, and to date both of those bench-mark horror’s have been remade with the gloss of Hollywood and bereft of the subtext, something that makes them, apparently, more palatable for a modern audience, so it wasn’t going to be long before other Romero films were plundered for the same glossy treatment.

Which is where The Crazies comes in, horror remakes are as we all know ten-a-penny nowadays, the good thing is many horror’s while good in ideas were not so great in their execution. What this means is that the films that fall into this “could be better” category are not so likely to get the critical kicking as those that mess about with hallowed material such as Halloween or Friday 13th, and in turn are able to make good material into a great film…in theory! Sadly The Crazies is as “been there, seen that, got the t-shirt” as you are ever likely to see in Horror next to say, the by the numbers slasher film. Dealing as it does with an epidemic, quarantined small town and the zombie-fied infected while a small band of survivors group together to try and escape, as they say familiarity breeds contempt!

Thankfully though director Breck Eisner, whose last film was inexplicably (given his steady hand here) Sahara, handles the material with such an assured hand that The Crazies becomes more than the sum of its rather familiar parts, yes it never really break any rules of the genre of even comes close to delivering us anything new but what it does do is deliver a solid genre piece that is most importantly creepy, if not downright scary, and evokes a great sense of post-apocalyptic dread that many films have recently sought to capture and failed (The Road, The Book of Eli). Heck I have no problem with a repeated plot, as long as it either takes it at a fresh angle or does more than a pedestrian retelling with it, even when all the expected factors are present and correct, right down to the caricatured town Mayor and rednecks with guns running amok!

Though the overall pace and atmospheric dread are the key plus point for The Crazies there are a number of stand-out set pieces that will have you biting your nails quite rigorously, taking place in truck stops, barns and abandoned morgue they again provide little in the way of originality just simply well orchestrated. The other plus point comes in the leading man, Timothy Olyphant has long teetered on the edge of super-stardom yet instead chooses to perpetually appear in, and be much better than, films that are by and large not particularly inspiring, Hitman, A Perfect Getaway, Dreamcatcher, Catch and Release, to name but a few, all bad films on the whole yet Olyphant is as great as ever in all!

Here he is the town sheriff, upstanding, stern yet fair and liked by all, for me Olyphant channels a young Clint Eastwood, carrying the same intensity but balancing it out with a realism and likeability that is evident in a single look, if justice is served Olyphant will get his superhero role soon enough! He could do far worse than appear in such as this for a while longer yet though, as the film progresses we see events through the sheriff’s eyes, we can empathise with him in his constant efforts to keep a grip on his sanity and those around him. It may sound heavy but it is in this that the taut pacing is held, watch as we are as unclear as to the sanity of Deputy Russell as Olyphant and his wife (Radha Mitchell, thankfully saved of being simply a damsel in distress) are.

The main gripe many have held against The Crazies is in its final moments, horror films tend to sit on one of two stalls upon their close, the jump shock or the sequel set-up, or sometimes both! I won’t spoil it by suggesting where The Crazies sits but needless to say it doesn’t go very far in defying your expectations and I didn’t find it displeasing myself, rather a welcome prospect…much like the film as a whole.

VERDICT

The Crazies offers jumps and entertainment and though it is nothing new it is expertly handled and as taught an experience you could ask for without too much in the way of brains, of course it helps when your leading man is Timothy Olyphant, my personal winner of “the most under-rated actor” award for the last decade!

 

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