Sunday, February 28, 2010

Film Review – The Crazies

Writer: Scott Kosar, Ray Wright; based on George Romero's 1973 original
Director: Breck Eisner
Producer: Michael Aguilar, Rob Cowan, Dean Georgaris
Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson
Zombie horror, 101 minutes

This remake of a 1973 George Romero film has an unusual pedigree. It’s made by Participant Media, which was founded by eBay’s first president Jeffrey Skoll. Participant’s mission is to make politically relevant films, and they’re best known for the Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth about Al Gore and climate change. Breck Eisner is the film’s director. He is the son of former-Disney boss Michael Eisner, and was the director of the atrocious Matthew McConaughey film Sahara.

As with many of Romero’s original zombie movies, the political overtones are noticeable but discreet. I expect that most viewers will be oblivious to the interpretive possibilities, and just enjoy it as a good example of the genre. The plot will be familiar to not only zombie fans, but to anyone who saw The Simpsons Movie. Basically, man-made event causes the townsfolk of Ogden Marsh to become crazed homicidal maniacs. So technically, they are not zombies since they were never dead. But they move, act, kill and infect humans the same way, so for all intents and purposes that's what they are.

Viewers probably won’t care either that there are inconsistencies in their behaviour. Early in the film, it’s established that someone who becomes crazy goes through a long period of blank immobility, but that requirement is later dropped.

As the town’s sheriff, Timothy Olyphant is starting to impress me. I never watched him on TV’s “Deadwood” (I’m not much of a regular TV viewer) and didn’t care for him in Live Free or Die Hard or Hitman, finding him unconvincing and uncharismatic. But he was very good in The Perfect Getaway and was the main reason it was better than expected. He likewise carries this film and makes it better than it you’d think.

Eisner does a decent job in the director’s chair but relies too heavily on the usual cheap scares such as sudden movements punctuated by loud noise or music. But there are some good sequences like a confrontation in the funeral parlour and another at a car wash. He also wisely maintains the film’s perspective from the sheriff’s point of view so that when another group is introduced, you wonder who “the crazies” of the title really are.

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