Starring: Radha Mitchell, Timothy Olyphant, Joe Anderson
Director: Breck Eisner
Directed by the man behind one of the biggest commercial flops in Hollywood history - Sahara - and penned by the screenwriter behind the pointless 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, this update of George Romero's horror flick hardly looks appealing. But somehow The Crazies proves to be a piece of passable entertainment, as Breck Eisner and Scott Kosar deliver an understated zombie flick that sees hell break loose in Midwestern America, as the population of a town in Iowa turns undead, after a military plane crashes with a deadly load.
Steering clear of making The Crazies an all-out gore-fest, Eisner sticks to Romero's original theme of exposing the state's indifference to the well-being of the 'good people'. Eisner's take is more restrained in its critique - Romero's film was made in 1973, and is filled with thinly veiled analogies about American misconduct during the Vietnam War - but potshots against official cynicism remain, from the mayor's refusal to turn off the contaminated water supply (because it will ruin the crops and endanger his position) to the horrifying plans being hatched to decimate what the military commanders dub 'the crazies'.
The film is especially effective during the first half-hour, when menace slowly rears its head as the unassuming and tightly knit farming community struggles to make sense of inexplicable violence being committed by erstwhile pleasant individuals. Some nifty (and maybe too conveniently plotted) investigation work by the sheriff (Timothy Olyphant), his doctor wife (Mitchell, above) and his deputy (Joe Anderson) quickly reveals a state-sponsored cover-up; within hours, they are to feel the full force of their own country's military machine as the army rounds up the townsfolk in a 'containment protocol'.
The suspense at the start is what makes The Crazies intriguing; the film loses its power somewhat later as it descends into the bloodier and more conventional terrain of human-zombie warfare. As in all good horror films, the scariest thing is nearly always the faceless menace lurking off-screen; the true villains are those in gas masks or the unseen powers, not the grotesque undead.
The Crazies opens today