The film opens in quite a unique way. The first images shown are of a town in flames, seemingly deserted. The scene then abruptly shifts to a quaint farm setting, featuring the words “2 days earlier” and an upbeat Johnny Cash tune. Since the film opens with the promise of some crazy stuff going down, it doesn’t take long at all to get right into the action. We meet David, the town sheriff (Timothy Olyphant) who is attending a baseball game. In the middle of the game, a man shows up with a shotgun in the middle of the field. David is forced to gun the man down, much to the shock of the spectators.
Soon thereafter, David’s wife Judy (Radha Mitchell) is shown at her medical practice, attending to a patient with a vague illness. It turns out this patient quickly escalates into murderous insanity later at home with his family. As can be predicted, this illness begins to rapidly infect the community, turning them all into bloodthirsty and zombie-like. It turns out to be a man-made virus intended as a biological weapon that goes drastically wrong. Much of the rest of the film is the typical zombie survival action as David, his wife, and the deputy (Joe Anderson) attempting to survive.
What is most instantly obvious is that this movie doesn’t attempt to deviate much from formula, and as it is a remake to begin with, that is to be expected. It is clear director Breck Eisner wanted to make a film that aimed first and foremost to be entertaining, and it delivers in that sense. The plot of the original Romero film wasn’t aiming to be anything new either. The filmmakers simply wanted to make a horror film that is excellent from a technical standpoint and is fun to watch from start to finish. There is a lot of suspense and quite a few effective scares, and the pacing is appropriately fast. There are not many lulls in the action during its 100 minute duration.
While the intentions of the filmmakers are clear and delivered upon, they also provide for the film’s limitations. It doesn’t seem to have a high re-watchability factor because there are many similar films, and quite a few that are better. Not much focus is put on making unique characters the audience truly cares about. The actors deliver adequate performances given the material, but that material isn’t particularly strong from a character development standpoint. There are some moments that are truly intense when we find them in great danger, but those moments are mostly effective because of the film’s style. These moments would be even better if we truly were rooting for the characters to make it.
For a first watch, which is what this was for me, it was enjoyable throughout. It delivers on the suspense, visuals and, let’s be honest, violence. The gore factor is fairly important in films of this type. While Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” was mainly atmosphere, his later films were insanely creative and even shocking with their levels of violence. In some movies, the pointless violence can become distasteful. When the violence is against people who cease to have human emotion or thinking capacity, it takes on a certain level of cartoonish fun. Creative gore can be an art form in certain cases, and here it is done quite well. The special effects are really excellent and it seems that the filmmakers got the most out of the $20 million budget.
The Crazies lives up to its title. It is a nonstop thrill ride of a film that never slows down enough to be boring. It is almost overwhelming as things happen so fast. A lot of films of this type like to slowly build the tension, and this one does take a unique approach in plunging head-on into the action. It isn’t a film that will make you think, and if you are looking for a film that is purely entertaining, exciting, and fairly scary, this will satisfy your needs. It isn’t a great masterwork to be deeply reflected upon, and it’s probably not a film I’d like to watch over and over again. For a one-time watch though for a viewer in the mood for this type of thing, it works.