Unless you’re fifteen years old and very easily satisfied, there’s not a whole lot to expect from horror movies these days. Most are riffs on the same old themes. Get a bunch of people trapped in some crazy person’s warehouse or out in the desert or in Slovakia, and make sure their guts are hanging from the rafters by the time the credits start rolling. Easy enough, amirite?
Because I’ve had my heart broken before, I wasn’t expecting much more than that from The Crazies. It looked like it had some good zombie-movie-type thrills and I have a hard time saying no to that sort of thing, so I was happy to waste an hour and a half watching it. Still, there was a dark corner in the back of my mind that told me I would be horribly disappointed by the entire thing. You know what? I was pleasantly surprised. The movie didn’t have me up on my feet and clapping at the screen, but I thought that, overall, the movie was competent. Would you believe, very competent?
I’ve never seen the 1973 original, but from what I’ve read the plot isn’t that different. There’s a man-made virus that’s gotten into the water supply of a small rural town, and it’s driving the people there insane. As the military moves in to contain the entire thing, the sheriff and his wife try and make it out of town without getting themselves killed. The Crazies scores major points for not relying on the same old horror movie cliches. There are points in the movie where it looks like things are being set up to give us some big, gory payoff, only to switch tracks at the last minute and give us something altogether different. The movie relied much more on the plot’s natural tension and the audience psyching themselves out rather a bunch of mindless violence. I thought it was a good change of pace.
But if you are indeed fifteen years old and Hostel had you wetting your pants, you too will not be disappointed. There’s plenty of people getting shot and stabbed and cut up to satisfy most fans. There’s a knife fight in there that was a little over the top, but for the most part none of the violence felt gratuitous. Just the good ole’ necessary kind. Your parents and teachers may tell you otherwise, but trust me, it is necessary.
Timothy Olyphant as Sheriff David Dutton has a couple of ham-it-up moments in the movie, but those are few and far between. After Deadwood, The Crazies, and now Justified, I wonder if we’ll ever be able to look at him without a sheriff’s badge or sticking a gun in someone’s face. Methinks not. Radha Mitchell plays Olyphant’s pregnant wife, and I managed to go the entire movie without remembering how much I hated her after Silent Hill (not for her performance, but for how much Silent Hill sucked), so I consider that a win for her. The movie’s breakout star is Joe Anderson, who plays Deputy Russell Clank and was able to bring some emotion into the film that I actually thought felt genuine and not trite.
The Crazies probably won’t go down in any Hall of Fame, but neither will it go down in any sort of Hall of Shame (a ridiculous idea!). It’s a solid story that understands what it is and honestly doesn’t try to be anything more than that. Because of that, I felt it really succeeded at what it set out to do. It’s probably one of the more down to earth horror films we’ve had in the past few years, which I think is a good thing. Definitely worth your money. B