George A. Romero’s The Crazies (1973) is the exact type of film that should be getting remade in this day and age of remake-crazy Hollywood. To begin with it was an extremely bad film that not many people care about or even remember. But it had a terrifying idea behind it that was more plausible than monsters running around craving brains. Properly executed it could have been a great horror film like Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968) but instead was a forgettable experience that barely even got played on late-night TV. The updated version strips away everything except for the idea and delivers a fine movie that isn’t so much scary as it is unsettling in a “what would you do?” way.
Set in a small Iowa town, the film follows Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant), his wife Judy (Radha Mitchell) who is also the town doctor, and Deputy Russell Clank (Joe Anderson) as they try to figure out why the townspeople are going insane and getting increasingly violent and murderous. After the military quarantines the area they learn that the town’s water supply was contaminated when a plane carrying an experimental drug crashed nearby. The soldiers begin using excessive force on anyone they believe to be infected and soon David, Judy, and Russell are on the run fighting for their lives. Will they get infected, be killed by someone who is, or will the military find them first?
There’s nothing overly flashy about The Crazies and that’s part of its appeal. Director Breck Eisner has taken a low-key approach with his version and while there are some great scenes of horror most of the eeriness comes from the uniforms the military wears (gas masks are always freaky) or scenes of vast open spaces where anything could happen. There’s also nothing cheesy about The Crazies. Eisner could have gone in a campy direction and made this more of a comedy-horror but instead took the material seriously and gave it a proper treatment.
As far as acting is concerned no one really jumps out as giving it their all. Olyphant is always fun to watch though and if you liked him in last year’s The Perfect Getaway or the recent release High Life then most likely you will enjoy his turn here. I personally feel he’s an extremely underrated actor and is one role off from being a huge Hollywood star. Mitchell gives a much more sincere performance than her role in last year’s Surrogates, and Anderson is solid with what he has to work with.
I wouldn’t suggest you rush out to see The Crazies but I would recommend it if you want a decent outbreak movie that might give you a few chills.
*** out of 5 stars