I don’t usually review movies in this space, but I’m as qualified to do so as I am to review music or comics. Which is to say, I’m a little more qualified than Ellen is to judge amateur pop stars. (I mean, I’ve been doing it since about ’05. When did she get started?) But I just saw The Crazies, and I have to write about it. I have to!
By way of disclosure: I am a huge George A. Romero fan. The first movie I ever saw that made an impact on me was Night of the Living Dead. (Okay, the second. Star Wars was the first.) I was about 8 years old, and we were on vacation in a log cabin in Maine . My dad wanted to see it, and so me, him, and my mom drove into Port Clyde to the only movie theater—a revival house—had dinner at Peter Ott’s Steakhouse, and went to the flick. I lasted until the brick hit the car window, and then I was out. Had nightmares for a week and barely a drop of blood was shed.
I can’t say the original The Crazies had anything close to that kind of impact on me, but since then I haven’t missed one of George’s films. He doesn’t direct or write as much as he used to, and I couldn’t get through Diary of the Dead (camerawork made me nauseous), but I dug all the other “The Dead” films, loved The Dark Half and Creepshow, and even found redeeming parts of Monkey Shines. So I had to see the remake of The Crazies on opening weekend.
It sounds like a million other plague/zombie movies: Town goes from creepy to insane in a matter days, just about everybody dies, there’s violence, etc. etc. All that does indeed occur. But it’s handled very well. It is genuinely frightening, and when it takes that inevitable turn from horror to action flick (as far too many horror films do these days), it actually retains its tone. It’s not like watching two different movies. Part of the way it maintains its style is by staying with one point of view. Unlike the original, the only indications we have of military involvement are a few satellite pictures and then we see whatever David, the Sheriff and main character, sees. This is where it goes right where Hills Have Eyes 2 went wrong—we the audience stay with the main player.
No, there’s nothing really new here, and the coincidence that David and his wife are both immune does seem far fetched, but this is a solidly terrifying (and realistic) movie. The last thing to mention is the role of the military. The military is portrayed as a fascistic, unsympathetic monolith, with just two exceptions: The first is a young National Guardsman briefly captured by David and his deputy, the other is a bureaucrat trying to flee the town. But this seems both realistic and proper: To those who think it portrays the military in a negative light, I say what would you have them do to stop a supervirus of this magnitude? I think the tone was just right.
So I’m giving it my highest recommendation.