Mark Reviews Movies


2  Stars (out of 4)

Director: Breck Eisner

Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson, Danielle Panabaker

MPAA Rating: R (for bloody violence and language)

Running Time: 1:41

Release Date: 2/26/10

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Review by Mark Dujsik | February 25, 2010

The Crazies is an "oh [expletive]" (Fill in your favorite) horror movie. A character enters a space, and the camera spots a figure in the background. The character doesn't see it, but we do. "Oh [expletive]," people in the audience go. The character continues to wander around the space, unaware of the imminent threat, or the film cuts elsewhere, waiting just a moment before all hell breaks loose.

Considering what it is, The Crazies pulls off these moments fairly well. Director Breck Eisner does manage to achieve some tension in the buildup in such moments, and the resulting carnage and terror is violent and immediate

It's also a fake-out scarer, though. A character cowers in hiding or meanders around, and something grabs him or her. The audience (and the soundtrack) lets out a shriek, but oh, it's just the sheriff/wife/deputy/ancillary character. These moments are just as anticlimactic as ever, and there are a lot here, undermining the sense of anxiety Eisner does accomplish.

The movie begins with images of the quiet town of Ogden Marsh, Iowa in flames. Two days earlier, the title reads (and I laughed as "We'll Meet Again" came over the soundtrack), and Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) and his wife Dr. Judy (Radha Mitchell) begin to notice that certain townsfolk aren't acting all that right.

One man comes to a local baseball game with a faraway and distant look, carrying a shotgun, and the Sheriff has to shoot him dead. One of the good doctor's patients has a faraway and distant look, and he kills his family later that night. When emergency services arrive, he's outside his home, whistling a happy tune.

Something is rotten here, in case you haven't noticed, and soon enough, the Army quarantines the entire town, while the Sheriff, his deputy (Joe Anderson), the doctor, and her nurse (Danielle Panabaker) try to make their escape (It's not important, but I find the names Russell Clank and Becca Darling pretty damn funny in their down-homeiness).

The movie does right by its terror scenes. The sequence showing the crazy patient terrorizing his family pays off well with the unexpected introduction of a gasoline can. Another features Judy and Becca strapped to gurneys in an isolation ward as a guy enters with a pitchfork acting all crazy-like. There's a tense standoff with a young Army grunt, who tries to explain he didn't enter the armed forces to kill unarmed innocents, leaving the group with a potentially tricky moral dilemma. As they attempt to find a car, a trio of hunters stalks the streets, looking for crazies and acting crazy themselves, even though they haven't caught the craziness.

There's no time for quiet moments. After a party member's demise in a carwash of death, the Army puts the kibosh on their means of getaway, and even a quick stop at home is interrupted by a couple of crazies who aren't too happy with the Sheriff's dealing at the baseball field. It should be noted that the Sheriff is the type who doesn't even let a knife to the hand stop him.

These scenes are tense, and while they rely as often on the last-second save as the fake-out scare, screenwriters Scott Kosar and Ray Wright (working off George A. Romero's 1973 original) infuse enough dark humor into the mix to keep us on edge of expectations (the carwash sequence and its finale, and the knife-to-the-hand bit come mostly to mind).

What's lacking, then, is cohesion to individual events. For all the antagonists at play here (the infected crazy folk, the Army, the crazy-or-not hunters, and the paranoia-inducing threat of infection within the ranks of the group), none of them amount to much more than a means to incite incidents moment to moment. Surely, there's something to be explored within at least one of these groups to make them a more all-encompassing threat or at least something more interesting than a person who could kill you.

The result is a movie that succeeds in its moments but is missing an overarching sense of fear. The Crazies is a partial success of method that's missing the madness.

Copyright 2010 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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