MOVIE: The Crazies (2009)

Okay, well, obviously I was going to go see this movie.  After all, it’s about zombies (though, as it turns out, not really) AND it stars ex-Boyfriend of the Week Timothy Olyphant.  Like I could say no to that?  Please.  “Weak” is my middle name (note: not really).

That said, I went into The Crazies expecting it to be a major disappointment.  After all, it’s a remake of a classic horror film (Romero’s 1973 film of the same name), and since when are those any good?

Surprise, surprise, though — I ended up really enjoying it.  I was riveted the entire time I was watching and by the end, I’d stopped taking notes altogether, instead finding myself frantically scribbling down all the things I was trying not to yell at the screen. Things like, “HOLY CRAP!!” and, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!  DON’T DO THAT, YOU FOOL, YOU FOOL!”  (The latter said less because the character was being stupid — my usual reason for yelling such a thing during a horror flick — and more because I actually cared about said character and did not want him to get eaten.)

The story is about an airplane transporting a decommissioned chemical weapon down to Texas to be destroyed when, whoopsie!, it crashes into a river in the small town of Ogden Marsh, Iowa.  From there, the chemical begins to leach into the water supply, gradually infecting Ogden Marsh one farm at a time along the pipeline.

The local sheriff, David Dutton (Olyphant), gets his first hint that something wonky is up when one of the locals wanders onto the high school baseball field during the first game of the season and proceeds to point a shotgun at him.  Forced to shoot him, Dutton is wracked by guilt — and convinced the man was drunk.  But when tox screens come back negative, well. . . what?

Meanwhile, Dutton’s pregnant wife Judy (Radha Mitchell, of actual-sized thighs and butt, hurrah!), the town doctor, has started to see some pretty strange stuff going on with her patients.  The first symptom of whatever-it-is appears to be despondency.  Stage two is irrational bursts of anger.  From there to horrific, zombie-esque, limb-munching violence. Bring it!

Within 24 hours, the military is on the scene, rounding up the locals and suggesting, though not actually saying, that there’s some kind of bug on the loose and the only way to survive is to follow instructions without question.

As per usual, though, their methodology could use some work.  “Maybe if we don’t SAY ‘chemical weapon’ and ‘you’re all going to die,’ they’ll stay calm?” — fellas, please.  Instead, of course, the exact opposite of “staying calm” happens, as the guys in the scary suits start grabbing people out of line for running fevers and then dragging them off kicking and screaming out of sight with no stated reason.

When Judy is the next one to go, David breaks free and races back to town to stock up on weapons.  There he finds his deputy, also hiding out, and the two team up to get Judy back out.

From there, you can predict how this will go, right down to the ending with its nice, but likewise predictable, combination of hope and futility.   What made this film stand out, though, at least from where I sat, was the acting and the overall look of the flick itself.  Olyphant and Mitchell are great fun to watch in this, and I really liked Joe Anderson as the somewhat-sardonic Deputy Clark as well.  The infected are effectively creepy-looking, and the scenery, when not covered in blood and entrails, is quite lovely.

Plus, the fight scenes were just super-cool.  I confess, with no small degree of self-directed horror, that I laughed out loud during that knife-in-the-hand-to-the-throat bit — I’d never seen that before and it was, as I wrote in my notebook, TOTALLY RAD.

Great special effects, original fight scenes, and a truly entertaining plot — in a horror movie REMAKE?  As Liz Lemon would say, what the what?  It’s a miracle.

The Crazies was the most easy-going and thoroughly enjoyable two hours I’ve spent at a theater in quite some time, and if you’re a fan of the genre or any of the actors, I think you pretty much can’t go wrong here.  Let me know if you think I’m wrong about that in the comments!

[Prequeue it at Netflix | Watch trailer]

Genre:  Horror
Cast:  Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson, Danielle Panabaker, Preston Bailey

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5 Responses to “MOVIE: The Crazies (2009)”

  1. Sarah Says:

    Stylistically it was fine, and Radha Mitchell is a stone cold fox, but I wasn’t scared very often! If a filmmaker isn’t going to make an original film then they had better make a scary one.

  2. Liz Says:

    Sarah, I think you make a good point, but Meg, this movie sounds pretty good to me. I’m a little embarrassed to say that I don’t remember having heard about this one. It does sound a bit like “28 Days Later,” but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, if it was done well.

    Okay – here comes the “trash-can trivia” again. Danielle Panabaker! – who I see is in this film – played James Woods’ daughter on the TV show “Shark,” which was pretty good, but got lost in that weird Sunday night shuffle (you know – the same “black hole” that ate up “Three Rivers”). She also starred with … Jared Padelecki … in the re-make of “Friday the 13th.”

    BTW, how sad is it about Corey Haim? I loved “The Lost Boys,” and I felt bad that Corey Feldman, Todd Bridges, and others seemed to have really tried to reach out to Haim.

  3. Trip Says:

    Despite a few problems I had with the story, I was nevertheless highly entertained by this flick – but then, I’m pretty much its target demographic.

    It felt like something Stephen King whipped off his typewriter back in the late 70’s, and I mean that in the best way possible.

    The memorable bits were small, but effective and appropriately creepy. I liked the overhead-satellite shots that served as segues between scenes – lent a solid air of paranoia. I liked how the military presence was mostly faceless and scary, with the one exception of course.

    The end of the car wash scene – another example. You think it’s over, and then OH right, that had to happen.

    I liked that Timothy Olyphant did a great job projecting sheriff-like authority throughout the film, and that you were allowed to care about the main characters. The very last scene was pure B-movie goodness.

    For my taste, though, there weren’t enough “crazies”, and the town got too quiet too quickly. I was hoping for more wild escape scenes from secondary characters. Minor quibbles, though – it ran lean & mean for the 90 minutes or so of screen time – and was still great fun to watch.

  4. TC Says:

    It was much better than the original, but didn’t have the punch of other “infection” movies like 28 Days Later.

  5. briantoohey Says:

    Meg: The White Ribbon; The Eclipse; The Crazies. Amagad, I wish you lived closer so we could be movie buddies since I had to see all of these alone in the theatre, and almost no one I know would have the breadth of interest to want to see all three. But yeah, The Crazies was a real gem this year, and a lot of people overlooked it. How can you overlook Olyphant?! I don’t know, either. But just between you and me, Joe Anderson has to be a future boyfriend of the week, right? I mean, it was obvious from this movie that this guy has charisma on the level of major A-list movie stars, and if his agents don’t have their heads planted so far up their asses that they can spit out of their own mouths, they should be able to make this happen in their sleep. Okay, a quick IMDB check shows he’s in the final two Twilight movies, so raised profile, check. Now he just needs to avoid Twilight-type movies in the future and pick some quality stuff and whatever he can get in the way of lead roles, maybe follow Ryan Reynolds and Chris Pine around and get started with a couple of their table scraps.

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