The Crazies [Blu-Ray]
Director : Breck Eisner
Screenplay : Scott Kosar and Ray Wright (based on a by Paul McCollough and George A. Romero)
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 2010
Stars : Timothy Olyphant (David Dutton), Radha Mitchell (Judy Dutton), Joe Anderson (Russell Clank), Danielle Panabaker (Becca Darling), Christie Lynn Smith (Deardra Farnum), Brett Rickaby (Bill Farnum), Preston Bailey (Nicholas), John Aylward (Mayor Hobbs), Joe Reegan (Pvt. Billy Babcock), Glenn Morshower (Intelligence Officer), Larry Cedar (Ben Sandborn), Gregory Sporleder (Travis Quinn), Mike Hickman (Rory Hamill), Lisa K. Wyatt (Peggy Hamill), Justin Welborn (Curt Hammil)
In Hollywood’s race to remake every low-budget horror film from the Nixon era with an even vaguely recognizable title, George A. Romero’s paranoid military-virus thriller The Crazies (1973), like Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left (1972), is one of the few that offers a genuine chance for improvement over the original. Not that Romero’s film is anything to sneeze at; rather, its frenzied intensity and relentless and ironic depiction of humanity devolving is easily his strongest work in the years immediately following Night of the Living Dead (1968) and plays as an intriguing counterpart to that film’s claustrophobic zombie nightmare. Still, it was a rushed and underbudgeted production with uneven acting that never quite made good on its potentially apocalyptic premise.
The underlying themes in The Crazies--distrust of those around us, the thin line between sanity and insanity, and the complementary terrors of organized versus hysterical violence--are potent themes for the horror genre, and director Breck Eisner (Sahara), working from a new script by Scott Kosar (an old hand at this game, having already penned the remakes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Amityville Horror) and Ray Wright (Case 39), hammers them home quite nicely. This new version of The Crazies maintains Romero’s fundamental vision of the military power structure crashing down on the American heartland with full force while also remedying the fundamental budgetary problems and wooden acting of the original. Of course, there are a few elements of the film that veer off-course, particularly its confused depiction of the infected as unnecessarily zombie-ish ghouls, which undercuts the original’s most potent source of horror: the difficult distinguishing monsters from normal people (its most indelible image is a harmless looking granny plunging a knitting needle repeatedly into a soldier).
The story takes place in a tiny Iowa farming town that is the very epitome of middle American tranquility: open fields, quaint main street, busy baseball field. It is on the last of these that the horror begins, as a vacantly staring man wanders into right field with a loaded shotgun and must be put down by genial sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant), whose pregnant wife Judy (Radha Mitchell) is the town doctor. Because the shotgun-wielding zombie was the former town drunk, it is assumed that he simply fell off the wagon, but soon there are other signs that something is amiss in the heartland, particularly after it is discovered that an enormous military plane has crashed in a nearby swamp.
Life in the small town quickly starts to come apart at the seams as otherwise normal people begin behaving violently, and soon it is overrun with soldiers in gas masks and protective gear who are rounding up the citizens and quarantining them in a hastily constructed internment camp on--you guessed it--the local baseball diamond. David and Judy manage to escape the madness, along with David’s deputy (Joe Anderson) and Judy’s teenage office assistant (Danielle Panabaker), but they literally have nowhere to go, as all the roads are blocked off and they have no idea what is happening, which aligns the film with all manner of 1950s-era paranoid sci-fi thrillers, particularly Don Siegle’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), which stranded a handful of characters amid a sea of pod people.
In The Crazies the threats come from all side: not only are the surviving characters trying to avoid being either rounded up or shot by the military (a potent image of state forces turned on their own citizenry), but they also must avoid the hoards of infected “crazies” of the title, who are hellbent on bloodshed and nothing else. Eisner wisely structures the film along these parallel tensions, which eventually infiltrate the survivors in unnerving ways. Given what they’ve been through, when one member of the group begins acting rather irrationally, it is impossible to tell whether it is a result of stress finally cracking the character’s resolve or the infection taking over (this is also true of a group of redneck hunters whose violence against the populace may be infection-related or simply the result of general anarchy). Thus, the film sticks you squarely in a queasy game of “who’s the monster,” and that ambiguity keeps the film’s second half crackling, even when it gives in to a few too many climaxes that begin to stretch credulity. Nevertheless, The Crazies works surprisingly well, in terms of both its extended tension and its deployment of genuinely unsettling images and situations that linger in the mind long after it’s over.
|The Crazies Blu-Ray + Digital Copy|
|Subtitles||English, French, Spanish|
|Distributor||Anchor Bay Entertainment|
|Release Date||June 29, 2010|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|Anchor Bay’s 1080p high-definition transfer of The Crazies looks generally superb throughout. The early sequences in which normality reigns in sun-dappled middle America are resplendent with bright colors and strong contrast, while the later sequences when all hell starts to break loose take advantage of excellent shadow tones and black levels that maintain a strong sense of detail even in the darkest moments. Both the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and the PCM uncompressed 5.1 surround soundtracks are excellent, with powerful directionality and ambient effects in the surrounds to immerse you in the horror without being overbearing and crystal clear dialogue.|
|Breck Eisner’s solo audio commentary is lucid and informative, with the director displaying a significant degree of political and social insight to supplement his behind-the-scenes stories and production tales. The majority of the rest of the supplements are featurettes that explore various aspects of the film’s production. The title of the 11-minute “Behind the Scenes With Director Breck Eisner” is a bit misleading because, even though Eisner appears frequently, it is more of a general making-of doc that also includes interviews with most of the cast and two of the producers interspersed with behind-the-scenes footage. “Paranormal Pandemics” (9 min.) features most of the same interviewees along with make-up effects artist Rob Hall discussing the medical research that went into the film’s portrayal of Trixie and how they decided to depict it visually, which is covered in further depth in “Make-Up Mastermind: Rob Hall in Action” (12 min.). In “The George A. Romero Template” (10 min.), Eisner, Phantasm director Don Coscarelli, and several horror film critics ruminate on the iconic status of George A. Romero and his role in literally inventing the political horror film with Night of the Living Dead. “Visual Effects in Motion” gives us shot-by-shot breakdowns of several CGI sequences in the film, some of which are quite surprising in terms of what is digital and what is real. Also on the disc are the first two episodes of The Crazies Motion Comic, a teaser trailer, three theatrical trailers, 10 TV spots, and a photo gallery.|
Copyright ©2010 James Kendrick
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