Not having seen George A. Romero’s 1973 original, I can’t tell you how this film compares, but I can tell you Breck Eisner’s The Crazies is a much-needed jolt to the horror genre that proves there is still reason to keep making films that set out to raise our pulse.
Something’s gone wrong in the small town of Ogden Marsh, Iowa. It begins when one of the town’s residents stumbles upon a little league baseball game carrying a double-barreled shotgun. The field clears and town sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) slowly approaches the man who isn’t responding other than to raise his gun to eye level. Boom!
It all starts there and as more and more inhabitants of Ogden Marsh begin to go insane houses will burn and people will die — lots of people. Sheriff Dutton and his wife (Radha Mitchell) must do all they can to stay alive as the threat that caused the epidemic is just as dangerous as the outbreak itself.
Olyphant and Mitchell serve as the film’s two leads, but much of the emotional connection comes from Russell (Joe Anderson), the town deputy. Anderson delivers a performance with a lot of character making Russell someone you can cheer for and laugh with when the time is right. Danielle Panabaker co-stars as horror films seem to have become her thing following 2009’s Friday the 13th remake, her performance here as the lonely girlfriend and John Carpenter’s The Ward coming soon.
Like most horrors, The Crazies depends on its ability to transition from one frightening sequence to the next and while Eisner occasionally relies on jump scares, for the most part he’s just interested in letting a scene entertain you as opposed to making sure to deliver cheap thrills. Story and entertainment are Eisner’s first concern and this film, scripted by Scott Kosar and Ray Wright, gets it right from the start, allowing the director and his actors to have some fun along the way.
A car wash scene is unexpectedly impressive, a moment with an electric bone saw sent my audience into roaring fits of terror followed by uneasy laughter and each and every chase sequence seemed to naturally evolve as opposed to how things often seem so forced as a matter of story convenience in horror films. To put it plainly, this is simply an outstanding horror film.
For those looking at this as just another shoot-’em-in-the-head zombie film, get that out of your mind right now. While there is a comparison to be made based solely on the nature of the villains, The Crazies isn’t about flesh eating, brain dead monsters. It’s simply about infected crazy people with violent tendencies and as such it makes for one hell of an action-horror-thriller.