The Crazies Long Review With MAJOR Spoilers (2.5 of 5)
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS IN THIS ONE. I COVER THE ENTIRE STORY IN DETAIL. IF YOU READ FURTHER, DON”T BLAME ME FOR SPOILING THE MOVIE FOR YOU. AND IT’S NOT MY FAULT IF YOU CAN’T HELP YOURSELF EVEN AFTER I’VE WARNED YOU, SO DON’T BLAME ME FOR THAT, EITHER.
Let me make this clear. I didn’t hate this movie. It has good things going for it, but I was mildly aggravated by the many gaping holes in the plot and just a general lack of real world logic imbued within. If you check your brain at the theater door, you’ll probably have a reasonably good time watching a mostly disposable movie. My problem is, I had heard that this was a very well made film and better than your average B-Movie flick of this genre. My main problem was that I didn’t lower expectations and check my brain at the door.
I guess I set myself up for disappointment with ‘The Crazies’. It had a great trailer. So great in fact that it was scarier than the movie. The trailer also gave away several key moments in the film (including the ending) and successfully made this movie look like it was going to be much more brutal than it was. Do I want brutal? No, I just want a good movie.
Second, it’s directed by Breck Eisner. He hasn’t directed many movies; the only one of his that I was previously exposed to was Sahara. I liked Sahara despite it being very flawed. It was big dumb mainstream entertainment with actors that did that really well (that’s really not a shot at them. Really). I had high hopes that Eisner would make something as least as good as that one.
Third, it starred Timothy Olyphant, who I like as an actor. He does a good job here as David Dutton, a small town sheriff dealing with a bizarre crisis. Olyphant seems to be able to elevate even the worst script material. He helped make this movie tolerable for me. He wasn’t the problem.
Fourth, it also stars Radha Mitchell, who I looooove as an actress (see also my Review of Surrogates). She plays Judy Dutton, the sheriff’s doctor wife. Both of them know something strange is going on. She definitely was not the problem.
Fifth, it had some other decent folks in it… It took me a while to figure out who the sheriff’s deputy Russell was: Joe Anderson who I last saw in the Beatles inspired movie ‘Across The Universe’. He had to win me over in that one (just as that whole movie did). He did a pretty good job here as the (somewhat country) sidekick lawman in The Crazies. He made the most of this part and the director allowed him to show off a bit of emotional range and some subtlety. He did a good job.
I also liked Judy’s cute assistant Danielle Panabaker, but knew as soon as she popped up that she was going to be an eventual member of the movie’s body count total and I wasn’t let down. She did a reasonably good job in a small role that really only required her to play nice, scared or impetuously teenage. I would even go so far as to say she was not important to the plot, either, since everything that she is involved with in the movie is repeated or had already been seen, but I guess I’m getting ahead of myself. And she and Joe Anderson weren’t the problems, either.
Sixth (or seventh, I don’t know.. I can’t count days, either), it has that big screen look that all of these big horror movie remakes seemed to now have. The trouble with that is that despite the fact that they know how to shoot great looking shots, sometimes they still don’t know what to shoot or seem to know why they’re shooting it in the way that they’re shooting it. But,that’s just the beginning of my problems with the movie.
As I’m sure you already know, the movie is a remake of the 1973 George Romero horror movie of the same name. I don’t know how closely it follows the original, since I had never even heard of the ‘classic’, until well after I knew about this movie, and I go out of my way to find good horror movies, no matter how old they are. My biggest problem with the movie are the overall story flaws that I feel fall at the feet of the screenwriters Scott Kosar and Ray Wright (who both have been attached to movies that were mediocre at best) and the director.
The movie starts out well enough. In the opening moments, the audience is treated to the quick image of a burning town (Ogden Marsh) before they bounce back 2 days to show you the explanation. I must say I’ve seen that explanation and everything else that happens in The Crazies in other films,especially zombie/virus flicks. Perhaps, the original movie did all of this first, I don’t know, but if it did then this was an unnecessary remake, anyway. Technically, this is NOT a zombie flick, unless you mean that it’s a zombie flick in the way that 28 Days Later is a zombie flick. It’s more of a pandemic movie where the victims of a virus become semi-mindless killers. They’re not actually dead. Details…
Anyway, after the film-makers show a montage of ‘small town life’ shots to establish “Hey! Ogden Marsh is just a normal American small town, here”, they quickly get to the weird goings-on. The first ‘incident’ is at a (high school?) baseball game, David and his deputy have to deal with a man that walks onto the field holding a loaded shotgun. David knows the man (a former town drunk) and tries to avoid a violent outcome, but ends up having to kill him. There is a quick funeral where in the first of 2 ‘Jaws’ moments in the film, it is revealed that the town drunk was NOT drunk and his family now blame the sheriff for his death. This seemed very contrived considering the fact that the man did walk out onto a (high school) baseball game in progress in broad daylight with a shotgun and pointed it at the sheriff’s head after he had repeatedly asked him to put the gun down, in front of (practically) the entire population of this town. You would think the wife and son would want to understand why the man was out there with a gun in the first place. And I’m only picking a nit here….
Okay, remember that this had to happen within the 2 days. The man’s wife and son confront the sheriff at some kind of service for the shooting. I would think that would take place several hours later, if not days. Also, there is a toxicology test performed that comes back just a couple of hours later, while the sheriff is back at the office. From what I know about real world toxicology tests, they take a little bit longer than that. In the recent death of actress Britney Murphy, there was such a test done and the results didn’t come out for several weeks if I’m remembering correctly… Again picking nits…
Elsewhere, the sheriff’s doctor-wife is seeing a patient with the same sort of spaced out symptoms that the man on the baseball field was having. After being taken home by his family, the same man becomes one of those wraithlike figures in horror movies that can teleport around without being seen, until they jump into view or the camera pans over to show that they had been standing in the background all along. Spooky… Anyway, the man cranks up some farm equipment in the barn (which is on the trailer) and the wife comes out to investigate. At this point, I actually thought there was going to be some ‘hamburger’ made to please the gorehounds, but apparently Eisner doesn’t have the stomach for that sort of thing. Sure there’s violence and a bit of gore in the film… a bit… but this definitely wasn’t a movie that was going to rely on the current trend of horror movie torture porn or prolonged sadistic acts.
Let me just say, I am very happy about that. I love a good splatter as much as the next horror fan; it’s just when a movie deteriorates into focusing in on the acts of suffering unnecessarily (and pointlessly) instead of moving the story along when it begins to annoy me. The only torture-porn that I’ve seen that had any merit to it was Eden Lake, but even in that the T-P was still prolonged unnecessarily and would have made the same point without it, but I digress. Again, I applaud that aspect of The Crazies. but the bad thing about that, was that from that point on, I kind of knew that the director was never going to ‘go there’.
I think something that a lot of film-makers don’t understand is that you don’t have to keep going to the well if you establish that you’ll go all out early on. The most famous example was in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, where after establishing who the audience thinks is the heroine, in pops Norman Bates in the shower scene to ‘off’ her in shocking fashion (albeit mostly bloodless). It’s the most brutal scene in the movie and the ‘carry over’ was that from then on all bets were off in the minds of the viewers. Another of my favorites, David Fincher’s Zodiac establishes the brutality of the killer very early in the movie. One scene was downright disturbing to me in its realism. But there never is anything else that is as remotely as violent in the last two thirds of the movie. There didn’t have to be; you’re expecting it… I guess, that’s the suspense aspect as opposed to shock for shock’s sake, but I’m digressing wildly.
Where was I? Okay, the man doesn’t use the farm equipment on his wife. However, he does lock her and their son in a closet and burn the house down with them still inside. These killings are sanitized by a quick scream when the fire is set and cutting to the next scene.
The next morning, firemen are waiting for the sheriff when he arrives with his wife and are told that the man had set fire to the house, killed his family and proceeded to mow the lawn even when after they had arrived. For me, the whole scene involving the farm equipment and the arson are COMPLETELY unnecessary to the film, other than add to the onscreen body count. If they had stayed with the sheriff only and have the audience see things from the sheriff’s point of view this would have made the movie a MUCH stronger film (IMHO). I think having them arrive on the scene with the guy riding around oblivious on his lawn mower with his house on fire would have been a better way to go. What the audience makes up in their own mind would be vastly superior to what was shown. Instead, we got all the info before the sheriff got HIS phone call. I guess the director figured the audience already knows what’s going on before they even sit down in their theater seat and so he needs to give them some onscreen killin’… I guess.
I don’t get why after walking around the house threateningly with a knife, scaring his family, and then cooking them that the guy becomes catatonic again. Oh wait, yeah I do. Plot convenience. The film-makers had to put him in a jail cell so we could see the progression from normal looking space case to the full ‘cheap zombie-like’ makeup FX. And oooooh, the zombie makeup of the present! I have to tell you I miss the days when a Tom Savini skeletal looking zombie wanders onscreen or has the top of his head lopped off by helicopter blade… but that’s just me. Nowadays, we just get bloodshot eyes, some fake looking wounds, some airbrushed squiggles to look ‘veiny’ and some black grease to make them look dirty… I guess I’m sounding a bit contradictory to my claims of NOT being a gorehound right now, aren’t I?… Back to the story…
Later, some hunters who are hanging out in the local bog stumble upon a parachute (complete with dead guy) and the sheriff is called in, along with one forensics guy (if I remember right) and it’s quickly determined that he’s been there a week. Soon the sheriff and deputy find the plane that belonged to the pilot and I’m happy to say that the screenwriters wrote the sheriff to be smart enough to figure out (very quickly) that what was leaking out of the plane into the town’s water supply was what was responsible to what’s happening in his town. He makes a quick trip (quick remember since this all happens in 2 days) to get a blueprint/map of the town’s water system to trace the flow of the contaminated water to the first victims’ houses. We then get the second ‘Jaws’ moment.
The Sheriff meets with the town’s mayor to relay his discovery. Of course, the mayor scoffs at the ‘theory’ and tells him that he won’t allow them shutting down the town’s water system just like the Mayor denying Brody in Jaws. Except in Jaws, a GREAT film as opposed to this one, the Mayor ‘s ‘money first’ personality had already been established in the movie before Brody asks him to shut down the beaches. And the reason the mayor gives was more valid since the beach tourist season was vital to that community and it is just one shark attack (or so they thought). In The Crazies, the only scene with the mayor is this disagreement and it makes no sense in the context of the movie or in reality. The sheriff is telling him that the water’s poisoned and he’s not going to do anything about it? This might’ve made sense later, had the next scene caused some more conflict between the 2 men.
The sheriff defies the order and along with his deputy goes to shut down the water himself. He does and the deputy mentions he might not have a job later. The mayor’s scene would make sense if there had been a follow up scene where the Mayor was either arresting or firing the Sheriff for insubordination. I guess my point is that the previous scene was just a time waster. It had no other reason to be in the movie. None. If you can tell me a reason why it was there, I’d like to hear it.
It’s around this point, give or take that the Sheriff walks down Ogden Marsh’s now very empty ‘main street’ (except for one crazy on a bike that rides by). It’s a ghost town at this point and I was wondering how that happened since it’s later revealed that it takes 48 hours for people to start showing symptoms of ‘the crazies’. Before this shot and after there are still plenty of normal people running around so the only reason why it’s there is just because it looks cool. Or because the director wanted to do a shot similar to the one in Danny Boyle’s 28 Days later where Cillian Murphy is wandering a London devoid of inhabitants. This didn’t have anywhere near the scope of that one.
And as Olyphant walks up the street, the audience is shown that there is someone taking pictures of him. This is never really explained why. It was just to (very woodenly) foreshadow the guv’ment types that were about to show up… David notices the black government SUV and after running over to it, the vehicle squeals off in Hollywood stunt driver fashion. Along the way the sheriff and his deputy also get to witness the drastic changes in appearance and behavior of their prisoner. They also note things like their cell phones and telephones aren’t working.
I think this was about the time the sheriff hears a noise coming from inside a funeral home. Of course when he goes in, it’s dark and he doesn’t even bother to check for a light switch like a normal person. No matter, he finds the room where there are several bodies covered by sheets. One is the guy (I believe) killed the previous day by the sheriff, only the embalmer has cut large x’s over the eyes like a dead cartoon character. The sheriff then sees another sheet covered body moving. What he finds under the sheet is a very large man with his eyes and lips sewed up even though he’s still alive. I don’t know if he was strapped down or tied or something, because I don’t think they showed that.
He just laid there like a lump. The sheriff quickly uses some snippers to allow the man to speak. As soon as he does, the man says (and I remind you that the guy’s eyes are still sewn shut): “Behind you!”… Excuse me I have to slap myself in the forehead. ………………………………………………….Okay. A minor skirmish between the sheriff and a very spindly little embalmer wielding an embalmer’s power saw ensues and you already know who wins. In the aftermath, Russell the Deputy pops up. Now, I’m not sure in the quick cut editing (pun intended), if the man on the slab was killed by the embalmer during the melee. Either way, the 2 lawmen don’t bother to check and just leave the poor guy with his eyes sewn shut laying on the slab.
Okay, later on that night (working from memory), the sheriff is home with the wife and they’re talking about the strange occurrences in the town, when she sees a man outside their window. The sheriff goes into his barn to investigate but finds nothing. When he exits the barn he is non-surprisingly subdued by not The Crazies, but what looks to be National Guardsmen in biohazard outfits.
The soldiers take Olyphant and Mitchell away to a camp outside of town where the entire township is being ‘processed’ in rather Nazi-like fashion. No explanations are given to their questions, the ‘sick’ are merely being separated from the healthy. Judy is taken away, despite David’s (and her own) protests. It’s also shown that kids are being taken from their mothers… people who resist get shot… Chaos! David isn’t in captivity all of 12 seconds, though, because fortunately some crazy extras (not crazy in the sense that they’re one of the Crazies, although I suppose they could have been), ram the perimeter fence with their pickup truck and open fire on the soldiers.
While the soldiers waste the extras, nearly the entire town of Ogden Marsh breaks out of captivity. This is also where one of the Sheriff’s friends says he should give up his ‘fool’s errand’ of trying to save his wife. Naturally, David calls the guy a lowlife, in so many words… So the community crumbles so quickly and cynically. For plot convenience. There might have been more weight to this exchange if they had at least shown this guy earlier portrayed as a fine upstanding citizen. Here it’s just randomly thrown in.
Meanwhile, Judy reveals she’s pregnant. That particular revelation has ZERO plot relevance; it just gives the audience an explanation as to why she was taken away with the sick. No matter, the guv’ment types aren’t listening and put her in a room with the infected who are all strapped to gurneys like Judy is. Judy’s assistant Becca is also here and is also (conveniently) not showing any signs of the virus, either.
Okay, I could be wrong on this part, but I swear when the sheriff goes back to his office to get his gun and the deputy is there… there’s daylight outside. They show another guv’ment SUV go flying by the sheriff’s office and I’m fairly positive, it’s in the daytime. So how many days has that been now? Anyway, its here where the sheriff determines his wife must be pregnant. That’s why they took her with the others he deduces when she’s NOT SICK. And his deputy turns up again, complaining that they popped his vehicle’s tires when he was trying to get to another city.
Okay, one of the twisted moments from the trailer occurs at this point. A crazy that is too lazy to pick up his pitchfork wanders in to the now abandoned (I guess) government/military operation and finds the room where Judy and Becca are confined.
He begins killing the sick one by one with his pitchfork. The sick aren’t even aware they’re being killed, so it’s a lot less horrible to the audience.
Just as he raises his pitchfork to run her through, I was thinking “this is where gun fire is heard from off screen, some squibs go off in the Crazy actor’s chest or head and the sheriff and the deputy run in just in the nick of time”. I won’t tell you if that happened or not.
The 4 leave, not even checking to see if anyone else on the gurnies are not infected . They begin looking for a car to make it to a truck stop outside of town, but not before running into the 3 hunters who had found the pilot’s body earlier on in the film. They’re crazies now and unlike the lazy-crazy with the pitchfork (who was killing other crazies), these 3 are working together. Instead of hunting animals out of season, they’re now shown to be hunting people out of season. There is no confrontation, because we know that will pop up later when the movie needs some crazies to pop up again, probably in the climax…. They quickly discover that every vehicle in town has had a ‘boot’ put on one tire to keep anyone from driving away…. So while rounding up everyone in town in just a few hours, the guv’ment has also managed to put a boot on every single vehicle in town. EVERY SINGLE VEHICLE (except for the Crazy Hunters’ truck, of course). That’s a helluvan’ operation. Would require an extreme amount of manpower and… time… OF COURSE). So here’s where the sheriff divulges he’s been working on getting an older cop car running. It runs, they just have to put the tires back on. So they head back on foot to the House of Dutton.
But, not before veering off course to go find Becca’s boyfriend. They find him, but not before he holds them at gunpoint. Even with his girlfriend there, he’s still over-reacting (and holding her at gunpoint, too). The sheriff quickly disarms him and that’s when the military types show up. The group stays hidden in a barn until the boyfriend’s mother is taken from her house to which point the boyfriend rushes in to defend her unarmed. Predictably they shoot him and the mother. For me, this is one more scene that shouldn’t be there. It’s repetitive. They’ve already shown that innocent civilians are being shot. This is more of the same. The boyfriend is killed, so why is this subplot even in the film other than to show some more pointless deaths? They’re just trying to get the running time up is all that I can figure. Ninety minutes used to be your average movie length and rightfully so. Most movie ideas can’t sustain a story longer than that. Back to the movie…
On another side note, don’t the National guardsmen have night sight goggles? Just a question that has nothing to do with anything really… But one soldier is captured by the Sheriff and co. when he investigates the barn. But after all we’ve seen of the completely cold tactics of the military/guv’ment operation, this turns out to be the ONLY good soldier in the bunch and says he won’t narc on them. He also states that he is just following orders, although he has no idea who is giving them. Apparently he doesn’t have a CO…. They let him go and he doesn’t reveal their presence. So in the way that stories work, I fully expected this soldier to pop back up in the movie to repay the favor of them not killing him. USUALLY that’s how these stories work. They introduced this guy so that he’ll have a purpose later, right? Nope. Never seen again. Do I think all things presented in a story have to have a reason for being there? No. A lot of great comedies are just very flimsy plots tied together with things that are just funny. Gags. There are beautiful shots in movies that are there just for the sake of the visual. But what’s going on here, is that you have writers and a director who don’t know which parts to take out and which to leave in. As I said about the cinematography, they really don’t seem to know the purpose to the scenes in the main framework of the story that they’re setting to film.
Arriving back at the Duttons’ home at dawn (time?), they immediately separate. Russell and Becca begin to put the cruiser’s tires back on in the shed and the Duttons go inside and split up so you know there are Crazies abounding. Judy goes upstairs and of course there are Crazies, this time the wife and son of the man who was killed by David on the baseball field (I guess that never happened in Jaws). But instead of doing what the Crazies have been doing, they tie Judy up and wait to ambush David. He comes looking for her and of course they attack… There’s a gunshot or 2 before David gets stabbed in the hand. He in turn stabs the mother, with the knife still THROUGH his hand, which seems like it wouldn’t work to me, but anyhow… The son meanwhile has gotten David’s gun and raises it to shoot when…. Gunfire heard, an FX squib goes off in the Crazy’s chest and the Deputy is shown lowering his rifle having saved the day, just in the nick….
The group climbs into their car and gets back out on the road. At this point, the director decided it might be cool to show that some of the group may be infected also. So despite thinking the deputy is becoming a crazy, they ignore it and soldier on. Soon after they begin their journey out of town, they are attacked by military helicopter.
The zombie types in this movie go from using fairly primitive means of murder to more ingenious and imaginative methods. as the one does with Becca, making a lariat/noose from one of the wash hoses and using it to lasso her from the car and to kill her.
Then they pull the car out of the car wash and everyone gets out to help Becca who was obviously dead since it was ‘her time’ in the film to be the victim. While trying to get her body down, the helicopter, which had disappeared for a while, destroys the car and flies away. So the remaining 3 are on foot, again.
I guess they decided ‘okay, time for the explanation that the audience already knows’. Just as they happen upon the deputy’s vehicle (who complained earlier about them popping his tires), a trademark guv’ment black SUV comes speeding their way. The sheriff’s idea is to commandeer the vehicle, but the deputy who is acting Crazy uses one of those roll out Cop strips that pop vehicles’ tires (avenging what the guv’ment did to him). There is a pretty spectacular car crash and one unnamed guv’ment type survives in order to provide some irrelevant answers. He tells them the plane crash had a bioweapon aboard that was being flown to Texas for disposal, when it crashed and they were there to contain the pandemic.
Then, Russell shoots the guy and they begin their journey again on foot with the Duttons being held at gunpoint. Eventually the sheriff gets the gun away from Russell and he asks if they would let him walk along with them a little farther, so that he could redeem himself in a last act of self sacrifice to ensure that the Duttons could make it out of town alive. Okay, he didn’t say that last half, but I swear I was hearing him say that in my mind.
So the deputy remains with them for plot convenience and causes a diversion when they come to a military roadblock. The Duttons sneak by (in the dark.. time?) and manage to make it to a truck stop that they had talked about, but find deserted. Naturally, the sheriff tells his pregnant wife to wait alone in the dark while he looks around inside. She in turn wanders off again, IN THE DARK, and finds that there are trailers (the kind they haul cattle in) full of dead people and bullet casings all over the ground. Darn guv’ment. The sheriff finds her at this point and they go inside where…
Unsurprisingly, the 3 redneck hunter types are here hunting humans. I can’t tell you how they got by the roadblock since I would have to imagine they would be hooting and hollering down the road like they were when we last saw them. I guess they got vewwy vewwy quiet when they needed to be.
One last battle is staged and in the middle of it, David comes across a military radio where we overhear them preparing for a countdown. We all know what countdowns in movies mean. Especially, ‘incureable virus unleashed in a small town’ movies
So after dispatching the last hick hunter, the Duttons climb aboard a diesel truck and hit the road…. I love 18 wheelers. They’re a plus in just about any good action movie (The Terminator, T2, The Road Warrior, Breakdown, Joy Ride, Duel… I could go on). Oh, back to the movie.
Yes, a nuke, which is usually the option in bad (and usually low budget) B-Pandemic/Zombie flicks. I guess the guv’ment wasn’t worried about those poor guys setting roadblocks. The Duttons survive, although I wouldn’t be sure of how long since they must have gotten a large dose of radiation.
The film ends, mercifully, with them heading across a field into a city in Iowa (I’m assuming the location), but not before satellite imaging shows that the guv’ment is aware of their survival and containment/quarantine procedures are beginning in this new location. Then we get some Willie Nelson (which reminds me). At the beginning of the film, we get some Johnny Cash, which isn’t a problem of itself, but it IS getting a bit cliche in these types of films, considering it immediately made me think of the beginning of the Dawn Of The Dead remake. The soundtrack for this one should’ve featured every song with the word Crazy in the title, but that’s just me.
Well, that’s about all I have to say about this movie…. 2.5 out of 5. Would have been lower, but the visuals were good, there was a minimum of obvious CGI FX and I like the actors for the most part. I do think it was a very generic movie, though, that could have benefitted A LOT from a little more ‘real world’ logical thought. Not the worst movie I’ve ever seen by a long shot, but aggravating in its lack of logic, none the less.