Frightening Friday: ‘The Crazies’ (2010) needs more craziness in its exploration of a small town gone mad (Movie review)

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he Crazies” (2010) is a nice escape from coronavirus fears and the frustration of the MLB season’s delay, as it starts with a small-town Iowa baseball game … where an infected person walks into the outfield and has to be gunned down by the sheriff. Gosh darn it. Well, it’s a nice escape for five minutes. While the technical competency of director Breck Eisner’s film can’t be quibbled with, this remake of a 1973 George Romero picture ultimately lacks enough edginess and fresh perspective to justify its existence.

It’s never hard to watch, but it’s forgettable as soon as it’s over because all the beats are what you’d expect, and although the infected people aren’t really zombies … they are basically zombies.

Maybe government cover-ups were eye-opening in 1973, but today this is totally par for the course. Not that I wanted a cackling bad guy or a complex conspiracy, but it’s remarkable how lacking this film is in original twists and turns.

Written by Scott Kosar – who went on to pen episodes of “Bates Motel” and “The Haunting of Hill House” – and Ray Wright, “The Crazies’ ” biggest hook is its cast. Timothy Olyphant plays David, that type of small-town sheriff we know we can trust. Yeah, he shoots the crazy person in the outfield, but he hates that he had to do it. David has an equally strong Midwestern wife in Radha Mitchell’s Judy.

Joe Anderson’s Russell is a trustworthy deputy, and Danielle Panabaker is wholesome teenager Becca. These are all salt-of-the-earth people, and none are dumb horror-movie victims, but they don’t have much edge.

I suspect “The Crazies” is relying on its plot to provide the intrigue. It almost gets there when the townspeople are rounded up and stuck into something like a FEMA camp. A quick body scan sends those with a high temperature one way (never to be seen again) and the healthy people the other way. It’s a preview of what we might expect if the coronavirus gets out of control.

Faulty temperature scans (non-infected people, such as pregnant women, can have higher temperatures) are just the latest SNAFU by the military state, which caused this outbreak in the first place when it accidentally crashed a plane carrying a bioweapon into the town’s water supply.

Maybe this type of thing was eye-opening in 1973, but today this is totally par for the course. Not that I wanted a cackling bad guy or a complex conspiracy, necessarily, but it’s remarkable how lacking this film is in original twists and turns. The government is definitely evil here, but by the time we realize just how evil it is, the movie has become a survival yarn rather than a social commentary.

“The Crazies” is not scary, either, although it has solid horror imagery such as one of the Crazies going through the infected wing of the camp and stabbing people with a pitchfork. The idea of your neighbor being nuts is another theme this film doesn’t touch on except in the broadest strokes.

It has one solid action sequence wherein the good guys end up going through a car wash while pursued by some Crazies. Those huge spinning rags were kind of scary when we were kids, and I respect that Eisner taps into that.

The film also looks nice, with director of photography Maxime Alexandre evoking the isolated Iowa farm town even though Georgia is the primary filming location. He went on to do three episodes of “Hill House” and two of the best-looking “Conjuring” Universe films, “Annabelle: Creation” and “The Nun.” Alexandre delivers a strikingly colored nighttime shot in the grand finale.

It’s too bad his work doesn’t serve a better film. “The Crazies” is technically respectable and it has a good cast. But given its title and premise, it’s not nearly crazy enough.

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