Crazies, The (US - BD RA)
Gabe had similar problems after drinking unfiltered water in Mexico...
The small town of Ogden Marsh, Iowa, is an ideal slice of Americana. Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) enjoys the low crime rate, and his wife, Dr. Judy Dutton (Radha Mitchell), enjoys the low infectious disease rate. Everything is simple and great, until normally trustworthy citizens begin acting strange, culminating in murderous behaviour. The behaviour begins to spread out of control, and our heroes soon uncover disturbing facts that point towards an extremely contagious disease. Just when things look like they can’t get any worse the US Government tears into town and begins rounding up the infected and uninfected citizens into violent containment zones.
I usually add my voice, in a half-assed manner, to the on-going rail against all the horror movie remakes as of late, but George Romero’s original The Crazies is a pretty generic thriller that really stands historically as his wind-up for Dawn of the Dead, so I never had any real problem with this particular property being up for the remake treatment. Besides, I was vehemently against the remaking of Dawn, and look how that turned out—pretty good. So what do I know? Unfortunately, the various modern zombie movies (including all those remakes), the Resident Evil series, and especially 28 Days Later and its sequel (which are arguably zombie movies themselves), have all re-covered most of the stuff Romero conjured for his Crazies anyway, so even if it wasn’t a remake, this Crazies was going to look a bit tired, no matter what the filmmakers had up their sleeves. Fortunately the murdering psychopath angle is just as prevalent, and the more consistently entertaining element. The film’s trailers seems suggest that the infected individuals (the crazies) eventually turn into screaming monsters in zombie make-up, but for the most part these monsters retain quite a bit of personality. It’s the unpredictable nature of the infected that creates tension, rather than their occasional animalistic snarls. It’s clearly not a film first, but following so many pitiful traditional, Romero-ripping zombie flicks these distinctions sets The Crazies apart.
This Crazies follows the basic set-up of Romero’s film with relative devotion. Major plot elements include the viral outbreak and government cover-up angles, the job titles of the main characters, the house fire scene. This new film also properly exploits the ‘are they infected or not’ angle, and appropriately makes the government folks out to be pretty inefficient. The only element grievously missing from the original film is the government and scientist side of the story. Romero handled this part of his film with hobnailed boots, so there was plenty of room for improvement, and perhaps some major dramatic tension. Interestingly enough, director Breck Eisner states that the original script was set up to mirror Romero’s, and that one of the first things he did when coming on the project was change the story focus in an effort to create a more streamlined horror tale. Once the thirty minute set-up is cleared the film moves into a series of horror/action set-pieces, including a handful of genuinely original surprises. By the end of the film the formula grows a little tired, but in all it works pretty well in terms of pure entertainment value. Horror fans should be pleased by the film’s general gore and terror, though things never threaten to crest above a solid R-rating, which means The Crazies is, in my opinion, a safe movie to watch with more squeamish friends (save maybe one rather fierce hand injury). Romero’s original is mostly tame by modern standards, and far less bloody than this version, but features a really disturbing last act moment where the sexual aspects of the virus gets the better of two of the major characters. The sexual stuff has been entirely removed for this film.
Against my trailer based expectations The Crazies is a pretty clean looking motion picture. There is some fine grain over the print, but I was guessing I would get Dawn of the Dead remake levels of high contrast photography and thick grain. Besides some green tinting, most of the film appears to mostly have been lit with fluorescent sources, with even, natural contrast, and not a lot of hue choices aside from the aforementioned green, yellow, and blue. Even blood red, a consistent enough element, doesn’t really pop against the rest of the palette. The relatively unstylized lighting schemes lead to some lost details during the darkest scenes, which aren’t helped by continuously fluttering cameras. Even with all the lights off, and the set’s brightness cranked to uncomfortable levels I was unable to tell what the hell was going on about a quarter of the time. The film is just generally not all that sharp, and black levels end up suffering, which is a problem for a film that mostly takes place over the period of a few nights. Daylight scenes and well lit interiors look pretty much perfect, on the other hand, but still don’t feature a whole lot of impressive detail, in terms of close-ups or wide-shots.
Anchor Bay continues their non-support of DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby Digital TrueHD, and once again offers up an uncompressed, brand nameless PCM 5.1 track, as well as a compressed Dolby Digital track, which is the sound default. My system, which continues falling out of date, never pumps out PCM tracks as loudly as DTS-HD or TrueHD, so I’m a bit disappointed, but readers with state of the art system will likely find very few reasons to complain. There isn’t a lot of ambient noise that isn’t part of the musical score, but the important, basic sounds are well centred, clear, and natural. The soundtrack still has its share of big, aggressive moments, including a booming thresher, and sizable shootout, a crazy scraping a pitchfork throughout the channels, a pretty intense car wash attack, and some helicopter and car racing sequences. Dialogue is occasionally muffled as characters run away from military attacks, but the important bits are clear beyond the noise without sounding particularly unnatural. Mark Isham’s original score is the dominant aural element throughout the film, and earns its keep throughout with genuinely unsettling dissonance and offbeat drums. The score features a heavy LFE presence, and many effective stereo effects, though not too many discreet rear channel bits.
The special features begin with a solid commentary track from director Breck Eisner. Eisner has a clear plan for this track, fills his time, and divides his thoughts well into pertinent categories. The behind the scenes story Eisner tells moves in a reasonably straight line from pre-production to filming and post-production, but takes breaks and turns when the on-screen footage requires it. Eisner defends his vision well, with a reasonably detached, unpretentious tone, and his discussion of the original film is all good stuff. The director also points out Lynn Lowry’s cameo, which I regret to say I missed entirely.
Next up is ‘Behind the Scenes with Director Breck Eisner’ (10:30, HD), a decent EPK/elongated trailer that features cast and crew interviews, and footage from behind the scenes. There isn’t a lot to learn about the production here (especially not if you’ve already watched the commentary track), as everyone is firmly in advertising mode, and time appears to be of the essence, but there are some valuable glances at the process. ‘Paranormal Pandemics’ (09:40, HD) briefly covers the reality of such a disease, along with the make-up design, which was initially difficult to separate from zombie make-up. ‘The George A. Romero Template’ (10:00, HD) is an enjoyable little look at Romero’s early career, with interview subjects Uncle Creepy, Ryan Rotten, Breck Eisner, Timothy Olyphant, and Phantasm director Don Coscerelli. There’s plenty of footage from the copyright free Night of the Living Dead, but nothing from his other films, unfortunately. Also missing from the featurette—the man himself. ‘Make-Up Mastermind: Rob Hall in Action’ (11:30, HD) is a quick look at the make-up process, from casting, to sculpting, to appliance production and application. ‘Visual Effects in Motion’ (03:40, HD) gives us a comparative before and after look at the digital compositing effects of a few key sequences.
The disc also features two episodes of the companion piece motion comic (14:30, 14:30, HD). These fill in the story behind the plane crash, and tell the tales of some of the otherwise mysterious crazy people. The sound design is pretty bad, but the images are pretty cool, and the motion part of the equation is closer to real animation than similar project usually come. Things are completed with a storyboard gallery, a behind the scenes still gallery, a trailer, and trailers for other Anchor Bay Blu-ray releases.
The Crazies is an enjoyable and adequate horror/action movie that does George Romero’s flawed original proud without outdoing it. I do feel a little sorry for Timothy Olyphant, who seems to be destined to play put-upon small town sheriffs the rest of his life, but he and the rest of the cast do stand above the material, even when it grows a little stale in the final act. This Blu-ray release doesn’t really blow me away in terms of video quality, though the darkness of the original photography probably couldn’t have looked any better without looking completely different. The extras aren’t fantastic overall, but director Breck Eisner’s solo commentary is worth a listen.
* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 29th June 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: PCM 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH
Extras: Director Commentary, Behind the Scenes, Paranormal Pandemics, The George A. Romero Template, Make-Up Mastermind, The Crazies Motion Comic Episodes 1 and 2, Visual Effects in Motion, Storyboards, Trailers, Digital Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Breck Eisner
Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson, Danielle Panabaker
Length: 101 minutes
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