Untimely Reviews – “The Crazies

The Crazies movie poster

"The Crazies" is a serious zombie movie. Thank the filmmakers for serious zombie movies because if no one made serious zombie movies then we would not have any zombie movies to lampoon. "Shaun of the Dead" and "Zombieland" are just too precious of movie treasures for us to risk with more tongue-in-cheek George Romero films. Considering zombies often have no tongues or have their tongues sticking out of holes in their cheeks, I use the expression tongue-in-cheek with the utmost reverence here.

Considering the run time of the ever expanding catalog of movies released has long ago surpassed all of the free time I will have in my life time, please forgive me for never having seen much less heard of the 1973 original of "The Crazies". Funny thing about "The Crazies" remake is that it reminds me of mainstream horror movies from the 1980s. Helping to make "The Crazies" almost timeless is the rural setting, where the only evidence of its contemporary production is a brief view of a cell phone.There are no cheap wise cracks. The characters actually care about one another. Much of the film is shot at night with headlights flashing in your eyes. The zombies, or "crazies" are also real actors in make up and not some bastardized computer generated effect. Plus, the ending is not a total bummer. (I curse the trend of bummer endings). The tone and look of "The Crazies" is spot on.

"The Crazies" provides a twist on the usual zombie movie in that the zombies are living people infected with a virus. Unlike the rage induced runners in "28 Days Later", the crazies are no faster or stronger than anyone else. The sure aren’t smart but they can talk and use firearms. They also seem to work together. The only common thread among the crazies is the desire to kill and uglified faces. Their plastic nature is a nice trick for the filmmakers. Unlike other zombies, the crazies are not bound by a strict set of rules and can thus lend their actions to the story. Each encounter is different and the unpredictability of the crazies creates much of the tension. The tension caused by ordinary zombies fizzles out as soon as you realize they always run straight into the bullets shot at them. A zombie that knows enough to sneak behind you is a much more frightening breed of zombie altogether.

I’ll admit that as much as I liked "The Crazies", hardly any of the scares worked on me. I blame my checkered repertoire of movies. Once you’ve seen horror movies from "Friday the 13th" to "Paranormal Activity", very little. Some movies can still fill me with a creepy paranoia that lasts into the next day. Who wouldn’t still jump if a friend devilishly called and told you that you would die in seven days? Some creepy guy lurking in the shadows, though, is hardly worth sitting on the edge of your seat anymore. Hard to say whether a younger version of me would have been scared or even surprised about anything in "The Crazies". Regardless, I at least appreciated what the filmmakers were trying to do and there is little I appreciate in horror films these days

One big early surprise that kept on reaping dividends was the boogey-man-esque arrival of the United States military decked out with flashlight equipped assault rifles and hazmat gear. Any veteran of the game "Half Life" knows that even a small force of soldiers can be more frightening than a whole town of monsters. The military often runs awry of the good guys in movies but rarely has the affect been so chilling. Even when the facade is pulled off and we see the men behind the gas masks, the danger they pose seems no less cataclysmic. The crazed townsfolk seem like a break for our heroes compared to the certain death of running into a commando squad or getting spotted by an attack helicopter. To put it another way, a pitch fork makes me nervous but a rain of exploding rockets makes me pee my pants.

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